This wonderful invention came about when a blind eleven-year-old boy
took a secret code devised for the military and realized that this
could be the basis for written communication for blind individuals.
Louis Braille, newly enrolled at the National
Institute of the Blind in Paris, spent nine years developing this
system of raised dots, which is why it is known by his name. The
original military code was called night writing and was used by
soldiers to communicate after dark. The main disadvantage with the
military code was that the human fingertip could not feel all the
dots with one touch - there were too many dots to detect.
Louis Braille improvised on it and created a reading method based on
a cell of six dots which are arranged and numbered
There are three grades of
Braille. Grade 1 Braille is the most basic with representations of
capital letters, numbers and punctuation and is represented by the
following dot combinations:
By itself a Braille letter is
assumed to be in lowercase. To show an uppercase letter, the
capital sign (Dot 6) is put in front of the Braille letter. The
number sign is used in the same way (Dots 3-4-5-6) and put in front
of the Braille number.
Grade 2 Braille is the most
commonly used form of the Braille system. It makes use of
approximately 300 contractions in addition to the representations
mentioned above. A contraction is a combination of cells to shorten
the length of a word. Grade 2 is the default used by the NMSU
Braille translation services.
Grade 3 Braille makes use of
even more contractions but is rarely used by anyone.
This method improved the
reading speed and comprehension tremendously.
This system of embossed
writing invented by Louis Braille was slowly accepted throughout the
world as the fundamental form of written communication for blind
individuals, and even today it remains in almost the same form as he
had invented, but there have been some modifications over time - for
instance, the addition of contractions which
represent groups of letters or whole words that appear
commonly in a language. The use of contractions naturally
increases the speed of Braille reading and secondly, helps reduce
the size of Braille books.