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Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs i ...
used by people who are
visually impaired Visual impairment, also known as vision impairment, is a medical definition primarily measured based on an individual's better eye visual acuity; in the absence of treatment such as correctable eyewear, assistive devices, and medical treatment ...
, including people who are blind, deafblind or who have
low vision Visual impairment, also known as vision impairment, is a medical definition primarily measured based on an individual's better eye visual acuity; in the absence of treatment such as correctable eyewear, assistive devices, and medical treatment ...
. It can be read either on embossed paper or by using
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
s that connect to computers and smartphone devices. Braille can be written using a
slate and stylus The slate and stylus are tools used by Blindness, blind people to write text that they can read without assistance.Alpha Chi Omega (1908) Invented by Charles Barbier as the tool for writing letters that could be read by touch, the slate and stylu ...
, a
braille writer Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are Blindness, blind, Deafblindness, deafblind or who have low vision. It can be read either on Paper embossing, embossed paper ...
, an electronic
braille notetaker The Perkins Brailler is a "braille typewriter" with a key corresponding to each of the six dots of the braille code, a space key, a backspace key, and a line space key. Like a manual typewriter, it has two side knobs to advance paper through t ...
or with the use of a computer connected to a
braille embosser A braille embosser is an impact printer that renders text as tactile braille cells. Using braille translator, braille translation software, a document or digital text can be embossed with relative ease. This makes braille production efficient and ...
. Braille is named after its creator,
Louis Braille Louis Braille (; ; 4 January 1809 – 6 January 1852) was a French educator and the inventor of a reading and writing system, named braille after him, intended for use by Visual impairment, visually impaired people. His system is used worldwide ...
, a Frenchman who lost his sight as a result of a childhood accident. In 1824, at the age of fifteen, he developed the braille code based on the
French alphabet French orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the French language. It is based on a combination of phoneme, phonemic and historical principles. The spelling of words is largely based on the pronunciation of Old French c. 1100–1 ...
as an improvement on night writing. He published his system, which subsequently included
musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise ...
, in 1829. The second revision, published in 1837, was the first
binary Binary may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Binary number A binary number is a number expressed in the base-2 numeral system or binary numeral system, a method of mathematical expression which uses only two symbols: typical ...
form of writing developed in the modern era. Braille characters are formed using a combination of six raised dots arranged in a 3 × 2 matrix, called the braille cell. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguishes one character from another. Since the various braille alphabets originated as
transcription Transcription refers to the process of converting sounds (voice, music etc.) into letters or musical notes, or producing a copy of something in another medium, including: Genetics * Transcription (biology), the copying of DNA into RNA, the fir ...
codes for printed writing, the mappings (sets of character designations) vary from language to language, and even within one; in
English Braille English Braille, also known as ''Grade 2 Braille'', is the braille alphabet used for English language, English. It consists of around 250 letters (phonogram (linguistics), phonograms), Numerical digit, numerals, punctuation, formatting marks, co ...
there are 3 levels of braille: uncontracted braille a letter-by-letter transcription used for basic literacy; contracted braille an addition of abbreviations and contractions used as a space-saving mechanism; and grade 3 various non-standardized personal stenography that is less commonly used. In addition to braille text (letters, punctuation, contractions), it is also possible to create embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, and bullets that are larger than braille dots. A full braille cell includes six raised dots arranged in two columns, each column having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one to six. There are 64 possible combinations, including no dots at all for a
word space In punctuation, a word divider is a glyph that separates written words. In languages which use the Latin alphabet, Latin, Cyrillic script, Cyrillic, and Arabic alphabets, as well as other scripts of Europe and West Asia, the word divider is a b ...
. Dot configurations can be used to represent a letter, digit, punctuation mark, or even a word. Early braille education is crucial to literacy, education and employment among the blind. Despite the evolution of new technologies, including
screen reader A screen reader is a form of assistive technology (AT) that renders text and image content as speech or braille output. Screen readers are essential to people who are blindness, blind, and are useful to people who are visual impairment, visually ...
software that reads information aloud, braille provides blind people with access to spelling, punctuation and other aspects of written language less accessible through audio alone. While some have suggested that audio-based technologies will decrease the need for braille, technological advancements such as
braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
s have continued to make braille more accessible and available. Braille users highlight that braille remains as essential as print is to the sighted.


History

Braille was based on a tactile
code In communications and information processing, code is a system of rules to convert information—such as a letter (alphabet), letter, word, sound, image, or gesture—into another form, sometimes data compression, shortened or secrecy, secret ...
, now known as night writing, developed by Charles Barbier. (The name "night writing" was later given to it when it was considered as a means for soldiers to communicate silently at night and without a light source, but Barbier's writings do not use this term and suggest that it was originally designed as a simpler form of writing and for the visually impaired.) In Barbier's system, sets of 12 embossed dots were used to encode 36 different sounds. Braille identified three major defects of the code: first, the symbols represented phonetic sounds and not letters of the alphabet thus the code was unable to render the orthography of the words. Second, the 12-dot symbols could not easily fit beneath the pad of the reading finger. This required the reading finger to move in order to perceive the whole symbol, which slowed the reading process. (This was because Barbier's system was based only on the number of dots in each of two 6-dot columns but not the pattern of the dots.) Third, the code did not include symbols for numerals or punctuation. Braille's solution was to use 6-dot cells and to assign a specific pattern to each letter of the alphabet. Braille also developed symbols for representing numerals and punctuation. At first, Braille was a one-to-one transliteration of the French alphabet, but soon various abbreviations (contractions) and even
logogram In a written language, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''hanja'' in Korean) are generally logograms, as ...
s were developed, creating a system much more like shorthand. Today, there are braille codes for over 133 languages. In English, some variations in the braille codes have traditionally existed among English-speaking countries. In 1991, work to standardize the braille codes used in the English-speaking world began.
Unified English Braille Unified English Braille Code (UEBC, formerly UBC, now usually simply UEB) is an English language Braille, Braille code standard, developed to permit representing the wide variety of literary and technical material in use in the English-speaking wor ...
(UEB) has been adopted in all 7 member countries of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) as well as Nigeria. For blind readers, Braille is an independent writing system, rather than a code of printed orthography.


Derivation

Braille is derived from the Latin alphabet, albeit indirectly. In Braille's original system, the dot patterns were assigned to letters according to their position within the
alphabetic order Alphabetical order is a system whereby character string In computer programming, a string is traditionally a sequence of characters, either as a literal (computer programming), literal constant or as some kind of Variable (computer science), ...
of the French alphabet of the time, with
accented A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter (alphabet), letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). T ...
letters and ''w'' sorted at the end. Unlike print, which consists of mostly arbitrary symbols, the braille alphabet follows a logical sequence. The first ten letters of the alphabet, ''a''–''j'', use the upper four dot positions: (black dots in the table below). These stand for the ten digits ''1''–''9'' and ''0'' in an
alphabetic numeral system An alphabetic numeral system is a type of numeral system A numeral system (or system of numeration) is a writing system for expressing numbers; that is, a mathematical notation for representing number A number is a mathematical obj ...
similar to
Greek numerals Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or earl ...
(as well all derivations of it, including
Hebrew numerals The system of Hebrew numerals is a quasi-decimal alphabetic numeral system using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The system was adapted from that of the Greek numerals in the late 2nd century BCE. The current numeral system is also known as t ...
,
Cyrillic numerals Cyrillic numerals are a numeral system A numeral system (or system of numeration) is a writing system for expressing numbers; that is, a mathematical notation for representing number A number is a mathematical object used to cou ...
,
Abjad numerals The Abjad numerals, also called Hisab al-Jummal ( ar, حِسَاب ٱلْجُمَّل, ), are a decimal alphabetic numeral system/alphanumeric code, in which the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are assigned numerical values. They have been use ...
, also Hebrew
gematria Gematria (; he, גמטריא or gimatria , plural or , ''gimatriot'') is the practice of assigning a number, numerical value to a name, word or phrase according to an alphanumerical cipher. A single word can yield several values depending on the ...
and Greek
isopsephy Isopsephy (; ''isos'' meaning "equal" and ''psephos'' meaning "pebble") or isopsephism is the practice of adding up the Greek numerals, number values of the letters in a word to form a single number. The total number is then used as a metaphorical ...
). Though the dots are assigned in no obvious order, the cells with the fewest dots are assigned to the first three letters (and lowest digits), ''abc'' = ''123'' (), and to the three vowels in this part of the alphabet, ''aei'' (), whereas the even digits, ''4'', ''6'', ''8'', ''0'' (), are corners/right angles. The next ten letters, ''k''–''t'', are identical to ''a''–''j'' respectively, apart from the addition of a dot at position 3 (red dots in the bottom left corner of the cell in the table below): : : The next ten letters (the next "
decade A decade () is a period of ten year A year or annus is the orbital period of a planetary body, for example, the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. While large list ...
") are the same again, but with dots also at both position 3 and position 6 (green dots in the bottom row of the cell in the table above). Here ''w'' was initially left out as not being a part of the official French alphabet at the time of Braille's life; the French braille order is ''u v x y z ç é à è ù'' (). The next ten letters, ending in ''w'', are the same again, except that for this series position 6 (purple dot in the bottom right corner of the cell in the table above) is used without a dot at position 3. In French braille these are the letters ''â ê î ô û ë ï ü œ w'' (). ''W'' had been tacked onto the end of 39 letters of the French alphabet to accommodate English. The ''a''–''j'' series shifted down by one dot space () is used for punctuation. Letters ''a'' and ''c'' , which only use dots in the top row, were shifted two places for the apostrophe and hyphen: . (These are also the decade diacritics, at left in the table below, of the second and third decade.) In addition, there are ten patterns that are based on the first two letters () with their dots shifted to the right; these were assigned to non-French letters (''ì ä ò'' ), or serve non-letter functions: (superscript; in English the accent mark), (currency prefix), (capital, in English the
decimal point A decimal separator is a symbol used to separate the integer part from the fractional part of a number written in decimal form (e.g., "." in 12.45). Different countries officially designate different symbols for use as the separator. The choi ...
), (
number sign The symbol is known variously in English-speaking regions as the number sign, hash, or pound sign. The symbol has historically been used for a wide range of purposes including the designation of an ordinal number and as a Typographic ligature, ...
), (emphasis mark), (symbol prefix). : The first four decades are similar in respect that in those decades the decade dots are applied to the numeric sequence as a logical "inclusive OR" operation whereas the fifth decade applies a "shift down" operation to the numeric sequence. Originally there had been nine decades. The fifth through ninth used dashes as well as dots, but proved to be impractical and were soon abandoned. These could be replaced with what we now know as the number sign (), though that only caught on for the digits (old 5th decade → modern 1st decade). The dash occupying the top row of the original sixth decade was simply dropped, producing the modern fifth decade. (See
1829 braille Louis Braille's original publication, ''Procedure for Writing Words, Music, and Plainsong in Dots'' (1829), credits Barbier's night writing as being the basis for the braille, braille script. It differed in a fundamental way from modern braille: I ...
.)


Assignment

Historically, there have been three principles in assigning the values of a linear script (print) to Braille: Using Louis Braille's original French letter values; reassigning the braille letters according to the sort order of the print alphabet being transcribed; and reassigning the letters to improve the efficiency of writing in braille. Under international consensus, most braille alphabets follow the French sorting order for the 26 letters of the basic Latin alphabet, and there have been attempts at unifying the letters beyond these 26 (see
international braille The goal of braille uniformity is to unify the braille alphabets of the world as much as possible, so that literacy in one braille alphabet readily transfers to another. Unification was first achieved by a convention of the ''International Congre ...
), though differences remain, for example, in German Braille. This unification avoids the chaos of each nation reordering the braille code to match the sorting order of its print alphabet, as happened in
Algerian Braille Algerian Braille was a braille alphabet used to write the Arabic language Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world The Arab world ( ar, اَلْعَالَمُ الْعَرَبِيُّ ' ...
, where braille codes were numerically reassigned to match the order of the Arabic alphabet and bear little relation to the values used in other countries (compare modern Arabic Braille, which uses the French sorting order), and as happened in an early American version of English Braille, where the letters ''w'', ''x'', ''y'', ''z'' were reassigned to match English alphabetical order. A convention sometimes seen for letters beyond the basic 26 is to exploit the physical symmetry of braille patterns iconically, for example, by assigning a reversed ''n'' to ''ñ'' or an inverted ''s'' to ''sh''. (See Hungarian Braille and
Bharati Braille Bharati braille ( ), or Bharatiya Braille ( hi, भारती ब्रेल ' "Indian braille"), is a largely unified braille script for writing the languages of India. When India gained independence, eleven braille scripts were in use, in d ...
, which do this to some extent.) A third principle was to assign braille codes according to frequency, with the simplest patterns (quickest ones to write with a stylus) assigned to the most frequent letters of the alphabet. Such frequency-based alphabets were used in Germany and the United States in the 19th century (see
American Braille American Braille was a popular braille alphabet used in the United States before the adoption of standardized English Braille in 1918. It was developed by Joel W. Smith, a blind piano tuning teacher at Perkins School for the Blind, Perkins Instit ...
), but with the invention of the braille typewriter their advantage disappeared, and none are attested in modern use they had the disadvantage that the resulting small number of dots in a text interfered with following the alignment of the letters, and consequently made texts more difficult to read than Braille's more arbitrary letter assignment. Finally, there are braille scripts that don't order the codes numerically at all, such as
Japanese Braille Japanese Braille is the braille script of the Japanese language. It is based on the original braille script, though the connection is tenuous. In Japanese it is known as , literally "dot characters". It transcribes Japanese more or less as it w ...
and
Korean Braille Korean Braille is the braille alphabet of the Korean language. It is not graphically-related to other braille scripts found around the world. Instead, it reflects the patterns found in hangul, and differentiates initial consonants, vowels, and ...
, which are based on more abstract principles of syllable composition. Texts are sometimes written in a script of eight dots per cell rather than six, enabling them to encode a greater number of symbols. (See
Gardner–Salinas braille codes The Gardner–Salinas braille codes are a method of encoding mathematical and scientific notation linearly using braille Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are B ...
.)
Luxembourgish Braille Luxembourgish Braille is the braille alphabet of the Luxembourgish language. It is very close to French Braille, but uses eight-dot braille, eight-dot cells, with the extra pair of dots at the bottom of each cell to indicate capitalization and ac ...
has adopted eight-dot cells for general use; for example, it adds a dot below each letter to derive its capital variant.


Form

Braille was the first writing system with
binary Binary may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Binary number A binary number is a number expressed in the base-2 numeral system or binary numeral system, a method of mathematical expression which uses only two symbols: typical ...
encoding In communications and information processing, code is a system of rules to convert information—such as a letter (alphabet), letter, word, sound, image, or gesture—into another form, sometimes data compression, shortened or secrecy, secret ...
. The system as devised by Braille consists of two parts: #
Character encoding Character encoding is the process of assigning numbers to Graphics, graphical character (computing), characters, especially the written characters of Language, human language, allowing them to be Data storage, stored, Data communication, transmi ...
that mapped characters of the
French alphabet French orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the French language. It is based on a combination of phoneme, phonemic and historical principles. The spelling of words is largely based on the pronunciation of Old French c. 1100–1 ...
to
tuple In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in m ...
s of six bits (the dots). # The physical representation of those six-bit characters with raised dots in a braille cell. Within an individual cell, the dot positions are arranged in two columns of three positions. A raised dot can appear in any of the six positions, producing 64 (26) possible patterns, including one in which there are no raised dots. For reference purposes, a pattern is commonly described by listing the positions where dots are raised, the positions being universally numbered, from top to bottom, as 1 to 3 on the left and 4 to 6 on the right. For example, dot pattern 1-3-4 describes a cell with three dots raised, at the top and bottom in the left column and at the top of the right column: that is, the letter ''m''. The lines of horizontal braille text are separated by a space, much like visible printed text, so that the dots of one line can be differentiated from the braille text above and below. Different assignments of braille codes (or
code page In computing, a code page is a character encoding and as such it is a specific association of a set of printable character (computing), characters and control characters with unique numbers. Typically each number represents the binary value in a s ...
s) are used to map the character sets of different printed scripts to the six-bit cells. Braille assignments have also been created for mathematical and musical notation. However, because the six-dot braille cell allows only 64 (26) patterns, including space, the characters of a braille script commonly have multiple values, depending on their context. That is, character mapping between print and braille is not one-to-one. For example, the character corresponds in print to both the letter ''d'' and the digit ''4''. In addition to simple encoding, many braille alphabets use contractions to reduce the size of braille texts and to increase reading speed. (See Contracted braille.)


Writing braille

Braille may be produced by hand using a
slate and stylus The slate and stylus are tools used by Blindness, blind people to write text that they can read without assistance.Alpha Chi Omega (1908) Invented by Charles Barbier as the tool for writing letters that could be read by touch, the slate and stylu ...
in which each dot is created from the back of the page, writing in mirror image, or it may be produced on a braille typewriter or
Perkins Brailler The Perkins Brailler is a "braille typewriter" with a key corresponding to each of the six dots of the braille Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are Blindne ...
, or an electronic Brailler or braille notetaker. Braille users with access to smartphones may also activate the on-screen braille input keyboard, to type braille symbols on to their device by placing their fingers on to the screen according to the dot configuration of the symbols they wish to form. These symbols are automatically translated into print on the screen. The different tools that exist for writing braille allow the braille user to select the method that is best for a given task. For example, the
slate and stylus The slate and stylus are tools used by Blindness, blind people to write text that they can read without assistance.Alpha Chi Omega (1908) Invented by Charles Barbier as the tool for writing letters that could be read by touch, the slate and stylu ...
is a portable writing tool, much like the pen and paper for the sighted. Errors can be erased using a braille eraser or can be overwritten with all six dots (). ''Interpoint'' refers to braille printing that is offset, so that the paper can be embossed on both sides, with the dots on one side appearing between the divots that form the dots on the other. Using a computer or other electronic device, Braille may be produced with a
braille embosser A braille embosser is an impact printer that renders text as tactile braille cells. Using braille translator, braille translation software, a document or digital text can be embossed with relative ease. This makes braille production efficient and ...
(printer) or a
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
(screen).


Eight-dot braille

Braille has been extended to an 8-dot code, particularly for use with braille embossers and refreshable braille displays. In 8-dot braille the additional dots are added at the bottom of the cell, giving a matrix 4 dots high by 2 dots wide. The additional dots are given the numbers 7 (for the lower-left dot) and 8 (for the lower-right dot). Eight-dot braille has the advantages that the case of an individual letter is directly coded in the cell containing the letter and that all the printable
ASCII ASCII ( ), abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other devices. Because of ...
characters can be represented in a single cell. All 256 (28) possible combinations of 8 dots are encoded by the
Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The standard, ...
standard. Braille with six dots is frequently stored as
Braille ASCII Braille ASCII (or more formally The North American Braille ASCII Code, also known as SimBraille) is a subset of the ASCII ASCII ( ), abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for e ...
.


Letters

The first 25 braille letters, up through the first half of the 3rd decade, transcribe ''a–z'' (skipping ''w''). In English Braille, the rest of that decade is rounded out with the ligatures ''and, for, of, the,'' and ''with''. Omitting dot 3 from these forms the 4th decade, the ligatures ''ch, gh, sh, th, wh, ed, er, ou, ow'' and the letter ''w''. (See
English Braille English Braille, also known as ''Grade 2 Braille'', is the braille alphabet used for English language, English. It consists of around 250 letters (phonogram (linguistics), phonograms), Numerical digit, numerals, punctuation, formatting marks, co ...
.)


Formatting

Various formatting marks affect the values of the letters that follow them. They have no direct equivalent in print. The most important in English Braille are: That is, is read as capital 'A', and as the digit '1'.


Punctuation

Basic punctuation marks in English Braille include: is both the question mark and the opening quotation mark. Its reading depends on whether it occurs before a word or after. is used for both opening and closing parentheses. Its placement relative to spaces and other characters determines its interpretation. Punctuation varies from language to language. For example,
French Braille French Braille is the original braille alphabet, and the basis of all others. The collation, alphabetic order of French has become the basis of the international braille convention, used by most braille alphabets around the world. However, only t ...
uses for its question mark and swaps the quotation marks and parentheses (to and ); it uses the period () for the decimal point, as in print, and the decimal point () to mark capitalization.


Contractions

Braille contractions are words and affixes that are shortened so that they take up fewer cells. In English Braille, for example, the word ''afternoon'' is written with just three letters, , much like stenoscript. There are also several abbreviation marks that create what are effectively
logogram In a written language, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''hanja'' in Korean) are generally logograms, as ...
s. The most common of these is dot 5, which combines with the first letter of words. With the letter ''m'', the resulting word is ''mother''. There are also ligatures ("contracted" letters), which are single letters in braille but correspond to more than one letter in print. The letter ''and'', for example, is used to write words with the sequence ''a-n-d'' in them, such as ''hand''.


Page dimensions

Most
braille embosser A braille embosser is an impact printer that renders text as tactile braille cells. Using braille translator, braille translation software, a document or digital text can be embossed with relative ease. This makes braille production efficient and ...
s support between 34 and 40 cells per line, and 25 lines per page. A manually operated Perkins braille typewriter supports a maximum of 42 cells per line (its margins are adjustable), and typical paper allows 25 lines per page. A large interlining Stainsby has 36 cells per line and 18 lines per page. An A4-sized Marburg braille frame, which allows interpoint braille (dots on both sides of the page, offset so they do not interfere with each other), has 30 cells per line and 27 lines per page.


Braille writing machine

A Braille writing machine is a typewriter with six keys that allows the user to write braille on a regular hard copy page. The first Braille typewriter to gain general acceptance was invented by
Frank Haven Hall Frank Haven Hall (February 9, 1841 – January 3, 1911) was an American inventor and essayist who is credited with inventing the Hall braille writer and the stereographer machine. He also invented the first successful mechanical point writer and ...
(Superintendent of the Illinois School for the Blind), and was presented to the public in 1892. The Stainsby Brailler, developed by Henry Stainsby in 1903, is a mechanical writer with a sliding carriage that moves over an aluminium plate as it embosses Braille characters. An improved version was introduced around 1933. In 1951 David Abraham, a woodworking teacher at the
Perkins School for the Blind Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts, was founded in 1829 and is the oldest school for the blind people, blind in the United States. It has also been known as the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Perkins manufactures its o ...
produced a more advanced Braille typewriter, the
Perkins Brailler The Perkins Brailler is a "braille typewriter" with a key corresponding to each of the six dots of the braille Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are Blindne ...
. Braille printers or embosser were produced in 1950s. In 1960 Robert Mann, a teacher in MIT, wrote DOTSYS, a software that allowed automatic braille translation, and another group created an embossing device called "M.I.T. Braillemboss". The Mitre Corporation team of Robert Gildea, Jonathan Millen, Reid Gerhart and Joseph Sullivan (now president of Duxbury Systems) developed DOTSYS III, the first braille translator written in a portable programming language. DOTSYS III was developed for the
Atlanta Public Schools Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is a school district based in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia, United States. It is run by the Atlanta Board of Education with superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. The system has an active enrollment of 54,956 s ...
as a public domain program. In 1991 Ernest Bate developed the Mountbatten Brailler, an electronic machine used to type braille on braille paper, giving it a number of additional features such as word processing, audio feedback and embossing. This version was improved in 2008 with a quiet writer that had an erase key. In 2011 David S. Morgan produced the first SMART Brailler machine, with added text to speech function and allowed digital capture of data entered.


Braille reading

Braille is traditionally read in hardcopy form, such as with paper books written in braille, documents produced in paper braille (such as restaurant menus), and braille labels or public signage. It can also be read on a
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
either as a stand-alone electronic device or connected to a computer or smartphone. Refreshable braille displays convert what is visually shown on a computer or smartphone screen into braille through a series of pins that rise and fall to form braille symbols. Currently more than 1% of all printed books have been translated into hardcopy braille. The fastest braille readers apply a light touch and read braille with two hands, although reading braille with one hand is also possible. Although the finger can read only one braille character at a time, the brain chunks braille at a higher level, processing words a digraph, root or suffix at a time. The processing largely takes place in the
visual cortex The visual cortex of the brain is the area of the cerebral cortex that processes visual information. It is located in the occipital lobe. Sensory input originating from the eyes travels through the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus ...
.Experts Gathering In Houston To Discuss How Braille Is Taught – And What It Can Teach Us.
National Public Radio, 5 May 2018


Literacy

Children who are blind miss out on fundamental parts of early and advanced education if not provided with the necessary tools, such as access to educational materials in braille. Children who are blind or visually impaired can begin learning foundational braille skills from a very young age to become fluent braille readers as they get older. Sighted children are naturally exposed to written language on signs, on TV and in the books they see. Blind children require the same early exposure to literacy, through access to braille rich environments and opportunities to explore the world around them. Print-braille books, for example, present text in both print and braille and can be read by sighted parents to blind children (and vice versa), allowing blind children to develop an early love for reading even before formal reading instruction begins. Adults who experience sight loss later in life or who didn't have the opportunity to learn it when they were younger can also learn braille. In most cases, adults who learn braille were already literate in print before vision loss and so instruction focuses more on developing the tactile and motor skills needed to read braille. While different countries publish statistics on how many readers in a given organization request braille, these numbers only provide a partial picture of braille literacy statistics. For example, this data does not survey the entire population of braille readers or always include readers who are no longer in the school system (adults) or readers who request electronic braille materials. Therefore, there are currently no reliable statistics on braille literacy rates, as described in a publication in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Regardless of the precise percentage of braille readers, there is consensus that braille should be provided to all those who benefit from it. There are numerous factors that influence access to braille literacy, including school budget constraints, technology advancements such as screen-reader software, access to qualified instruction, and different philosophical views over how blind children should be educated. A key turning point for braille literacy was the passage of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 () is a United States federal law, codified at et seq. The principal sponsor of the bill was Rep. John Brademas (D-IN-3). The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 replaces preexisting laws (collectively referred to as the V ...
, an
act of Congress An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicameralism, bicameral, composed of a lower body, the United St ...
that moved thousands of children from specialized schools for the blind into mainstream public schools. Because only a small percentage of public schools could afford to train and hire braille-qualified teachers, braille literacy has declined since the law took effect. Braille literacy rates have improved slightly since the bill was passed, in part because of pressure from consumers and advocacy groups that has led 27 states to pass legislation mandating that children who are legally blind be given the opportunity to learn braille. In 1998 there were 57,425 legally blind students registered in the United States, but only 10% (5,461) of them used braille as their primary reading medium. Early Braille education is crucial to literacy for a blind or low-vision child. A study conducted in the state of Washington found that people who learned braille at an early age did just as well, if not better than their sighted peers in several areas, including vocabulary and comprehension. In the preliminary adult study, while evaluating the correlation between adult literacy skills and employment, it was found that 44% of the participants who had learned to read in braille were unemployed, compared to the 77% unemployment rate of those who had learned to read using print. Currently, among the estimated 85,000 blind adults in the United States, 90% of those who are braille-literate are employed. Among adults who do not know braille, only 33% are employed. Statistically, history has proven that braille reading proficiency provides an essential skill set that allows blind or low-vision children to compete with their sighted peers in a school environment and later in life as they enter the workforce. Regardless of the specific percentage of braille readers, proponents point out the importance of increasing access to braille for all those who can benefit from i


Braille transcription

Although it is possible to transcribe print by simply substituting the equivalent braille character for its printed equivalent, in English such a character-by-character transcription (known as ''uncontracted braille'') is typically used by beginners or those who only engage in short reading tasks (such as reading household labels). Braille characters are much larger than their printed equivalents, and the standard 11" by 11.5" (28 cm × 30 cm) page has room for only 25 lines of 43 characters. To reduce space and increase reading speed, most braille alphabets and orthographies use ligatures, abbreviations, and contractions. Virtually all English braille books in hardcopy (paper) format are transcribed in contracted braille: The Library of Congress's ''Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing'' runs to over 300 pages, and braille transcribers must pass certification tests. Uncontracted braille was previously known as grade 1 braille, and contracted braille was previously known as grade 2 braille. Uncontracted braille is a direct transliteration of print words (one-to-one correspondence); hence, the word "about" would contain all the same letters in uncontracted braille as it does in inkprint. Contracted braille includes short forms to save space; hence, for example, the letters "ab" when standing alone represent the word "about" in English contracted braille. In English, some braille users only learn uncontracted braille, particularly if braille is being used for shorter reading tasks such as reading household labels. However, those who plan to use braille for educational and employment purposes and longer reading texts often go on to contracted braille. The system of contraction (grammar), contractions in English Braille begins with a set of 23 words contracted to single characters. Thus the word ''but'' is contracted to the single letter ''b'', ''can'' to ''c'', ''do'' to ''d'', and so on. Even this simple rule creates issues requiring special cases; for example, ''d'' is, specifically, an abbreviation of the verb ''do''; the noun ''do'' representing the note of the musical scale is a different word and must be spelled out. Portions of words may be contracted, and many rules govern this process. For example, the character with dots 2-3-5 (the letter "f" lowered in the Braille cell) stands for "ff" when used in the middle of a word. At the beginning of a word, this same character stands for the word "to"; the character is written in braille with no space following it. (This contraction was removed in the Unified English Braille Code.) At the end of a word, the same character represents an exclamation point. Some contractions are more similar than their print equivalents. For example, the contraction , meaning "letter", differs from , meaning "little", only by one dot in the second letter: ''little'', ''letter''. This causes greater confusion between the braille spellings of these words and can hinder the learning process of contracted braille. The contraction rules take into account the linguistic structure of the word; thus, contractions are generally not to be used when their use would alter the usual braille form of a base word to which a prefix or suffix has been added. Some portions of the transcription rules are not fully codified and rely on the judgment of the transcriber. Thus, when the contraction rules permit the same word in more than one way, preference is given to "the contraction that more nearly approximates correct pronunciation". "Grade 3 braille" is a variety of non-standardized systems that include many additional shorthand-like contractions. They are not used for publication, but by individuals for their personal convenience.


Braille translation software

When people produce braille, this is called braille transcription. When computer software produces braille, this is called braille translation. Braille translation software exists to handle most of the common languages of the world, and many technical areas, such as
mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...
(
mathematical notation Mathematical notation consists of using glossary of mathematical symbols, symbols for representing operation (mathematics), operations, unspecified numbers, relation (mathematics), relations and any other mathematical objects, and assembling the ...
), for example WIMATS,
music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definition of music, definitions of mu ...
(
musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise ...
), and tactile graphics.


Braille reading techniques

Since Braille is one of the few writing systems where tactile perception is used, as opposed to visual perception, a braille reader must develop new skills. One skill important for Braille readers is the ability to create smooth and even pressures when running one's fingers along the words. There are many different styles and techniques used for the understanding and development of braille, even though a study by B. F. Holland suggests that there is no specific technique that is superior to any other. Another study by Lowenfield & Abel shows that braille can be read "the fastest and best... by students who read using the index fingers of both hands". Another important reading skill emphasized in this study is to finish reading the end of a line with the right hand and to find the beginning of the next line with the left hand simultaneously.


International uniformity

When Braille was first adapted to languages other than French, many schemes were adopted, including mapping the native alphabet to the alphabetical order of French – e.g. in English W, which was not in the French alphabet at the time, is mapped to braille X, X to Y, Y to Z, and Z to the first French-accented letter – or completely rearranging the alphabet such that common letters are represented by the simplest braille patterns. Consequently, mutual intelligibility was greatly hindered by this state of affairs. In 1878, the International Congress on Work for the Blind, held in Paris, proposed an international braille standard, where braille codes for different languages and scripts would be based, not on the order of a particular alphabet, but on phonetic correspondence and transliteration to Latin. This unified braille has been applied to the languages of India and Africa, Arabic, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Russian, and Armenian, as well as nearly all Latin-script languages. In Greek, for example, γ (g) is written as Latin ''g'', despite the fact that it has the alphabetic position of ''c''; Hebrew ב (b), the second letter of the alphabet and
cognate In historical linguistics, cognates or lexical cognates are sets of words in different languages that have been inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor in a common parent language. Because language change can have radical ...
with the Latin letter ''b'', is sometimes pronounced /b/ and sometimes /v/, and is written ''b'' or ''v'' accordingly; Russian ц (ts) is written as ''c'', which is the usual letter for /ts/ in those
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples and their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto ...
that use the Latin alphabet; and Arabic ف (f) is written as ''f'', despite being historically ''p'' and occurring in that part of the Arabic alphabet (between historic ''o'' and ''q'').


Other braille conventions

Other systems for assigning values to braille patterns are also followed beside the simple mapping of the alphabetical order onto the original French order. Some braille alphabets start with unified braille, and then diverge significantly based on the phonology of the target languages, while others diverge even further. In the various Chinese systems, traditional braille values are used for initial consonants and the simple vowels. In both Mandarin and
Cantonese Braille Cantonese Braille (Chinese language, Chinese: 粵語點字) is a braille script used to write Cantonese in Hong Kong and Macau. It is locally referred to as ''tim chi'' (點字, ''dim2zi6'') 'dot characters' or more commonly but ambiguously ''tu ...
, however, characters have different readings depending on whether they are placed in syllable-initial (onset) or syllable-final (rime) position. For instance, the cell for Latin ''k'', , represents Cantonese ''k'' (''g'' in
Yale Yale University is a Private university, private research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Established in 1701 as the Collegiate School, it is the List of Colonial Colleges, third-oldest institution of higher education in the United Sta ...
and other modern romanizations) when initial, but ''aak'' when final, while Latin ''j'', , represents Cantonese initial ''j'' but final ''oei''. Novel systems of braille mapping include Korean, which adopts separate syllable-initial and syllable-final forms for its consonants, explicitly grouping braille cells into syllabic groups in the same way as
hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's Revised Romanization of Korean, standard Romanization. ( ) in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the modern official writing system f ...
. Japanese, meanwhile, combines independent vowel dot patterns and modifier consonant dot patterns into a single braille cell – an
abugida An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental Writing systems#Segmental writing system, writing system in which consonant-vowel sequences are written as units; ...
representation of each Japanese mora.


Uses

Braille is read by people who are blind, deafblind or who have low vision, and by both those born with a visual impairment and those who experience sight loss later in life. Even individuals with low vision will find that they benefit from braille, depending on level of vision or context (for example, when lighting or colour contrast is poor). Braille is used for both short and long reading tasks. Examples of short reading tasks include braille labels for identifying household items (or cards in a wallet), reading elevator buttons, accessing phone numbers, recipes, grocery lists and other personal notes. Examples of longer reading tasks include using braille to access educational materials, novels and magazines. People with access to a
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
can also use braille for reading email and ebooks, browsing the internet and accessing other electronic documents. It is also possible to adapt or purchase playing cards and board games in braille. In
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
there are instances where the parliament acts have been published in braille, such as ''The Right to Information Act''. Sylheti Braille is used in
Northeast India Northeast India (officially North Eastern Region, NER) is the easternmost region of India representing both a geographic and political Administrative divisions of India, administrative division of the country. It comprises eight States and union te ...
. In Canada, passenger safety information in braille and tactile seat row markers are required aboard planes, trains, large ferries, and interprovincial busses pursuant to the Canadian Transportation Agency's regulations. In the United States, the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA () is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Disability in the United States, Americans with disabilities ...
requires various building signage to be in braille. In the United Kingdom, it is required that medicines have the name of the medicine in Braille on the labeling.


Currency

The current series of Canadian banknotes has a tactile feature consisting of raised dots that indicate the denomination, allowing bills to be easily identified by blind or low vision people. It does not use standard braille numbers to identify the value. Instead, the number of full braille cells, which can be simply counted by both braille readers and non-braille readers alike, is an indicator of the value of the bill. Mexican bank notes, Australian bank notes,
Indian rupee The Indian rupee (Currency symbol, symbol: Indian rupee sign, ₹; ISO 4217, code: INR) is the official currency in the republic of India. The rupee is subdivided into 100 ''Indian paisa, paise'' (singular: ''paisa''), though as of 2022, coins ...
notes,
Israeli new shekel The new Israeli shekel ( he, שֶׁקֶל חָדָשׁ '; ar, شيكل جديد ; currency symbol, sign: Shekel sign, ₪; ISO 4217, ISO code: ILS; abbreviation: NIS), also known as simply the Israeli shekel ( he, שקל ישראלי, ar, ش ...
notes and
Russian ruble The ruble or rouble (russian: wikt:рубль, рубль ''rublʹ''; Currency symbol, symbol: ₽; abbreviation: руб or р. in Cyrillic alphabet, Cyrillic, Rbl (plural: Rbls) or R in Latin alphabet, Latin; ISO 4217, ISO code: RUB) is the curren ...
notes also have special raised symbols to make them identifiable by persons who are blind or low vision.
Euro coins There are eight euro coin denominations, ranging from one cent to two euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 out of the Member state of the European Union, member states ...
were designed in cooperation with organisations representing blind people, and as a result they incorporate many features allowing them to be distinguished by touch alone. In addition, their visual appearance is designed to make them easy to tell apart for persons who cannot read the inscriptions on the coins. "A good design for the blind and partially sighted is a good design for everybody" was the principle behind the cooperation of the
European Central Bank The European Central Bank (ECB) is the prime component of the monetary Eurosystem and the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) as well as one of seven institutions of the European Union. It is one of the world's Big Four (banking)#Intern ...
and the European Blind Union during the design phase of the first series
Euro banknotes Banknotes of the euro, the common currency of the Eurozone (euro area members), have been in circulation since the first series (also called ''ES1'') was issued in 2002. They are issued by the national central banks of the Eurosystem or the Eur ...
in the 1990s. As a result, the design of the first euro banknotes included several characteristics which aid both the blind and partially sighted to confidently use the notes. Australia introduced the tactile feature onto their five-dollar banknote in 2016 In the United Kingdom, the front of the £10 polymer note (the side with raised print), has two clusters of raised dots in the top left hand corner, and the £20 note has three. This tactile feature helps blind and partially sighted people identify the value of the note.


Unicode

The Braille set was added to the
Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The standard, ...
Standard in version 3.0 (1999). Most
braille embosser A braille embosser is an impact printer that renders text as tactile braille cells. Using braille translator, braille translation software, a document or digital text can be embossed with relative ease. This makes braille production efficient and ...
s and
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
s do not use the Unicode
code point In character encoding Character encoding is the process of assigning numbers to Graphics, graphical character (computing), characters, especially the written characters of Language, human language, allowing them to be Data storage, stored, D ...
s, but instead reuse the
8-bit In computer architecture, 8-bit Integer (computer science), integers or other Data (computing), data units are those that are 8 bits wide (1 octet (computing), octet). Also, 8-bit central processing unit (CPU) and arithmetic logic unit (ALU) arc ...
code points that are assigned to standard
ASCII ASCII ( ), abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other devices. Because of ...
for
braille ASCII Braille ASCII (or more formally The North American Braille ASCII Code, also known as SimBraille) is a subset of the ASCII ASCII ( ), abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for e ...
. (Thus, for simple material, the same
bitstream A bitstream (or bit stream), also known as binary sequence, is a sequence In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of mathematical object, objects in which repetitions are allowed and order theory, order matters. Like a Set (ma ...
may be interpreted equally as visual
letter form A letterform, letter-form or letter form, is a term used especially in typography, palaeography, calligraphy and epigraphy to mean a letter (alphabet), letter's shape. A letterform is a type of glyph, which is a specific, concrete way of writing ...
s for sighted readers or their exact semantic equivalent in tactile patterns for blind readers. However some codes have quite different tactile versus visual interpretations and most are not even defined in Braille ASCII.) Some embossers have proprietary control codes for 8-dot braille or for full graphics mode, where dots may be placed anywhere on the page without leaving any space between braille cells so that continuous lines can be drawn in diagrams, but these are rarely used and are not standard. The Unicode standard encodes 6-dot and 8-dot braille glyphs according to their binary appearance, rather than following their assigned numeric order. Dot 1 corresponds to the
least significant bit In computing, bit numbering is the convention used to identify the bit positions in a binary numeral system, binary number. Bit significance and indexing In computing, the least significant bit (LSB) is the bit position in a Binary numeral sy ...
of the low byte of the Unicode scalar value, and dot 8 to the high bit of that byte. The Unicode block for braille is U+2800 ... U+28FF. The mapping of patterns to characters etc. is language dependent: even for English for example, see
American Braille American Braille was a popular braille alphabet used in the United States before the adoption of standardized English Braille in 1918. It was developed by Joel W. Smith, a blind piano tuning teacher at Perkins School for the Blind, Perkins Instit ...
and
English Braille English Braille, also known as ''Grade 2 Braille'', is the braille alphabet used for English language, English. It consists of around 250 letters (phonogram (linguistics), phonograms), Numerical digit, numerals, punctuation, formatting marks, co ...
.


Observation

Every year on 4 January, World Braille Day is observed internationally to commemorate the birth of
Louis Braille Louis Braille (; ; 4 January 1809 – 6 January 1852) was a French educator and the inventor of a reading and writing system, named braille after him, intended for use by Visual impairment, visually impaired people. His system is used worldwide ...
and to recognize his efforts. Although the event is not considered a public holiday, it has been recognized by the United Nations as an official day of celebration since 2019.


Braille devices

There is a variety of contemporary electronic devices that serve the needs of blind people that operate in Braille, such as
refreshable braille display A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Visually impaired computer users who cannot use a s ...
s and Braille e-book that use different technologies for transmitting graphic information of different types (pictures, maps, graphs, texts, etc.).


See also

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ("the Braille man of India") *
List of binary codes This is a list of some binary codes that are (or have been) used to represent text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) In literary theory Literary theory is the systematic research, study of the nature of literature a ...
* List of international common standards *


Notes


References


External links


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_(in_French) *
Acting_for_the_autonomy_of_blind_and_partially_sighted_persons_(Corporate_brochure)
(Microsoft_Word_file,_in_English)
Alternate_Text_Production_Center
of_the_California_Community_Colleges.
Braille_Part_1_Text_To_Speech_For_The_Visually_Impaired
YouTube
Braille_information_and_advice
-_Sense_UK

{{Authority_control Braille.html" ;"title="Valentin_Haüy
_.html" ;"title="Valentin Haüy">L'association Valentin Haüy
">Valentin Haüy">L'association Valentin Haüy
(in French) *
Acting for the autonomy of blind and partially sighted persons (Corporate brochure)
(Microsoft Word file, in English)
Alternate Text Production Center
of the California Community Colleges.
Braille Part 1 Text To Speech For The Visually Impaired
YouTube
Braille information and advice
- Sense UK

{{Authority control Braille"> 1824 introductions Assistive technology Augmentative and alternative communication Character sets Digital typography French inventions Latin-script representations Writing systems introduced in the 19th century