Have you ever observed that there is a little raised dot located behind the number buttons on an elevator, on hotel room plaques, or on ATM keys? If so, you’ve undoubtedly seen braille. People who are blind or have low vision may learn to read and write using Braille, which is a system of symbols.
The annual celebration of World Braille Day, which takes place on January 4th, is intended to bring more attention to the braille writing system as well as the individuals who rely on it for communication. Examining the braille alphabet’s origins, its operation, and the meaning behind the festival that honours it are all excellent places to start when attempting to get a better understanding of the system’s significance.
Who Was the Man Known as Louis Braille?
Louis Braille was born in France in 1809, and the alphabet that bears his name was named after him. He had a catastrophic eye injury when he was 3 years old, and the infection ultimately led him to become blind. The infection spread to his second eye as well. Louis Braille learnt how to communicate using a method known as sonography, sometimes known as night writing, when he was a student at a school in Paris designed specifically for blind pupils.
Charles Barbier, an army captain, had the idea to invent a mode of communication that military personnel might utilise without alerting others to their presence. He came up with the concept of night writing to accomplish this goal. In place of the conventional alphabet, Barbier’s method of night writing made use of symbols that represented sounds and were designed to be felt with the hands rather than read with the eyes. Each sound was produced by combining a different set of twelve dots. Even though the Braille system was in its infancy at the time, the educators working with visually impaired children had high hopes that night writing would prove to be an efficient means by which their pupils could comprehend information and communicate their thoughts.
Louis Braille was a proponent of night writing; but, the fact that his system consisted of just 12 characters restricted the manner in which individuals might use it to communicate. It was more difficult to read since each character could be made up of up to 12 dots, thus individuals had to use many fingers to feel a single letter in the alphabet. This made reading much more difficult. In addition, night writing lacked proper syntax, punctuation, and a few other norms that are generally accepted in written communication.
Louis Braille’s goal was to make writing in the dark easier. He came up with a scheme that was quite similar to it, and it included using six dots for each letter. This resulted in each character being tiny enough, when embossed into paper, to be felt by the normal human fingertip. People who read braille were able to recognise words at a considerably quicker rate as a result. Louis Braille had already created braille by the time he was 15 years old, but it took him a few years to master the new style of writing and reading before he could call it his own.
The Beginnings and Development of Braille
There have been numerous attempts to make the written word accessible to persons who are blind or have some other kind of visual impairment before braille and night writing. Europe was home to the development of a wide variety of embossed lettering styles. Some people simply used paper that was embossed and then wet during the printing process in order to create ink that was abrasive enough to feel with the hand. Some people utilised embossed dots that matched the pattern of printed letters in a manner that was comparable to braille. Some people responded to the need by developing triangular embossed alphabets.
These varied systems had popularity in certain regions of the globe and were most often connected with specific educational institutions catering to those with visual impairments. At that time, the Roman alphabet served as a basis for a good deal of the embossed lettering that was used. Even if they were able to physically feel the letters of the Roman alphabet, those who were born blind or who became blind before they learned how to read would have a more difficult time understanding what the letters meant. On embossed paper, it would be easy for people’s fingers to overlook the loops, crosses, and dots that make up that alphabet. These methods worked somewhat better for those who had been able to read in the past but had lost their sight later in life, but they weren’t the best solution for everyone.
At first, Louis Braille’s novel innovation was only somewhat successful and only gained traction at the educational institution that he himself had attended. However, the school that he attended did not formally switch to using braille as its primary method of reading and writing until after Braille had already passed away. As more time passed, it became clear that the structure of Braille was far simpler to comprehend than any of the other ways, and thus, more schools started using it. However, it did take some time; braille was publicly shown to the public for the first time in the year 1824, and the first attempt to standardise braille for English speakers did not take place until the year 1932.
A Contemporary Perspective on Braille
Braille is a tactile code. This indicates that individuals read it mostly via the use of their sense of touch as opposed to their sense of sight. It is possible to read and write in a number of different languages using Braille. The letters that people who speak English use to spell words may also be used to spell words in other languages that make use of the same alphabet, and braille is comparable to this point in this regard.
There are now two different types of braille that are used by people all around the globe. In many locations, the uncontracted version of braille is considered to be the standard form of braille. In this particular kind of braille, each letter and punctuation mark must be written out in full. Contracted braille is a variant of the standard braille writing system that employs abbreviations for popular words and the typical ends of common words. The word “walking” may be written out in uncontracted braille by using different tactile symbols to represent each of the letters in the word. The letters W-A-L-K would be written out using contracted braille, and then they would be followed by a single tactile sign that symbolises the common word ending I-N-G.
Learning contracted braille takes a little bit more time than learning uncontracted braille does, and it also needs prior experience with braille. The uncontracted form of braille is taught to a lot of people first, followed by the contracted form. Because braille books use more paper than printed books do, many big publishing houses choose to print braille books in contracted form. Because of this, many individuals who read with braille set themselves the aim of becoming proficient in contracted braille, even though uncontracted braille is the more popular form of the language in their region of the globe.
Braille has gone a long way, but it is essential that we continue to make efforts to guarantee that it is widely used even as more of our communication moves to digital formats. On this occasion, known as World Braille Day, it is a good idea to consider the ways in which organisations might make braille more accessible.
Observing the International Day of Braille
On January 4, which also happens to be the birthday of Louis Braille, creator of the system that bears his name, people throughout the world celebrate World Braille Day. 2019 saw the first ever celebration of World Braille Day, which was conceived and organised by the United Nations. One of the primary objectives of the celebration of Globe Braille Day is to increase awareness about the significance of braille to the millions of people all over the world who use it on a daily basis to communicate with one another and receive information.
This yearly commemoration places a significant emphasis on Braille literacy, which is also a vital feature. On January 1, we celebrate World Braille Day, which marks the beginning of Braille Literacy Month. People hold celebrations and spread awareness about the value of braille as a communication method during the month of January each year in honour of Louis Braille’s accomplishments. The time is taken advantage of by a lot of individuals so that they may begin studying braille so that they can be of more assistance to friends and family members who have visual impairments.
It is not only a question of convenience for persons who have visual impairments to have access to braille versions of signs, menus, and other kinds of written communication when they need them. People who are blind or visually impaired may now access the written word via the use of Braille, which fosters independence and offers equal possibilities. It is important to take advantage of opportunities like World Braille Day to fight for accessibility and make certain that individuals who are visually impaired have options when it comes to the methods in which they may communicate.