Did you know
that Braille is currently used all over the world?
To see the
Braille alphabet, follow this link to the Braille
Braille is a way for people who are blind to be able to read. It uses a system of six dots in different patterns. Each pattern of dots represents a different letter
of the alphabet. The dots are raised up on paper, like little bumps, and the person who is blind "reads" these bumps with their fingertips. The bumps stand for the same letters no matter which language you are reading. Braille was invented by a boy named Louis Braille when he was only fifteen years old.
Louis Braille was born in 1809 in a small town called Coupvray, near
Paris, France. When Louis was only three years old, he had an unexpected accident and became blind. It all started when Louis was in his father's workshop, and he was trying to be like his father and use his father's tools. Louis
picked up a tool called an awl (which is a sharp tool used for making holes).
Question: How do you think Louis Braille became blind?
A. Louis accidentally let the awl tool slip from his hand, which landed in his eye.
It became infected.
B. The awl chipped out a large piece of wood which flew into his eyes.
C. Louis dropped the awl on his cheek, and the infection was bad and spread to his
Now that Louis was blind, he needed to go to a new school. Children who
were blind were not allowed in regular school back then. Learning the regular way was now impossible for Louis. It was a hard life. But that all changed when Louis was ten years old and got a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth. But even there, Louis had a hard time. There were only fourteen books at the school library, all of which had large, raised letters, and they were extremely hard to read.
In 1821, a former soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school. He
brought an invention called night writing. Night writing was a code of 12 raised dots. This code was usually used for communication in wartime, and it let the soldiers get a message across a battlefield without speaking. The code turned out to be too hard for the soldiers to use, but it wasn't too hard for twelve-year-old Louis! Louis decided that this would be a great way for
people who are blind to be able to read.
Soon, Louis changed the complicated twelve-dot code into a more simple six-dot code. Sixteen years later, in 1937, Louis published the first Braille book ever. But Louis didn't stop with just letters. He also made Braille symbols for math and music.
Each Braille letter is kind of like the six-sided dice. One, two, three, four, five, or six dots. There are two
columns with three rows. You can mix them up in many different ways to make a letter. Most of the
time at least one place where a bump could be is empty. You could have only one bump on the top left, and that would be the letter A.
It took a while for the Braille method to catch on, but soon it was used
in many places. It wasn't until after Louis died though, that his old school, The Royal Institution for Blind Youth, began teaching it to all their students.
Braille became common worldwide in 1886 after a group of British men,
working for a place now known as the Institute for the Blind, took up the cause. Today,
Braille is used in practically every country. Braille books now have double-sided pages which saves a lot of space
and paper and helps them to be smaller and easier to carry. Braille is
used so that people who are blind can read, but it is also often used on signs, which
who are blind get around better. The next time you're in an elevator, notice the Braille numbers underneath the regular ones. Most important of all, it helps
people who are blind communicate on their own.
Just as regular technology has come a long way over the years, Braille technology has really changed too. We now have many new tools that help
people who are blind read things on their computers and machines that produce books in Braille. Some of the devices are very simple and others are really complicated. But all these new machines help people
who are blind to do their schoolwork, work at their jobs, and communicate better with everyone.
The slate and stylus are portable and easy to use just like a pencil and paper. They are used so that people can write in Braille. The slate is a piece of paper between two plastic pieces with little holes in
it. The holes are the same size as Braille dots would be. The stylus is an object that looks like a needle with a wooden or plastic grip. You use the stylus to punch holes in the slate. The plastic on the slate keeps the stylus from punching too far and making holes in the paper. Instead, if you do it right, you get raised dots on the other side of the paper. This is Braille writing.
The Braille Writer is basically like a regular typewriter. It has six keys, one for each Braille cell, a spacebar, and a backspace key. When you press a key, the key is connected to a little metal bar with a stamp with the dots on it. The key then presses on the paper and indents the paper with the correct amount and position of Braille bumps, or dots. Then if you turn over the paper, you have raised bumps.
But what if someone who is blind needs to print something off his or her computer? They
would use a Braille printer. Like a Braille typewriter, it doesn't use any ink. Instead of printing flat words, a Braille printer prints raised Braille bumps.
People who are blind use something called a Braille Display to help them use a computer. A Braille Display translates the words on the computer screen into Braille on a special keyboard
so that the
person can "read" the screen as they use the computer.
If you would like to make real Braille, get a pillow or soft object, pencil, and paper. Put the piece of paper on the pillow, and poke the pencil into the paper until you know a tiny bump has emerged on the other side of your paper. You should have texture on the other side of the paper. Don't poke too hard or you'll just make a hole. Try making real sentences.
I hope you learned a lot about Braille!