Braille refers to a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are blind, or who have low vision.
Braille is read by people who are blind, deafblind or who have low vision, and by both those born with a visual impairment and those who experience sight loss later in life.
Braille can be read either on embossed paper or by using braille displays that connect to computers and smartphone devices.
Braille can be written using a slate and stylus, a braille writer, an electronic braille notetaker or with the use of a computer connected to a braille embosser.
Braille characters are formed using a combination of six raised dots arranged in a 3 × 2 matrix, called the braille cell.
The number and arrangement of these dots distinguishes one character from another.
In addition to braille text of letters, punctuation, contractions, it is also possible to create embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, and bullets that are larger than braille dots.
A braille cell includes six raised dots arranged in two columns, each column having three dots.
The dot positions are identified by numbers from one to six.
There are 64 possible combinations, including no dots at all for a word space.
Dot configurations can be used to represent a letter, digit, punctuation mark, or even a word.
Braille education is crucial to literacy, education and employment among the blind.
Braille provides access to spelling, punctuation and other aspects of written language less accessible to the blind through audio alone.
There are braille codes for over 133 languages.
In Braille’s original system, the dot patterns were assigned to letters according to their position within the alphabetic order of the French alphabet of the time, with accented letters and w sorted at the end.
Under international consensus, most braille alphabets follow the French sorting order for the 26 letters of the basic Latin alphabet.
Braille may be produced by hand using a slate and stylus in which each dot is created from the back of the page, writing in mirror image, or it may be produced on a braille typewriter or Perkins Brailler, or an electronic Brailler or braille notetaker.
Braille users with access to smartphones may also activate the on-screen braille input keyboard, to type braille symbols on to their device by placing their fingers on to the screen according to the dot configuration of the symbols they wish to form.
These symbols are automatically translated into print on the screen.
The slate and stylus is a portable writing tool, much like the pen and paper for the sighted.
Errors can be erased using a braille eraser or can be overwritten with all six dots (⠿).
Interpoint refers to braille printing that is offset, so that the paper can be embossed on both sides, with the dots on one side appearing between the divots that form the dots on the other.
Using a computer or other electronic device, Braille may be produced with a braille embosser (printer) or a refreshable braille display.
Braille has been extended to an 8-dot code, particularly for use with braille embossers and refreshable braille displays.
Punctuation varies from language to language.
Braille contractions are words and affixes that are shortened so that they take up fewer cells.
Most braille embossers support between 34 and 40 cells per line, and 25 lines per page.
A Braille writing machine is a typewriter with six keys that allows the user to write braille on a regular hard copy page.
Electronic machines are used to type braille on braille paper, giving it a number of additional features such as word processing, audio feedback embossing, an eraser key, text to speech function and digital capture of data.
Braille has traditionally read in hardcopy form: paper books written in braille, documents produced in paper braille, and braille labels or public signage.
Refreshable braille displays can be either as a stand-alone electronic device or connected to a computer or smartphone.
Refreshable braille displays convert what is visually shown on a computer or smartphone screen into braille through a series of pins that rise and fall to form braille symbols.
Currently more than 1% of all printed books have been translated into hardcopy braille.
Braille readers apply a light touch and read braille with two hands, although reading braille with one hand is possible.
Although the finger can read only one braille character at a time, the brain chunks braille at a higher level, processing words.
Braille processing largely takes place in the visual cortex.
Children who are blind or visually impaired can begin learning foundational braille skills from a very young age to become fluent braille readers as they get older.
Adults who experience sight loss later in life learn braille with instruction focuses more on developing the tactile and motor skills needed to read braille.
Early Braille education is crucial to literacy for a blind or low-vision child.
People who learned braille at an early age did just as well, if not better than their sighted peers in several areas, including vocabulary and comprehension.
Among the estimated 1.3 million blind individuals in the United States, 90% of those who are braille-literate are employed.
Among blind adults who do not know braille, only 33% are employed.
Braille reading proficiency allows blind or low-vision children to compete with their sighted peers in a school environment and later in life as they enter the workforce.
Braille characters are much larger than their printed equivalents, and the standard 11″ by 11.5″ page has room for only 25 lines of 43 characters.
To reduce space and increase reading speed, most braille alphabets and orthographies use ligatures, abbreviations, and contractions.
Virtually all english braille books in hardcopy format are transcribed in contracted braille.
Uncontracted braille was previously known as grade 1 braille, and contracted braille was previously known as grade 2 braille.
Uncontracted braille is a direct transliteration of print words,
The system of contractions in English Braille begins with a set of 23 words contracted to single characters.
Grade 3 braille is a variety of non-standardized systems that include many additional shorthand-like contractions, which are not used for publication, but by individuals for their personal convenience.
When people produce braille, this is called braille transcription, and when computer software produces braille, this is called braille translation.
Braille translation software is available for most of the common languages of the world, and many technical areas, musical notation, and tactile graphics.
A braille reader must develop new skills: ability to create smooth and even pressures when running one’s fingers along the words, optimally using the index fingers of both hands,and to finish reading the end of a line with the right hand and to find the beginning of the next line with the left hand simultaneously.
Braille is used for both short and long reading tasks.
People with access to a refreshable braille display can read emails and ebooks, browsing the internet and accessing other electronic documents.
It is also possible to play cards and board games in braille.