Celebrating World Braille Day: The History Of The Writing System

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The history of Braille, a tactile writing system used by people who are blind, is not just a story about a revolutionary form of communication. It’s also about the remarkable journey of its creator, Louis Braille, who transformed the lives of millions with his invention. AMI reporter and Double Tap contributor Grant Hardy talks about his relationship with braille to celebrate World Braille Day.

The History Of Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born in 1809 in Coupvray, France. His life took a dramatic turn at the age of three when he accidentally blinded himself in one eye in his father’s harness-making workshop. The injury led to an infection, which soon spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness.

Despite his disability, Braille excelled in his education. Recognizing his potential, Braille earned a scholarship to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, the first of its kind in the world.

At the institute, Braille yearned for the same access to reading and education that sighted people had. The turning point came in 1821 when Charles Barbier, a captain in the French army, visited the institute. Barbier shared his invention called “night writing,” a code of dots and dashes impressed into thick paper, designed for soldiers to communicate silently and without light at night.

Braille recognized the potential of this system but also its limitations. Over the next few years, he worked tirelessly to refine Barbier’s system, simplifying and modifying it. By 1824, at just 15 years old, Louis Braille developed a system of six raised dots arranged in a rectangle containing two columns of up to three dots each.

This new form of communication, now known as Braille, was revolutionary. It allowed blind people to read and write independently, opening up a world of information and education that was previously inaccessible.

Despite its clear benefits, Braille’s system was not immediately adopted. It took decades for its significance to be fully recognized. Sadly, Louis Braille did not live to see the global impact of his invention. He died in 1852, at the age of 43.

Today, Braille is used worldwide, having been adapted to almost every known language. It remains one of the most powerful tools for those with vision impairments, offering access to literature, information, and a level of independence that was once thought impossible.

Louis Braille’s legacy is not just the writing system that bears his name, but also his demonstration of resilience and determination, and shows how one person’s vision can create a lasting impact on millions of lives around the world.

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