Happy World Braille Day! Today is the first ever celebration of World Braille Day, and people from all over the world are celebrating, especially people who live with vision loss. World Braille Day commemorates the 210th birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the Braille system of reading and writing at the young age of 14 and revolutionized literacy for the blind and vision impaired. Today, I will be sharing ten fun facts about Braille and why it is important.
Braille isn’t a language, it’s a code
Is Braille a language? While many people think of Braille as a language or as similar to sign language, it’s actually a code. There are six dots in each Braille cell, and the different combinations of raised dots are used to show letters, numbers, punctuation, and similar. Almost all modern languages can be translated into Braille and it is used worldwide.
There is more than one type of Braille
There are two “levels” of Braille. These are called uncontracted and contracted. They are sometimes referred to as “grade 1” and “grade 2” Braille, respectively.
Uncontracted or “grade 1” Braille translates each printed character into a Braille cell. There are no abbreviations or contractions, every letter and symbol is accounted for.
Contracted or “grade 2” Braille uses contractions and shortcuts to save space and time when reading. Common letter combinations are contracted, as are common words such as “and”, “or”, and “can”. Most books and magazines are printed with contracted Braille.
You can use Braille for music
Is there Braille music? Of course there is! Braille music uses the traditional six-dot cell, but has its own syntax and translations. The different characters dictate note name and note length, as well as rests and other dynamics. Braille music isn’t any easier or harder to learn than normal Braille, and musicians can benefit greatly from learning to read music.
There’s a reason why there’s Braille on drive-up ATMs
Why is there Braille on drive-up ATMs?
- The driver uses a special pair of glasses called bioptics to drive, but is unable to read print materials and uses the Braille buttons
- A blind person is in a taxi or other ridesharing service and has the right to use the ATM independently without compromising their privacy
- The additional raised print numbers can benefit people with low or poor vision, or people who aren’t wearing their reading glasses
Braille is required in certain locations by the ADA
Braille signage is required in many buildings, including apartments, businesses, schools, and more. The signs are usually in contracted Braille to save space. Tactile graphics and raised print letters may be included on Braille signs for people with low vision as well.
However, Braille is not required for everything. Restaurant menus, product labels, and even voting ballots in several counties are not legally required to have Braille on them.
- Going to restaurants with vision impairment
- Fast facts about accessible packaging
- How do people with vision impairments vote?
Not every blind person reads Braille
Braille literacy has been declining in recent years. This is due to the advances in screen reader technology and the use of portable devices.
There are other factors as to why someone may not read Braille. For example, I have reduced sensitivity in my hands. I have trouble pressing down hard enough to distinguish the dots. Because of this, I can’t read Braille on paper.
Braille is still very important to learn, and just as important as print. Technology won’t always be around to read us information, so we need to learn how to access it ourselves. Learning Braille continues to be the best way to do this.
Some people learn Braille and print
A couple of my friends were diagnosed with low vision or degenerative vision conditions at a young age. As a result, they learned to read both Braille and print. This ensures that they are able to develop important literacy skills and that they won’t lose their ability to read as their vision changes. People who learn print and Braille are often referred to as dual media users.
Many accessibility libraries have materials available in large print and Braille to support dual media users and people with print disabilities. These accessibility libraries provide physical or digital copies of books in accessible formats for readers who need them.
You can type using a Braille keyboard on your iOS device
Is there a special Braille keyboard? Why, yes there is! The Braille keyboard, sometimes called a Perkins keyboard, has three keys on the left side, a large space key in the center, and three keys on the right side. By holding down keys in a certain sequence, people can type messages in Braille with ease. To do this on your iOS device, enable “Braille screen input” within VoiceOver screen reader settings.
Braille takes up more space than print
How big is Braille? Braille is equivalent to a 10 mm font size, with 10 mm line spacing. This is larger than the standard print size for printed materials. In addition, double sided Braille copies can be difficult or cost-prohibitive to make. As a result, Braille books and materials are much larger and heavier than traditional print materials. To put that in perspective, a Braille copy of a Harry Potter book is broken up into thirteen volumes and weighs up to nine pounds per book.
Braille is awesome!
By ensuring that people learn Braille, the legacy of Louis Braille can be kept alive. Braille gives people the freedom to access information independently and in a way that makes sense to them. The best way to celebrate World Braille Day is to find ways to incorporate Braille into your life, or spread awareness of how it is used.
Happy World Braille Day!