Braille code - what is and history

Braille code - what is and history

Braille - a tactile (touch-based) system of written language that features patterns of raised dots to represent letters of the alphabet, common words and contractions, mathematical symbols, and punctuation. Named after its developer, Louis Braille (1809–1852), braille allows people who are blind to read and, with adaptive typewriters and computer technology, to write. Six dots, in two columns of three dots each, form the foundation for braille; the presence or absence of dots in specific patterns identifies the letter, number, symbol, or concept. There are a number of braille variations, or codes, in common use in the United States.

The major ones are these:

  • American literary braille code uses about 250 patterns to create book-length materials using short-form words, contractions, single-cell words, and symbols; patterns may have multiple meanings interpreted by context.
  • Grade 2 braille code is an abbreviated variation of American literary braille code used primarily for recreational reading materials such as novels and nonacademic nonfiction.
  • Grade 1 braille code is the basic alphabet and numerals 0 through 9.
  • Nemeth braille code contains about 600 unique, specialized patterns that are distinct from American literary braille code for use in mathematics and science.
  • Computer braille code provides a mix of American literary braille code, Nemeth braille code, and unique symbols for computer programming and instruction documentation.
  • Music braille code is specialized for transcribing musical scores.

Learning each variation of braille code is like learning a different language. Most people learn the one or two variations they are most likely to use. People whose vision is intact also can learn braille, and should if they have regular interactions with people who are blind. Many communities have schools and consultants who teach braille as well as libraries that provide braille publications. Most public signage in the United States includes braille translations.


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