braille square

Learning Braille

Braille - as I see it!

The Braille square

10 patterns of dots

Creating the letters

Developing the invention

Look-alike letters
"In braille, what letter is represented by three dots in a row?" That question was asked in a pub quiz, Monday 30th September 2008. I had no idea what the answer was but I guessed correctly, But that's all it was, just a guess! I was angry with myself for never having learnt the braille alphabet. I had never seen braille in use nor had ever seen a book in braille. Despite nothing to go on, I made up my mind to learn the alphabet and see where it lead.

The public library seemed a good place to look for information and to find braille books. There was nothing! There was a biography of Louis Braille but that only said he had invented an alphabet, not how he went about it. Google searching, site after site, fared no better. There are an endless number of interesting comments, but they say nothing to the point, and nobody has any idea what Louis Braille actually did. Here follow some typical comments. They sound intimidating and complex, confusing rather than clarifying, and likely to turn people away from braille.

  • Louis worked with Barbier's basic ideas to develop his own simplified system that we know today as braille. He based the code on the normal alphabet and reduced the number of dots by half.
  • Raising one or more of the six dots offered 63 possible formations, enough to represent all letters
  • These dots consisted of patterns in order to keep the system easy to learn.
  • Louis tried various modifications that would enable the unique letter symbols to fit under one fingertip.
  • by the variation of his top four dots he could show the first ten letters of the alphabet. The next 10 letters, from K to T, were indicated by hitting Point 3, the dot in the bottom left-hand corner. Addition of the sixth dot, Point 6, to all the previous signs gave him a further ten signs.
  • After some slight modification it reached its present form in 1834.
  • Over a period of a few days he devised an alphabet constructed entirely of six dots in different configurations, the position of each dot determining the letter of the alphabet it represented.
  • Over the next few months he experimented with different systems until he found an ideal system using six dots.
  • Over the next three years, Louis worked on simplifying the system, which is how the 6-dot braille system came into being.
  • After many years of experimenting, Louis Braille developed a successful reading and writing system
  • spent nine years developing and refining the system of raised dots