The raised dot system now known as ‘braille’ was invented by Louis Braille. He lost his sight at a young age and whilst at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in 1821 was first introduced to the idea of a coded system using raised dots.
World Braille day commemorates the birth of Louis Braille, on the 4th January 1809.
What is Braille?
Braille is a tactile reading and writing system used by the blind and visually impaired. It used raised dots to represent the letters of the print alphabet. It also includes symbols to represent punctuation, mathematics and scientific characters, music, computer notation and foreign languages.
What Does Braille Look Like?
Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as Braille cells. A full Braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel vertical columns of three dots (like the number 6 on a dice). The dot positions are identified by numbers one through to six. 63 combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. Cells can be used to represent a letter of the alphabet, number, punctuation, part of a word or even a whole word.
How is Braille Written?
When every letter of every word is expressed in Braille, it is referred to as uncontracted Braille. Many newly blinded adults find uncontracted Braille useful for labelling personal or kitchen items. Books or other reading materials can also be transcribed in uncontracted Braille.
The system often used for reproducing textbooks and publications in English is known as contracted Braille. In this system, cells are used individually or in combination with others to form a variety of contractions or whole words. For example, in uncontracted Braille the phrase "you like him" requires twelve cell spaces. If it were written in contracted Braille, this same phrase would use only six cell spaces. The letters Y and L are also used for the whole words "you" and "like" respectively. Similarly, the word "him" is formed by combining the letters h and m.
There are 180 different letter contractions and 75 short form words used in English contracted Braille. These short cuts reduce the volume of paper needed for reproducing books in Braille and make reading faster.