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In celebration of World Braille Day (January 4), let’s look at the braille system of reading and writing.

Braille is a series of raised dots that are read with the fingers by people who are visually impaired and are unable to read print materials and books. Those not visually impaired cannot read braille with their eyes the way they read regular books. Braille is a code that is used to produce books in different languages, such as English or Spanish to enable the blind to read and write conveniently.

Braille symbols are created and formed in various units of space known as braille cells. A complete braille cell comprises six raised dots, which are arranged along two parallel rows of three dots each. Numbers identify the arrangement and positioning of the dots from 1 to 6. Therefore, it is possible to create up to sixty-four different combinations using a rearrangement of one or more of the six dots.  A cell can represent a letter of the alphabet, a number, a punctuation mark, or an entire word.

A man named Louis Braille who was born in France invented the Braille system, on January 4, 1809. He schooled at the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France. During his days as a student, Braille was eager to read more books. He tried different ways to construct alphabets that could be read easily with the fingertips. At fifteen, he invented the braille out of a previously learned “night writing” code that a man named Charles Barbier had invented. This code was used to send military messages that could only be read at night on the battlefield.

The Braille system is currently used to produce textbooks and publications that blind people can read to acquire knowledge, just like every other person who reads printed materials. It has also proven to be an effective means of communication amongst the blind.

Just as printed materials are produced with paper, pencils, typewriters and printers, braille can be written in different ways such as slate and stylus. The slate is a template containing depressions to create the dots of braille cells, while the stylus is a tool for creating the braille dots on paper placed on the slate. Another device used for producing Braille materials is called a “braillewriter” which has only six keys and a space bar. The keys are numbered according to the six dots that make up a braille cell. One can either use one or all the keys on a braillewriter at the same time.

With the advancements in technology, other avenues have been explored and expanded to improve literacy for braille users. Software programs, as well as portable electronic braille notetakers, have been created to help users save and edit their write-ups and then replay it back to them verbally to enable them to listen to what they have done. These programs also produce a hard copy of the braille works through a braille embosser that is connected to a desktop computer.

A firm grasp of braille is extremely crucial for the blind, as this has a strong connection with their employability in the labour market. Contact us for more information on how to care for visually impaired persons.