Louis Braille was born on January 4th, 1809 in a small town near Paris, France. After an accident with a sharp tool in his father’s workshop, Louis injured one of his eyes. Later the wound became infected, resulting in loss of vision in both of his eyes at the age of 3 years old. Louis quickly realized he needed an easier way to learn other than just listening to his professors speak. So he took a military 12 dot code and ironed out the system into 6 dots all by the time he was 15 years old. Braille wasn’t fully taught to blind students until after Louis death in 1852. It finally began to spread worldwide in 1968.
Louis Braille first discovered a military communication system devised by Captain Charles Barbier of the French Army in 1821. Barbier willingly shared his invention called “night writing” which was a code of dots and dashes impressed into thick paper. These impressions could be interpreted entirely by the fingers, letting soldiers share information on the battlefield without having light or needing to speak. However, the “night writing” turned out to be too complex to use. But it inspired Braille to develop a system of his own.
So how does Braille work?
First any students learning to read Braille must start with learning the alphabet, just like any sighted person learning to read.
, via Wikimedia Commons”]According to Amber Pearcy, a proofreader at the National Braille Press in Boston, there are two levels of braille — grade 1 braille or uncontracted braille, which is where every letter is written by itself. Or there is grade 2 braille also known as contracted braille. That’s where there is a series of signs or short forms to help condense braille. So, for example, if you take her name, Amber, you would write A M B and then there’s a sign for ER.
Braille Is Not Stuck In the Past
Despite the ease and convenience that technological advancements afford, braille isn’t going anywhere. Pearcy says that audio “won’t ever replace braille because…you can’t tell anything about grammar by listening, you can’t learn how to spell words.… There’s always going to be a place for braille.”
However, the blind can still use modern technology. There are devices called Refreshable Braille Displays that pair up with e-readers, iPhones, iPads, and computers. They are made up of a bunch of little pins that pop up and form the different dots.