Five Interesting Facts about Braille!

January 4th is recognized as World Braille Day. This date celebrates the importance braille has in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired, and serves as a reminder about the importance of access and inclusion for individuals with vision loss. World Braille Day coincides with the birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the system of reading and writing in the 1800s. Today, braille is used by people who are blind or visually impaired all over the world. To celebrate this occasion, I am sharing five lesser-known facts about braille.

Photo contains a close-up view of a person's hands as they read braille.

  1. Braille is not a language. While braille is a code made up of different symbols and rules, it is a system of reading and writing. There are braille codes for virtually every language, including English, French, Spanish, Chinese and so on. Simply put, braille follows the same rules of grammar, punctuation and semantics used in the print alphabet of each language.
  1. There is a special braille code for writing math. It is called the Nemeth code, and was invented by Abraham Nemeth, a math professor who was blind. By using this code, individuals can write everything from simple math problems to complex equations. There are also braille codes for writing music and chemistry.
  1. Originally, braille was a code created for the French military to communicate during the night. In 1810, Charles Barbier, a captain in Napoleon’s army, visited the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris, where 10-year-old Louis Braille was a student. Barbier’s code was called Night Writing, and consisted of 12 dots that could be read by touch. During the next five years, Louis Braille decreased the number of dots from 12 to six, and developed his system of letters and numbers based on a combination of these six dots. In the United States, schools for individuals who are blind began teaching students braille in 1916.
  1. Several companies are making their toys more accessible to children who are blind or visually impaired. In 2019, Mattel released the first deck of UNO cards with braille. The braille is on both the cards and packaging, and the game can be purchased online and in stores. Meanwhile, Legos will soon release braille bricks to help teach children who are blind or visually impaired through play. The bricks will also be inclusive of all, as they will have both the braille and standard print alphabet and numbers. These bricks will be released later in 2020.
  1. There is an asteroid named after Louis Braille! The asteroid was discovered in 1992 by NASA. In 1999 it was named 9969 Braille following the suggestion of Kerry Babcock, a software engineer at the Kennedy Space Center.

Do you have any other facts to add to this list? Please comment with your suggestions, or email sandysview@chicagolighthouse.org. Happy World Braille Day everyone!

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