On January 4th we celebrate the achievements of Louis Braille, the remarkable Frenchman who created the Braille alphabet. Born on this day in 1809, Louis Braille was only a teenager when he began work on what would become one of the most important advancements in blind and vision impaired accessibility in the world.
The History of Louis Braille
After losing his sight as a young boy, Louis Braille was studying at a school for blind children using an outdated system that made reading and writing extremely difficult.
Frustrated by this, a range of communication methods inspired him to create a new way of reading and writing. Louis looked to the system used by the French Army that allowed soldiers to communicate using only touch and embossed symbols. Growing up, Louis also learnt the alphabet from his father. He took large brass nails and fixed them to wood in the shape of each letter of the alphabet. After years of hard work, Louis Braille finally created an alphabet that made reading and writing accessible for blind and vision impaired people. Two years after his death, the Royal Institution For Blind Youth in Paris introduced Louis Braille’s system in France. A Braille code for English was adopted 74 years later.
How Does Braille Work?
The Braille alphabet uses different combinations of raised dots. These dots indicate letters, numbers, punctuation marks and even bold and italic text. Each Braille cell contains six raised dots in two rows of three. As Braille is a code it can span beyond reading and writing and used in mathematics, computer programming and music.
Braille in Australia
Braille has become a vital part of society and continues to improve the everyday lives of vision impaired and blind Australians. Australia and other English speaking countries use Unified English Braille, and it is featured on ATMs, elevator buttons, bathroom doors, public transport and in a range of other places. It is also available in children’s books, board games, computer technology and so much more!
As we continue to make advancements that improve accessibility, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the work of Louis Braille. His invention of the Braille alphabet has made a remarkable impact on the world.