The History of the Braille Script, the Language of the Blind

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Braille Script

As we enter newer ages with risen technology and abundant growth, it is also our responsibility to recognize, acknowledge and pave the way for people who are impaired. Such people have great ability and adroitness that can produce remarkable breakthroughs. One of the common impairments is blindness or visual disabilities which affects more than 250 million people every year across the world. To create ease and assist such a vast population of visually impaired people, the braille system is a universally accepted tactile system used for reading and writing.  This blog will take you through the invention, types, and various facts about the braille script.

History of Braille Script

Let’s first explore how the Braille script was invented.

Charles Barbier- Night Writing

The braille script has an interesting history and can be traced back to the 1800s when Charles Barbier, a French military veteran- developed a code system for soldiers to feasibly communicate in the dark. The use of light for reading combat messages drew the attention of the opponent army which led to the killings of many soldiers. Charles created this system called ‘Night Writing’ which was used by soldiers to deliver and read messages without using candles.

Louis Braille- The Braille Script

Louis Braille was born in Coupvray and was just 11 years old when he accidentally lost his eyesight. Braille was inspired by Barbier’s night writing script as Louis decided to modify the script for the benefit of people who are visually impaired. Braille was enrolled at the National Institute for the Blind in Paris where he also met Barbier in 1821. He spent many years to modify and rectify the defects in the code. He identified that there were two major flaws that held back the codes from being used efficiently. He created the code with 6-dots instead of 12 for faster movement of the hand, a better understanding of the pattern, and hence, easier reading of letters. Braille also incorporated the orthography of words instead of sounds. These modifications became historically significant as Braille laid these foundations for the visually impaired which remain unchanged even today. At the age of 20, He went on and wrote the very first book in the Braille Script, “Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs” in 1829. 

In recent years, many game companies have designed their games specifically for blind people. Some of the famous classic family games are Braille LEGO, Braille Uno, and Braille and Low Vision Monopoly.

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What is Braille Script?

Braille is a system that comprises touch reading and writing that is used by people who are visually impaired. The braille script has a series of embossed dots that are arranged in a specific manner to represent a particular letter, number, or symbol and has different semantics and enunciations. The script is read from left to right but written in the opposite manner. The braille script is written by using two tools- The slate (paper) and the stylus (pencil). The slate is used to insert a card/paper and the stylus is used to punch holes in it. This forms raised dots that can be touched and read by blind people. People often misconceive braille as a language when it is a writing system that can be transcribed in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, etc. 

The ‘Nemeth Code’ is a code system to learn and write mathematics in braille. It was developed by Dr. Abraham Nemeth and can be used to read and write the most complex equations and formulas. 

Types of Braille 

There are 3 main types of braille under the main script owing to the different requirements and ease:

Grade 1

Grade 1 Braille is also called Uncontracted Braille which comprises 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. Each cell has dots embossed to represent one letter only. This makes it easier for beginners to read and comprehend. It is given to beginners but utilizes a larger amount of space and more time to read a word. Students who are able to complete this grade are further introduced to Grade 2 Braille.

Grade 2

This type of braille is more concise and can represent many words but shortened forms and combinations of different cells. It is the most popular type and also consists of numerals, punctuations, and abbreviations for efficient use. Words are abbreviated in a single cell, single letter, or can even be represented by a specific symbol. There are various rules that have been drafted for the standardized and systematic use of grade 2 Braille Script. 

Types of Braille
Courtesy: American Council of the Blind

Grade 3

This type of Braille is used for personal purposes and cannot be used publicly. It is used for private letters, diaries, etc. like the former grades, it also comprises certain rules, styles, symbols, combinations, and systems for writing braille scripts. 

A braille script is a vital tool that should be taught and incorporated in various academic and professional environments and public places to make machines accessible for visually impaired people. Creating awareness and educating people about such systems is crucial in uncertain events. Hope this blog helped you understand the origins and implementation of the Braille Script. Stay tuned to Leverage Edu for more such informational blogs and content!

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