Braille is a system of raised dots which is read with the fingers. The system was introduced in the 1800’s by a gentleman called Louis Braille.

Louis Braille was born on 4th January 1809, in a place called Coupvray, just outside Paris. He was three years of age when an accident deprived him of
his sight. He was working in his father’s workshop and something hit him in the
eye, causing an infection that spread to his other eye. In 1819 he was sent to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth. Louis desperately wanted to be able to read. He was determined to find a way to achieve this, and the Braille system was born! Louis worked tirelessly on his ideas, and his system was largely completed by 1824, when he was just 15 years old.

The Braille System

Braille is made up of six dots, with different combinations of these dots representing different letters, numbers and punctuation marks. You can have what’s known as grade 1 (also known as uncontracted) and grade 2 (also known as contracted) Braille. In grade 1 Braille, every letter of every word is spelt out exactly the same as in print. The problem with this though is that Braille takes up more space than print, so in grade 2 Braille, certain letters and even certain words can be shortened so that less space is used. For example, the word “and” can be represented by just one symbol, which only takes up one character, rather than three characters. Have a look at the example below to see a visual representation of the difference.

The words "Happy Birthday Christine" in grade 1 on one line and grade 2 on the next line

This example says “Happy Birthday Christine” in grade 1 on the first line and grade 2 on the second line. You will see that the name Christine is longer in grade 1. Grade 2 is shorter as there are three signs, one at the beginning, one in the middle and the last letter before the end of the name.