Braille: Helping The Blind And The Visually Impaired Read

Braille is a system with raised dots read with fingers by people who are blind. It is important to understand that braille is not a language but a code by which many languages such as English, Arabic and Spanish can be written and read. It is used by many people all over the world and provides a means of literacy for all.

Who are called as Visually Impaired?

Who are the visually impaired? We see people around us wearing spectacles and prescription glasses. Can we consider such people as visually impaired? the answer is No! Visually impairment is the decrease in the ability of a person’s sight to a large degree such that it cannot be fixed by any conventional means of corrections like glasses and lenses.

The term blind people or blindness refers to a complete or nearly complete vision loss. This visual impairment is a major problem which affects a lot of people worldwide by slowing down the normally active life and daily activities such as walking, reading or driving.

Causes of Blindness:

The disturbance in the path of light inside the eye also known as refractive errors is the major cause of vision loss around the world. Cataracts; the white milky layer over the eyes which blocks the light from entering your eyes is a close second. With the advancement in technology, many such devices like magnifying glasses, telescopes etc were made usable for the visually impaired. In fact, blind people can now read thanks to a new method of writing called the Braille.

We will explore the language in depth in this article but one must remember that knowledge is the key to living with low vision or blindness. People with low vision can enhance their quality of life by learning Braille, with the help of which they can be just as voracious readers as normally sighted people. Braille truly is a godsend for the visually impaired.

What is Braille?

It is a system created by Louis Braille who himself suffered from visual impairment to help people like him to cope with the loss of their vision and still be able to read, learn and write like a normal person. It was based on a military technique known as Night Writing which was developed during Napoleon’s reign. Night writing was developed in response to Napoleon’s demands for a means for soldiers to communicate silently at night without light to avoid detection. Though it proved too difficult for soldiers to recognize by touch, it was perfect for the visually impaired which is where Louis Braille comes into the picture.

 It is a system of raised dots or dents on the pages that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision. Teachers, parents, and others who are not visually impaired ordinarily read braille with their eyes. Braille is not a language. Rather, it is a code by which many languages - such as English, French, Arabic, Japanese and many other languages may be written and read. Many Indian languages can also be read using Braille. Braille is unique in the fact that it provides means of education for all irrespective of their impairments and is used by millions of people throughout the globe.

Braille Script A to Z

Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel columns 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 even a whole word.

As you can see from the chart with the alphabets that it is meant to be picked up easily. You can see a recurring pattern in the alphabets. The second row is a replication of the first row with an addition of an extra dot in the bottom left corner and the third row is much the same with a dotted bottom row. To remember all the alphabets you just have to remember the first row. For example, if I wanted to write CAT in Braille, it would look something like this;

The images represent the words Cat, Dog, Mouse and Braille

If you take the dots, two row at a time you can easily see from the key that it is simply substituting alphabets for dots. Thanks to this it is very easy for a sighted person to pick up braille and this helps the parents and families of the visually impaired people greatly. Writing in Braille is also just as simple.

A combination of slate and stylus are used. Here the slate has embossed into it the notation which is mapped to alphabets and the main point to notice is that the dots here are replaced with a hole. So if a paper is placed over the slate, you can make the dents in the pages by poking the page into the Braille holes in the slate with the help of a stylus.