How to Read Braille Alphabet

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braille alphabet

The braille alphabet is a tactile system created to be interpreted by the sense of touch. It was specifically designed to help those who suffer from vision disorders that severely impair, or even eliminate one's ability to read normally. Even though millions of people use braille to read and communicate does the average person truly understand it? To develop a better understanding of this system let's review the braille's history along with the manner by which people read and write braille alphabet?

History of Braille

Braille was invented in 1824 by Louis Braille, a blind Frenchman born on January 4th, 1809 in Coupvray, France. At the age of three Louis Braille experienced an injury to his eyes which resulted in complete vision loss. When Louis turned ten he attended the world's first school for blind children called the Royal Institute for Blind Youth located in Paris, France. At the age of fifteen Louis developed a tactile system that used raised dots that corresponded to specific letters of the alphabet. This system made it easier for those suffering from blindness to read. At nineteen he accepted a teaching position at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth and was considered a compassionate teacher who devoted much of his life to those around him who continued to work on perfecting his Braille system. Louis Braille died at the age of forty three.

How to Translate the Braille Alphabet

The Braille alphabet consists of a series of patterns made up of 2 columns of 3 raised dots in each which is referred to as a Braille Cell. Specific dots are raised depending on the letter that one wants to express. This method of translating individual letters to specific Braille cells is considered "Basic Braille" or "Grade 1 Braille". Below is an example of the "Grade 1" Braille System.

braille alphabet

Although the Grade 1 Braille system was very effective in providing the visually impaired with the ability to read, it was not the most efficient. In an effort to optimize the system and make it more efficient the "Grade 2" system was created. This system is a shorter version of the basic form where certain patterns are assigned to represent certain combinations of letters or popular short words such as "can", "go", "like" and "with", to name a few. Below is a chart containing examples of words and abbreviations in their respective Braille form.

braille short form

How to Read the Braille Alphabet?

Reading Braille is similar to how one reads in western countries by going left to right and from top to bottom. People read Braille by moving their fingertips across the pattern of dots translating them into their respective letter, number, punctuation or short term word and/or abbreviation.

How to Write Braille?

There are multiple ways to write Braille. For manual Braille writing a slate (a metal or plastic guide with hinges) and a stylus (a tool with a metal point at one end and handle at the other) is used. When writing Braille manually a person would insert a paper into the slate guide and use the stylus to apply pressure on the paper resulting in raised dots. A special printer can also be used to created these raised dots on paper when printing from a computer.

The advent of the Braille alphabet has revolutionized the way information is shared and consumed by those suffering from visual impairment. This system has impacted many fields ranging from education, communication, to increased independence to name a few. Although Louis Braille created this system nearly 2 centuries ago his system is still in use today and continues to contribute to society in a positive and productive way.

Iowa Department for the Blind


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