Braille is a system of writing that uses raised dots, punched into paper or plastic. It enables people with little or no vision to read with their fingers. The system was invented in the first half of the nineteenth century by Louis Braille (1809-52), a Frenchman who had him been blind since the age of three.
Braille is a system of touch reading and writing for blind persons in which raised dots represent the letters of the alphabet. It also contains equivalents for punctuation marks and provides symbols to show letter groupings.
Braille is read by moving the hand or hands from left to right along each line. The reading process usually involves both hands, and the index fingers generally do the reading. The average reading speed is about 125 words per minute. But, greater speeds of up to 200 words per minute are possible.
By using the braille alphabet, people who are blind can review and study the written word. They can also become aware of different written conventions such as spelling, punctuation, paragraphing and footnotes.
Most importantly, braille gives blind individuals access to a wide range of reading materials including recreational and educational reading, financial statements and restaurant menus. Equally important are contracts, regulations, insurance policies, directories, and cookbooks that are all part of daily adult life. Through braille, people who are blind can also pursue hobbies and cultural enrichment with materials such as music scores, hymnals, playing cards, and board games.
Various other methods had been attempted over the years to enable reading for the blind. However, many of them were raised versions of print letters. It is generally accepted that the braille system has succeeded because it is based on a rational sequence of signs devised for the fingertips, rather than imitating signs devised for the eyes.
At eleven years old, Braille found inspiration to modify Charles Barbier’s “night writing” code in an effort to create an efficient written communication system for fellow blind individuals. One year earlier he was enrolled at the National Institute of the Blind in Paris. He spent the better part of the next nine years developing and refining the system of raised dots that has come to be known by his name, Braille.
After all of Braille’s work, the code was now based on cells with only 6-dots instead of 12. This crucial improvement meant that a fingertip could encompass the entire cell unit with one impression and move rapidly from one cell to the next. Over time, braille gradually came to be accepted throughout the world as the fundamental form of written communication for blind individuals. Today it remains basically as he invented it.
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