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Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Tell Me Why |

When Was Braille Invented?

When Was Braille Invented?

The Braille system of reading and writing was invented by a Frenchman named Louis Braille, in about 1829. It is an alphabet consisting of an arrangement of raised dots, which can be read by blind people using their sense of touch. He wanted a faster way for blind people to read and write. He modeled Braille after a system of codes used by the military, and then he expanded his system. While Braille was cutting some leather in his father’s shop at the age of three, a knife slipped and plunged into an eye causing blindness.

In 1819, when he was 10 years old, the boy went to Paris with a scholarship to study at the National Institution for Blind Children. The institution’s founder hit on the idea of providing texts in embossed Roman lettering which the blind could decipher. Two years after the Braille’s arrival Charles Barbier exhibited at the institution an apparatus by which a coded message in dots and dashes could be embossed on cardboard.

Braille worked on this system and was able to adapt it to meet the need of the sightless. He published expositions of his system in 1829 and 1837. In 1824, at the age of fifteen, he developed a code for the French alphabet as an improvement on night writing. He published his system, which subsequently included musical notation, in 1829. The second revision, published in 1837, was the first small binary form of writing developed in the modern era.

braille users

These characters have rectangular blocks called cells that have tiny bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. Since the various braille alphabets originated as transcription codes for printed writing, the mappings (sets of character designations) vary from language to language, and even within one; in English Braille there are three levels of encoding: Grade 1 – a letter-by-letter transcription used for basic literacy; Grade 2 – an addition of abbreviations and contractions; and Grade 3 – various non-standardized personal stenography.

Braille cells are not the only thing to appear in braille text. There may be embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, bullets that are larger than braille dots, etc. A full Braille cell includes six raised dots arranged in two columns, each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one to six. 64 solutions are possible using one or more dots. A cell can be used to represent a letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a word.

Braille became a dedicated teacher at his school and also a talented organist. It was through his life’s work that thousands of blind people today can read. Braille users can read computer screens and other electronic supports thanks to refreshable braille displays. They can write braille with the original slate and stylus or type it on a braille writer, such as a portable braille notetaker or computer that prints with a braille embosser.

In the face of screen reader software, braille usage has declined. However, because it teaches spelling and punctuation, braille education remains important for developing reading skills among blind and visually impaired children, and braille literacy correlates with higher employment rates.

Content for this question contributed by Ella Santoyo, resident of Kirkwood, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA