According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Braille is "a system of writing and printing for blind or visually impaired people, in which varied arrangements of raised dots representing letters and numerals are identified by touch." Braille is organized into grids called cells, with six locations for raised dots, two across and three down, in each cell. The pattern of the raised dots determines the letter, number, or literary designation to be read. Braille can be written using a handheld slate and stylus, printed using an embosser, and read by anyone who takes the opportunity to learn. Its importance to the blind cannot be overstated. Claims that Braille has become obsolete are false and uninformed. The American Action Fund considers Braille a top priority in its programs for blind children and adults. That's why we have created a new version of the Handbook of Braille Contractions. There is an update to the introduction, and clarification of punctuation codes. We have a new BRF file for download, or you can purchase a print/Braille copy.
Braille is just as fundamental to success for the blind as print is for the sighted. Without Braille, a blind person is illiterate, and no amount of audio technology will change that fact.
Now a household name, Louis Braille's inauspicious start in rural France could hardly foretell the incredible impact that he would have on millions for centuries to come. Born in 1809, Braille was blinded at age three by accidentally stabbing his eye with his father's leather-working awl. An infection soon spread to both eyes and Braille became completely blind soon after. However, when he was ten, Braille earned a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris-one of the first of its kind.
Inspired by a visiting soldier sharing a phonetic method that the military sometimes used for for a code displaying sounds with raised dots, Braille adapted it and created a more efficient method that actually displayed the letters of the alphabet. The change from phonetic representations to a literal translation of the alphabet was revolutionary. His creation became a hit with fellow students, but was not accepted by the sighted instructors in the blindness field (such as it was at the time). Braille later adapted the system to include numbers and musical notation. He himself was an accomplished organist and cellist. He later became a well respected teacher at the school he attended as a boy. He died of tuberculosis from poor conditions at the school at the age of forty-three, years before the significance of his achievements would be realized the world over.