Braille is a simple dot pattern used to represent written language.
Invented by a French schoolboy in the 1820s, braille is an optimisation of an earlier code used by the French army for sending messages under the cover of darkness. Each braille pattern (known as a braille cell) fits neatly under a human fingertip.
Before braille, blind people were expected to read print letter shapes embossed on paper with wire. The resulting text was slow to produce and slow to read. Very few books were ever made this way.
In spite of strong opposition, mostly from sighted people, braille spread throughout the world and has been used effectively by millions of blind people in almost every country.
Today, most computers, tablets, and smartphones can easily convert text displayed on screen into the braille code. Although an external braille display is required to raise and lower the pins needed to represent letters and other symbols in braille.
Most high profile blind people identify braille as being a key reason in their success. And many blindness organisations across the globe identify a strong link between braille literacy and the independence and opportunity of blind people.
Find Out More
- About Braille from the National Braille Press
- Louis Braille Biography from the American Foundation for the Blind
- BBC Ideas: The incredible story of the boy who invented Braille
- BBC Radio 4: Great Lives, Series 36, David Blunkett on Louis Braille
- BBC CBeebies: Braille
- 99% Invisible Podcast: The Universal Page
- The World from PRX: Will blind people use Braille in the future?