World Braille day is celebrated on the 4th of January as this is the birthday of Louis Braille who published the system in 1829. It wasn’t until 1854, through the overwhelming insistence of blind pupils, that Braille’s system was implemented in the Royal Institute.
The following information is adapted from the Royal Blind website www.royalblind.org
Braille is a tactile reading and writing system used by some blind and visually impaired people who cannot access print materials. Raised dots represent the letters of the print alphabet and includes symbols to represent punctuation, mathematics and scientific characters, music, computer notation and foreign languages. Contrary to popular opinion Braille is not a language. It is a code by which all 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 vertical columns of three dots (like the number 6 on a dice). Whilst every letter of every word can be expressed in Braille (referred to as uncontracted Braille) there is also contracted Braille where cells are used individually or in combination with others to form different contractions or whole words. These short cuts reduce the volume of paper needed for reproducing books in Braille and make reading faster.
Just as printed materials can be produced with paper, pencil, typewriter or printer, Braille can also be written in several ways. Embossed Braille is usually produced using a Perkins Brailler. Unlike a typewriter which has more than 50 keys, the Perkins Brailler has only six keys and a space bar. These keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots of a Braille cell. Since most Braille cells contain more than a single dot, all or any of the Brailler keys can be pushed at the same time.
Computers provide and continue to expand additional avenues of literacy for Braille users. Software programs and portable electronic Braille note takers allow users to save and edit their writing, have it displayed back to them either audibly or tactually and produce a hard copy via a desktop computer-driven Braille embosser.
There’s an interesting article about a project that has been launched to save an intricate Braille globe invented in Queensland in the 1950s by Richard Frank Tunley's which opened up the map of the world to blind and vision-impaired children allowing them to "understand the place of our planet, understand the size and shape of the countries and oceans, and use Braille to help their way around it. The globe is made of wood and aluminium with Braille letters punched into the aluminium, and includes several accompanying plates providing contextual information and instructions on how to use the globe. The full article is via the following link - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-16/rare-1950s-braille-globe-designed-in-queensland-to-be-digitised/9047956
Just to add a word of warning though - Please be aware that whilst braille is invaluable to the people that use it, not every blind person reads braille. We often talk on our training of the time Dave and I attended a conference and were handed some material for the day. We got to our exhibition stand and I opened the pack only to comment ‘oh well this is of no use to either of us!’ – yes that’s right it was all in Braille which neither Dave nor I read! Much nicer, was when we went to the Sight Village London exhibition and Dave was asked whether he would like the guide in Braille (rather than just assuming). In fact, Dave’s preference would always be electronic for these things, but if available, he’ll usually have checked details online before attending anyway!
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.