The origin of Braille

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“Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. 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.” – Louis Braille 

This is a photograhs of three fingers and a thumb being used to read Braille.

Young person reading Braille

In 1824 a fifteen year old boy opened a new world in reading and writing.  His name was Louis Braille (1809 – 1852) and he was studying in Paris, France at the Parisian Royal Institution for Blind Youth.

Louise Braille used raised dots organized in cells to create a code for each letter of the French alphabet.  He did not use the shapes of the print letters because it was too hard to tell the differences between the letters by touch.

At first, Braille code was not the most widely used coding system in America.  Another system of raised dot coding invented in 1868 called New York Point was more popular.  There was much debate about which system was best but finally in 1932 the English speaking world entered into a treaty which standardized the Braille code and made it the one to use.

With the advent of new technologies Braille has not gone away.  Instead it has become even more accessible.  For example, Braille books can be downloaded from remote locations and software and scanners can be used to convert print documents into Braille.

Sources:

1.  An article written by C. Michael Mellor for the “ Encyclopedia of American Disability History” edited by Susan Burch, Facts on File, Inc. 2009

2. www.afb.org – the website for the American Foundation for the Blind.