January marks Braille Literacy Month, in honor of its inventor's birthday, Louis Braille. For thousands of years, the ability of blind people to participate fully in social, political, and cultural life was limited by the lack of access to written or printed forms of information.

Although the work of many others contributed to his accomplishment, Louis Braille's invention of a tactile six-dot reading and writing system revolutionized the way blind people perceived and contributed to the world.

Early life and Education

Louis Braille, a student at the Royal Institute for the Blind (National Institute for Blind Children) in Paris in the 1820s, took a raised-dot system of code brought to the school in 1821 and turned it into the most-important advancement in blind education.

Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, Paris, France. He was the fourth child of Simon-René and Monique Braille. Simon-René Braille made harnesses, saddles and other horse tack.

When Braille was three years old, he injured one of his eyes with an awl (a sharp tool used to make holes in leather). Both his eyes eventually became infected. When Braille was five, he was completely blind. Braille's parents wanted their son to be educated. He attended school in their village and learned by listening. An attentive student, when he was 10 years old, he received a scholarship to attend the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.

The National Institute was the first school of its kind, founded by Valentin Haüy to educate blind students. At the school, Louis learned both academic and vocational skills. He also met Charles Barbier, who while serving In the French army, invented a code that used different combinations of 12 raised dots to represent different sounds. Barbier called the system sonography.

When Louis was fifteen, he developed an ingenious system of reading and writing by means of raised dots. Two years later he adapted his method to musical notation. Accepted a full-time teaching position at the Institute when he was nineteen. He was a kind, compassionate teacher and an accomplished musician.

Inventing the braille system

In 1821, Charles Barbier, a former soldier shared his invention called "synography" a code of 12 raised dots and a number of dashes that let soldiers share top-secret information on the battlefield without having to speak. Although the code was too difficult for the average soldier, Braille picked it up quickly.

That same year, Braille began inventing his raised-dot system with his father's stitching awl, finishing at age 15. His system used only six dots, with each group corresponding to letters, whereas Barbier's used 12 dots corresponding to sounds. The six-dot system allowed the recognition of letters with a single fingertip apprehending all the dots at once, requiring no movement or repositioning which slowed recognition in systems requiring more dots. The dots were organized into patterns in order to keep the system easy to learn. The braille system also offered numerous benefits over Haüy's raised letter method, the most notable being the ability to both read and write an alphabet. Another very notable benefit is that because they were dots just slightly raised, there was a significant difference in the weight and ease of production of the pages.

Achievements of Louis  Braille

Mr. Braille became an apprentice teacher at the National Institute for Blind Youth when he was 19, and then a teacher when he was 24.

Braille later extended his system to include notation for mathematics and music. The first book in braille was published in 1827 under the title Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them. And In 1837, the second edition was published and it was Braille who had designed the whole system from start to finish. It would go on to become the universal reading system for blind persons.

In 1839, Louis Braille published the book ‘New Method for Representing the Dots’ which was supposed to show a way in which blind persons could write that could be read by people who weren’t blind. 

In 1850, when tuberculosis forced Louis Braille to retire from teaching, his six-dot method was well on its way to widespread acceptance. Braille died of his illness on January 6, 1852, in Paris, France, at the age of 43.

Louis Braille, who was also blind, And his work changed the world of reading and writing, forever. He gave his life in selfless service to his pupils, to his friends, and to the perfection of his raised dot method, which is known today as Braille.

 

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