Louis Braille is a famous French inventor best known for developing the Braille system: A tactile language used by the visually impaired. His keen understanding and insight into the problems faced by the blind has greatly improved the lives of generations of visually impaired people. In this article, we look at the history, development, and application of Louis Braille’s Braille system.

The Early Life of Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France in 1809. He lost his sight at the age of three after being accidentally poked in the eye by his father’s awl. This unfortunate accident changed Braille’s life forever, and he was sent to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris to learn to adjust to his new visionless life.

Braille’s Childhood Education

At the Royal Institution, Braille received excellent education, learning a variety of subjects such as geography, music, math, and science. He also learned a system of raised letters to represent words written in a type of alphabet known as ‘night writing’, which was developed by the French Army to help its soldiers send secret messages during the dark of night. This proved to be the foundation of the system that later became known as the Braille method.

The Development of Braille System

In 1824, Louis Braille set out on a mission to develop a more efficient system of communication than the existing one. He adapted the existing night-writing system to create a set of embossed patterns consisting of six dots which could be interpreted through touch and thus communicated the message in the dark. Instead of assigning a letter to each dot, Braille assigned a combination of two to four dots to each letter of the French language. This system was soon adopted by the entire school and later caught the attention of the wider public.

The Spread of Braille

As news of this revolutionary system of communication spread, other countries also began to take up Braille as a part of their educational curriculums. Shortly after, people started to develop Braille devices, both written and digital, which enabled the visually impaired to use the system with ease.

Louis Braille’s Later Life

As Braille gained fame and recognition, he continued to work hard to promote the system throughout Europe and beyond. Braille even wrote a book titled ‘Method of Writing Words, Music and Plain Songs by Means of Dots’ which aimed to help more people learn and understand the Braille system. By the time of his death, his name was synonymous with the notion of literacy for the blind, and Braille’s name lives on in a system that is used by the visually impaired all over the world.

The Preservation of Louis Braille’s Legacy

In 1950, the Louis Braille Memorial was opened in Coupvray, France. The museum serves as a reminder of the achievements of Louis Braille and is dedicated to preserving the legacy of this remarkable inventor. Every year, thousands of visitors come to the museum to celebrate Louis Braille and the right to literacy that the Braille system has enabled.

The Use of Braille in the 21st Century

In the modern era, technology has advanced so greatly that blind people have access to a multitude of tools that greatly help in accordance with the use of the Braille system. For instance, Braille screens and speech-producing devices are now widely used for navigation and communication. Some popular examples of these tools include:

• Braille displays, which are devices that display text in the Braille dot pattern.

• Refreshable Braille displays, which are like regular displays but the text is converted into Braille patterns as the user types.

• CCTVs for magnifying text and graphics that are displayed on the computer monitor.

• Braille embossers, printing devices that convert text into a Braille pattern and then emboss it on paper.

• Software programs that can read aloud text on the computer screen or convert text into audio books.

Louis Braille’s invention of the Braille system and the dedicated efforts of rights advocates have revolutionized the lives of those who are visually impaired. Today, the Braille system is used not only by blind and partially sighted people, but also by teachers, parents, and educators in their work with the visually impaired. The Braille system is a testament to the strong spirit of humanity that paved the way for a world in which the blind and visually impaired can live, read, and write with equal access and freedom.