How Braille was Invented
By, Annee Jones
My new book, A Caregiver for Cash (currently available for pre-order) features a 10-year-old girl who is blind living in the year 1890. Part of my research for this book included a history of the development of Braille.
According to the American Foundation for the Blind, Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision. Braille is not a language, but a code by which many languages may be written and read.
Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel rows each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or a whole word.
Braille was invented by a man named Louis Braille who was born on January 4, 1809 in France. He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. At that time, books were created using raised print which was very difficult to produce, read, or write.
As a young boy, Louis longed for more books to read. He was intrigued when he learned about a code used by the military for sending messages that could be read silently at night in the dark on the battlefield. This system was invented by a Charles Barbier who was an artillery captain in the French army. His code combined 12 raised dots to represent sounds and he thought it could also be useful for people who were blind. He called it “sonography” but it became known as “Night Writing.” But it had flaws, such as there wasn’t any punctuation and no way to spell.
Hence, Louis decided he would see what he could do to make this system more useful. He worked on this between the ages of 13 and 16, using tools including paper, a slate, and a stylus to form the raised dots. Finally, he shared what he had invented with the school director, and his code eventually became known all around the world as Braille.
Braille can be written in several ways. The equivalent of paper and pencil is a slate and stylus. A slate contains evenly spaced depressions for the dots of braille cells. When paper is placed into the slate, tactile dots are made by pushing the pointed end of a stylus into the paper over the depressions. The paper bulges on its reverse side and forms the dots.
Braille is also produced by a machine known as a braillewriter, which has six keys, a space bar, a line spacer, and a backspace. The six main keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots of a braille cell and keys can be pressed at the same time.
The invention of this system has helped many people who are vision-impaired achieve literacy. It continues to be used today. Here in Seattle, we have a Library for the Blind that I have visited. Have you ever closed your eyes and felt a book written in Braille? Who knows, maybe my book will even be printed in Braille someday!
In the meantime, you can find A Caregiver for Cash here:
I feel incredibly honored to work as a disability counselor and am excited to be on a new journey as a Christian romance author. Many of my upcoming books feature people with disabilities as well as sweet romances, happy endings, and Christian themes. I welcome the opportunity to connect with readers so please feel free to “Friend” me on Facebook while my website and newsletter are currently being developed.
4. The Braille Reference Book by M. S. Loomis, 1942.