On the occasion of World Braille Day here is a fascinating story about the creator, Louis Braille and interesting facts about his creation, the Braille system;

  • Louis Braille was not the first to attempt to create embossed letters or shapes on wood or paper to enable the blind to read by touch. After the Napoleonic Wars, a French artillery officer named Charles Barbier invented “Night Writing,” raised dots on cardboard used to send written messages on battlefields by night.
  • Braille was born in 1809 in the village of Coupvray, twenty-five miles east of Paris, to a saddler and his wife. The couple named all their children after kings and queens of France.
  • Louis was blinded at the age of 3 in an accident with a sharp awl when he was playing with some tools in his father’s workshop. Medicine during this time was quite antiquated and while only one of Louis’ eyes was damaged in the initial accident, infection soon spread, blinding him in both eyes.
  • As a boy, Louis Braille was taught to read by feeling upholstery studs hammered into pieces of wood in the shapes of letters and numbers.
  • In 1819, at the age of 10, he was accepted to the Institute for Blind Children in Paris.
  • At the institute in the rue St-Victor, where the boys and girls were kept strictly segregated, crossed twigs were used to signify the letters of the alphabet.
  • Louis’ school had a small orchestra and he learned to play both the cello and the organ.
  • Captain Charles Barbier, continued to promote his “Night Writing Method” to French military officials. They refused to use it.In the 1820s Captain Barbier has an idea that perhaps his system could be used by the blind. He took it to the school in the rue St-Victor, where Louis Braille was a student.
  • Louis Braille was tasked with evaluating Barbier’s system. While he found it interesting, he thought it was too simplistic to help the blind. However, the exposure inspired Louis to adapt and complete his own improved system.
  • In 1824 at the age 15, Louis had finally created his six dots system in varying patterns of domino-like ‘cells’, providing a total of 63 permutations for different letters and numbers.
  • Braille later included musical notes and a 64th permutation, with no dots at all, otherwise knowns as the “space” symbol.
  • The other pupils at the school soon adopted Braille’s method. Its simplicity made it easy to learn. However, the school did not officially endorse it because money was scarce and the cost of introducing it was far too expensive.
  • Braille became a teacher at the same school where he had received his education.
  • In 1826 he published a modest thirty-two-page book, entitled Method of Writing Language, Plain Chant and Music, by Means of Raised Points for the Use of Blind Persons. It was printed in embossed text.
  • Braille began to show the first symptoms of tuberculosis, the disease which would eventually kill him, shortly after his book was released.
  • Louis produced an improved version of his system in 1837 and Pierre Foucault, another blind ex-pupil of the school, invented what was in effect the first typewriter for the blind in 1841.
  • Louis Braille died at the school in Paris two days after his 43rd birthday. His brother hired a horse and cart to drive the body back to Coupvray.
  • On June 20th, 1952, Louis Braille’s remains were disinterred at Coupvray and taken to Paris to be deposited with honour in the Panthéon. The bones of Braille’s hands, however, were separated and kept in a concrete box on top of his empty tomb at Coupvray.
  • Louis’ burial ceremony in Paris was attended by the President of the Republic, Vincent Auriol, and by blind people and delegations from more than 20 countries.

There’s an asteroid named Braille. In 1999, NASA’s Deep Space 1 probe flew past an asteroid while on its way to photograph the Borrelly comet. NASA named the asteroid “9969 Braille” in honour of Louis Braille.

Braille is the world’s most popular tactile reading and writing system. Named after its creator, Louis Braille, it uses combinations of raised dots to spell out letters and punctuation. Around the world, people who are blind read braille with their fingertips and can write it using devices like the Perkins Brailler. But that’s not the whole story about braille.

Braille Tattoo Ideas
  1. Braille is not a language. It’s a tactile alphabet that can be used to write almost any language. There are braille versions of Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and many others.
  2. Braille takes up more space than the traditional alphabet, which is why braille books are much larger than their counterparts. For example, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is 10 volumes in braille, the “New American Bible’’ is 45 volumes, and “Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary” is a shelf-hogging 72 volumes.
  3. Ever heard of the Braille Challenge? An annual competition for students who are blind, the Braille Institute hosts more than 1,400 students from the U.S. and Canada to test their braille skills. Contestants compete in categories like reading comprehension, proofreading, and spelling. Winners in each age group walk away with monetary prizes – and braille bragging rights for a year.
  4. Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn math. There’s a special version of braille just for mathematics called the Nemeth Code. It was invented by Dr Abraham Nemeth and can be used to transcribe math, algebra and calculus.
  5. There are two versions of braille – contracted and uncontracted. In uncontracted braille, every word is spelled out. Contracted braille is a “shorthand” version where common words are abbreviated, much like “don’t” is a shorter version of “do” and “not.” Most children learn uncontracted braille before they learn the contracted version.
  6. There’s a good reason why braille is on the keypad buttons of drive-through ATMs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all ATMs must be accessible to people with visual impairments, and drive-through ATMs aren’t exempt. This mandate ensures that blind passengers travelling in the back seat of cars or taxis can reach the ATM and independently make a transaction without assistance from the driver.
  7. Some braille readers’ fingers can really fly. While a sighted person can read 300 words per minute, some fast braille readers can whip through a book at a speed of 400 words per minute. The key to reading braille so quickly is a light touch – and using both hands (one hand reads while the other is poised to start on the next line). 
  8. You shouldn’t capitalize “braille.” When writing about the braille code, the name should be lowercase, according to the Braille Authority of North America. When referring to the proper name of Louis Braille, capitalize it. 
  9. Like tattoos? Get one in braille! Some braille tattoos are simple (like “love”) and some are complicated. Most people get flat (ink) braille across tattoos, while others reportedly get small surgical beads inserted under their skin to create raised braille dots. If you’re not ready to go that far, temporary braille tattoos are also available. 
  10. There’s a number of children’s toys that feature braille. In recent years, toy companies have made strides in ensuring every child has the opportunity to play some of the biggest classic family games, such as braille Uno, braille and low vision Monopoly and braille LEGO.  

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