Celebrating and Learning Braille

“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way we can bring this about,” said Louis Braille, inventor of the raised print read by people who are blind or have low vision.

January celebrates the life and death of Braille. He was born on Jan. 4, 1809, and died on this date, Jan. 6, 1852 at 43. The importance of the inventor and teacher is shown by the move of his remains from his hometown in Coupvray to Paris–except for his hands, the same that read Braille and created it, which were separated from the body and remain in Coupvray.

Braille developed his method of raised letters from a military night-reading code of raised dots on cardboard that was submitted to the Institute for Blind Children in Paris by an officer in the French military. The military had rejected it, according to an article in History Today.

Large Braille makes a line across a full wall with some round tactile elements on the wall as well.
Braille elements add to tactile surroundings and become experiential art. photo credit: Blind message via photopin (license)

According to the article, Braille was a student who examined the officer’s code, later refined it when he was just 15, and as a teacher at the same school years later, published a book on it.

Children's bowl with Braille and upraised letters.
This tactile bowl shows the Braille alphabet with upraised letters as well. photo credit: Braille Seeing Eye Dog Ashtray via photopin (license)

Pierre Focault, another ex-student from Braille’s school, eventually developed the first typewriter for the blind,  according to the article. By that time, Braille had died from tuberculosis.

The American Foundation for the Blind has developed 16 Braille resources to celebrate the life of its creator. The resources include a link to a video of Helen Keller’s speech about Braille, games, parent and teacher resources, an online museum about Braille, and links to more resources.

According to the foundation’s website, January 2016 marks an important date in the American community of people who use Braille.

“The U.S. members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the U.S., which means that all new transcriptions will be produced in UEB and educators will teach the code,” according to the website.

The website recommends a resource to learn the Unified English Braille, Beginning with Braille.

Two fingers read Braille on a page.
Most people possess the sensitivity needed in their fingers to read Braille. photo credit: Aprendiendo a leer via photopin (license)

There are several types of Braille. Click here to learn more or if Braille could benefit you or someone you know.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about organizations for people who are blind or have low vision.




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