Celebrating 200 Years of Braille

January 4 is World Braille Day. This year, braille is turning 200-years-old. To commemorate this milestone, let’s look back at some of the major events that make up the history of braille.

Braille is a system for reading and writing for persons who are blind. It uses raised dots that represent the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation. It gives us access to a wide range of materials, enabling independence at home, in school, and in the workplace.

The Origins of Braille

The origins of braille date back to the early 1800s and a man named Charles Barbier who developed a system called Night Writing while serving in the French army. This system enabled soldiers to communicate safely at night without the use of lanterns. They could read combat messages while undetected by the enemy. This system would later be adapted into what we now know as braille.

Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France. He lost his sight at a very young age from an accident in his father’s workshop. He enrolled at the National Institute of the Blind in Paris at age 10. It was there at age 15 that he modified Barbier’s code to create a more efficient communication system for individuals who are blind.

In 1853, Braille passed away at age 43. One year later, France adopted braille as the official communication system for persons who were blind. In 1860, it was adopted in the United States by the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis.

Braille Timeline

  • 1869 – The braille code was introduced in England and recognized as a standard, though some institutions did not discard the use of other communication systems for quite some time.
  • 1932 – Braille was adopted as the standard English code for reading and writing.
  • 1932 to late 1960s – Most students who were blind were taught how to read and write in braille.
  • 1973 – The National Rehabilitation Act enabled students who were blind to attend public schools, though braille was not taught to all these students.
  • 1975 – Congress passed The Education of All Handicap Children Act, which also includes the Free and Appropriate Education Act, entitling all qualified persons with disabilities within a school district’s jurisdiction to a free public education.
  • 1991 – The National Literacy Act defines “literacy” as “an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society to achieve one’s goals and develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
  • 1997 – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was revised to include the instruction and use of braille for school students.
  • 2012 – The United States members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the United States. UEB is an English language Braille code standard that was developed to permit a uniform representation of the wide variety of literary and technical material in use in the English-speaking world today. It is intended to provide one set of rules for global application across various types of English-language material.

Louis Braille’s Legacy

Louis Braille’s legacy has significantly impacted the lives of individuals who are blind worldwide, empowering success in all facets of education and careers. Braille is an essential tool, promoting literacy and increasing employment opportunities.

Though braille is still widely produced on paper, it constantly evolves to meet technology demands. Refreshable braille displays provide access to text shown on a computer screen. These devices can contain up to 80 braille cells on a given line, each including pins that raise or lower to form braille characters.

As you navigate text with a screen reader using keyboard commands, the characters displayed reflect the position of the active cursor, hence the term “refreshable braille.” Braille displays can connect to a computer via USB or Bluetooth. Pair them with a smart phone or tablet to access text messaging, social media, and other features.

Here at Freedom Scientific, we are committed to providing refreshable braille solutions that promote independence and enrich the lives of users worldwide.

Visit the Focus Blue Family page to learn more about our refreshable braille products.

Embark on an exciting journey with us throughout January as we honor the enduring legacy of braille, explore its significant evolution, and discuss the technological advancements that continue to shape the impact of braille on our lives.

Learn more about World Braille Day in this video.