(French pronunciation: [bʁaj]
) is a tactile writing system used by people who are blind
or visually impaired. It is traditionally written with embossed paper. Braille-users can read computer screens and other electronic supports thanks to refreshable braille displays. They can write
braille with the original slate and stylus or type it on a braille writer
, such as a portable braille note-taker, or on a computer that prints with a braille embosser.
Braille is named after its creator, Frenchman Louis Braille, who lost his eyesight due to a childhood accident. In 1824, at the age of 15, Braille developed his code for the French alphabet as an improvement on night writing. He published his system, which subsequently
included musical notation
, in 1829. The second revision
, published in 1837, was the first binary form of writing developed in the modern era.
Braille characters are small rectangular blocks called cells
that contain tiny palpable
bumps called raised dots
. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. Since the various braille alphabets originated as transcription codes of printed writing systems, the mappings (sets of character designations) vary from language to language. Furthermore, in English Braille there are three levels of encoding: Grade
1 – a letter-by-letter transcription used for basic literacy; Grade 2 – an addition of abbreviations and contractions; and Grade 3 – various non-standardized personal shorthands.
Braille cells are not the only thing to appear in braille text. There may be embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, bullets that are larger than braille dots, etc. A full Braille cell
includes six raised dots arranged in two lateral rows each having three dots. The dot
positions are identified by numbers from one through six. 64 solutions are possible from using one or more dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation
mark, or even an entire word.
In the face of screen-reader software, braille usage has declined
. However, braille education remains important for developing reading
skills among blind and visually impaired children, and braille literacy correlates with higher employment rates.