The life of Louis Braille is celebrated every January as January marks National Braille Literacy Month.

Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809 and this year we celebrate his 215th birthday! Born in France, Louis became blind at the age of 3 while playing with tools in his father’s shop. When he was 10, he was sent to the school for the blind in Paris, but there were very few books available at that time for people who were blind. Inspired by a system of tactile writing created by French army captain, Charles Barbier, Louis Braille spent two years trying to simplify and perfect the code. When he was 15, the new code was ready, and was easier to learn and quicker to read.

It took many years before the Braille code was adopted widely. The first book in braille was published in 1827 and in 1878, the World Congress for the Blind voted to make Braille the system of reading and writing for people worldwide who are blind. There ensued a War of the Dots and it was not until 1932 that Standard English Braille was established for all English-speaking countries.

Facts about Braille

  • Six-dot Cell System: Braille is based on a system of raised dots arranged in cells or grids. Each cell contains six dots, arranged in two columns of three dots each. The unique combinations of these dots represent different letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and even musical notations.
  • Alphabet and Numbers: The Braille system includes representations for the entire alphabet, numbers, and common punctuation marks. Each letter of the alphabet has its own unique combination of raised dots. Numbers are also represented by specific combinations of dots within the six-dot cell.
  • Universal Language: Braille is not a language itself but a code that can be used to represent the characters of many languages. Different languages may have specific modifications or additions to the basic Braille code to accommodate their unique alphabets and symbols.
  • Literacy and Independence: Learning Braille is crucial for individuals with visual impairments as it provides them with a means of literacy and independence. Being able to read and write in Braille allows visually impaired individuals to access written information, communicate effectively, and participate more fully in education and employment opportunities.