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Introduction of Braille

Braille is a system of touch reading and writing for blind persons in which raised dots represent the letters of the alphabet. Braille also contains equivalents for punctuation marks and provides symbols to show letter groupings. Braille is read by moving the hand or hands from left to right along each line. Both hands are usually involved in the reading process, and reading is generally done with the index fingers. The average reading speed is about 125 words per minute, but greater speeds of up to 200 words per minute are possible. By using Braille, blind people can review and study the written word. They can also become aware of different written conventions such as spelling, punctuation, paragraphing and footnotes. Most of all, Braille gives blind individuals access to a wide range of reading materials including educational and recreational reading, financial statements and restaurant menus. Equally important are contracts, regulations, insurance policies, directories and cookbooks that are all part of daily adult life. Through Braille, people who are blind can also pursue hobbies and cultural enrichment with materials such as music scores, hymnals, playing cards, and board games. Various other methods had been attempted over the years to enable reading for the blind; many of them raised versions of print letters. It is generally accepted that the Braille system has succeeded because it is based on a rational sequence of signs devised for the fingertips, rather than imitating signs devised for the eyes. Standard Braille is an approach to creating documents which could be read through touch. This is accomplished through the concept of a Braille cell consisting of raised dots on thick sheet of paper. The protrusion of the dot is achieved through a process of embossing. A cell consists of six dots

arranged in the form of a rectangular grid of two dots horizontally and three dots vertically. With six dots arranged this way, one can obtain sixty three different patterns of dots. A visually Handicapped person is taught Braille by training him or her in discerning the cells by touch, accomplished through his or her fingertips. The image below shows how this is done. Each arrangement of dots is known as a cell and will consist of at least one raised dot and a maximum of six. The image shown later in this page gives examples of embossed Braille cells. On a Braille sheet, the dots are created by embossing using a special printer or even a manual machine that simultaneously embosses the dots. Today, we also have Braille printers which may be connected to computers on standard printed interfaces. These are generally known as Braille Embossers. In the developed world, Visually Handicapped persons are taught to read Braille at a very early age. They develop reading skills well enough to read the text books and reference material and attend schools, often with normal children, to get integrated into the mainstream of life. At this point one might ask "does Braille have the functionality of the printed medium?. The answer is surprisingly yes, and in schools for the Visually Handicapped, the libraries will be full of Braille text and reference books. It is true that Braille books are bulky and cannot be carried around just as easily as printed books but the point to keep in mind is that we have to provide a suitable medium for the Visually Handicapped that will enable them to get educated in the first place. So providing them a resource, which could be bulky but which will allow them to read is important.

History of Braille
This system of writing and reading used by many blind people was invented almost 200 years ago. While several types of written communication systems were tried during a ten-year period beginning in 1825, the one invented by a blind teenager was adopted. Some modifications have been made to it over the years but the Braille code in use today is virtually the same as it was in 1834. Louis Braille was born January 4, 1809, in a small village near Paris. His father, a leather worker, often used sharp tools in his work. While playing in his fathers shop when he was three, Louis injured his eye on an all. In spite of good care, infection set in and soon left him completely blind. When Louis grew to school age, he was allowed to sit in the classroom to learn by listening. Louis was very bright and creative, and when he was ten, he was sent to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. There too, most instruction was oral, but there were a few books in a kind of raised print developed by the schools founder. Although frustrated by the large, bulky books and slow reading of the tactile characters, he did well at his studies and dreamed of a better way. At that time, the raised letters were made by pressing shaped copper wire onto paper but there was no way for blind people to write for themselves. While a student, he began to use his creativity to invent an easy and quick way for blind people to read and write. Louis heard of a system of raised dots developed by a French army captain, Charles Barbier de la Serre. Barbier originally created a code of raised dots and dashes as a way to allow soldiers to write and read messages at night without using a light that might give away their positions. He later adapted the system and presented it to the Institution for Blind Youth, hoping that it would be officially

adopted there. It was based on phonetics and consisted of groups of twelve dots arranged in two columns of six dots each. Louis worked with Barbiers basic ideas to develop his own simplified system that we know today as Braille. He based the code on the normal alphabet and reduced the number of dots by half. Louis Braille published the first Braille book in 1829. In 1837, he added symbols for math and music. Although Louis Braille went on to become a beloved and respected teacher, was encouraged in his research, and continued to believe in the value of his work, his system of reading and writing with raised dots was nevertheless not very widely accepted in his own time. Louis Braille died of tuberculosis on January 6, 1852. Today, in virtually every language around the world, the code named after Louis Braille is the standard form of writing and reading used by blind people.

Braille as a Communication
"Braille can be very helpful in creating more independence in the lives of blind people. If our college textbooks or other materials we need to educate ourselves are available in Braille, we are better able to read them and get our studying done without enlisting the aid of someone else to spend hours reading to us." -Chris Coulter

"Reading and Writing Braille"

Braille improved communication for the blind by giving them a quick and efficient way to read and write. Since writing was the main method of communication at the time, being able to read and write was a big deal. Using Braille, the blind could read more books and even write books themselves. They could write letters much more easily using a slate and stylus, and they could read letters on their own, instead of having a sighted person read them out loud. By learning Braille, they had access too much more independence. Even today, Braille is still a very important tool for communication. For example, Braille is used in public places such as on elevator buttons or on street corners. It is still used for reading and writing, not only on paper, but also with computers.

Screen Braille Communicator: Some deaf-blind people use a Screen Braille Communicator (SBC). This is a small, portable device that enables them to communicate with sighted people. The device has a QWERTY keyboard with an LCD display on one side, and an eight-cell Braille display on the other side. The sighted person types short text on the QWERTY keyboard. The deaf-blind person reads the printed text by placing his or her fingers on the Braille display. He or she then uses the Braille display to type back text. The sighted person can read the text on the LCD display. TTY with Braille Display: The TTY is connected with and stacked on top of a Braille display, although both can be separate. It allows a deaf-blind person who reads Braille to use the telephone. The deaf-blind person can also use this system as a face-to-face communication device to communicate with someone else who does not know the persons preferred communication method. Also, some people who dont see well can use TTYs with large visual displays or computers with larger font to communicate with others.

Braille is not a language not a language

Braille is not a language, it is another way to read and write a language. It is not a language; since it is a portrayal of print, with special rules and multiple uses of each sign (configuration), it is a code. English is the language, one that can be conveyed in any number of ways as long as the code is systematic and is agreed to by those who use it (pp. 30-31). In fact, the language does not need to be English. Any language can be conveyed in Braille, and numerous languages around the world are reproduced in Braille with the code differing, of course, based upon the language being encoded. Languages have the major components of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics (Comrie, 2008). Braille is developed and concerned with the representation of the symbols used in print. To call Braille a language would be comparable to calling print a language. Print and Braille are similar in that each reproduces the various sounds of language to represent speech, but neither is a language. Another indication that Braille should not be considered a language is found in consulting the Ethnologue, a comprehensive listing of the known living languages of the world, compiled by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (Gordon, 2005). Braille is not included in the Ethnologue as a separate language but is mentioned under the heading of Blind population with the comment that information about the availability of Braille codes and Braille literature is given under specific languages. This confirms the connection of Braille as a code to specific languages, rather than as a language by itself.

How Braille is useful?

Braille Defines Literacy A sighted person that can read and write printed text is considered literate. The same can be said with blind people. Braille has been internationally accepted as the official communications system for the blind. So a blind person that can read and write Braille is deemed literate. Conversely, one who cannot use Braille is considered illiterate, even though that person can use assistive technology to read and write. Braille Upholds the Rights of the Blind Braille supports the right to information of blind people. When there is a global or local event which everyone needs to know, blind people should be informed and should have the same details regarding that news. When there are new laws or changes to existing laws, they need to be in the loop as to what the additions or modifications are. Among its other functions, Braille aims to provide these things to the blind. It enables people who cannot read printed text to read for themselves what is going on in their city, country, and even around the world. Braille in Education Before blind children can use assistive technology, they must first learn how to manually read and write. And this is where Braille is very essential. Braille provides the fundamentals of reading and writing for the blind: letters and words, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structures. Simply put, a blind person has to learn Braille before using a computer, as a sighted individual needs to learn to read and write printed text before using this machine. Braille in Employment Moving on, a blind person who learns manual reading and writing has a better foundation of knowledge when starting to use more advanced technology. Such skills and knowledge are very important in finding a suitable job. And even when one has already found

employment, Braille is still useful in almost all types of tasks in the workplace.

Braille in Culture and Entertainment Braille gives blind people the best option to read books and publications. Virtually any type of reading materials both old and new can be transcribed in Braille. It can be argued though that assistive technologies such as screen readers can give the same information in a relatively easier manner. However, screen readers require the use of hearing, and this is very different from actually reading text. Braille Gives a Sense of Privacy and Independence Braille lets blind people to freely express their thoughts on paper without being concerned that other people may read personal things about them. It also lets blind persons read for themselves, label their own belongings, and compensate for things they cannot do because of their disability. Braille is Still Irreplaceable Ultimately, the tangible feeling provided by Braille is still very important to blind persons as human beings. Nothing beats the actual experience of holding and feeling a book, turning its pages, reading its text, and even smelling its paper. These things can never be replaced by any kind of assistive technology.

Instruments of Braille

Note maker Keyboard Braille E-Book Braille Phone Watch Writer Playing cards Rubiks cubes, etc.