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It took Louis Braille nine years to develop the tactile reading and writing system that bears his name centuries later.  

A student of Paris’ Royal Institute for Blind Youths, Louis was motivated to invent a system that would provide people who are blind with access to information by touch, but also a system that could be produced efficiently.

Louis Braille was inspired by fellow Frenchmen Charles Barbier, who had attempted to develop a tactile communication system that could be used by the military.

Louis Braille was only 11 years old when he began developing the braille alphabet and each year we celebrate the importance of his invention on World Braille Day on January 4, which is Louis Braille’s birthday.

Braille now and then

When Louis Braille invented braille, it reflected the French alphabet and grammatical symbols. Over the years, braille has evolved to meet the needs of people who speak different languages or need to access more modern information.

As well as reading and writing in English, there is also a range of braille codes across languages including languages like Japanese and Russian which do not use the Roman alphabet.

It’s also used for more than reading and writing text. There are also braille codes which enable braille readers to use mathematical and scientific symbols and read and write music notation.

There are also different grades of braille regularly used by people who are blind or have low vision. Grade One braille is commonly used for simple tasks like short messages or labelling items and is also used by those who are new to braille.

Grade Two braille includes dot patterns which represent “contractions” and aims to shorten words and condense the space needed for braille text.

Braille all around

Braille has also grown more prevalent within the community.

It’s found on the buttons in elevators, on product packaging for medication, for toiletries and household products like bleach and oven cleaner.

It can also be found on public transport, on trains, on taxi doors, and on inner-city light posts to identify street names at busy intersections.

More information

Vision Australia can help you with all your braille needs. Braille training is available for people wanting to learn braille, while our Print Access team can also help produce your material in braille.

Call 1300 84 74 66 or email [email protected] for more information.