Braille is a tactile reading system used by many people with vision loss or no vision. It is named after its inventor, Louis Braille (1809-1852), a Frenchman who developed the system after a childhood accident had left him blind.
Each braille sign fills in specified dots on a 6-dot braille cell. The six dots are arranged as on the face of a dice.
Depending on which dots are raised, the sign carries a different meaning. The dots are read with the fingers in a technique learned by braille readers by tracing lines and reading signs and words. For example: dot 1 raised means letter “a”,
Dots 1 and 2 raised means letter “b”, etc.
All letters are represented in this way, which is an international standard. In combination with a few extra signs, this is called Braille Grade 1 or uncontracted braille.
However, if every book was transcribed letter by letter, one would receive extremely bulky volumes of transcribed books. The number of dot combinations is also quite limited. Therefore, Braille Grade 2 is used, which introduced signs for parts of a word, whole words and combination signs. For example:
a sign of dots 2,3,4,5 and 6 stands for “with”
“d” stands for “do”
and a combination of the number sign and letter “a” means “number 1”
Braille Grade 2 can vary from language to language.
Some people compare learning Braille Grade 2 to learning shorthand, which especially relates to contractions and wordsigns. One could also describe it as learning a new “script” for the language you know already, as if one wanted to write English using Arabic or Chinese characters.
The skill of reading braille is best developed from an early age onwards, starting with tracing exercises and the development of pre-braille skills. But throughout the whole educational system, it is important to be aware of the extra effort needed in accessing core information. Braille is basically linear, so sighted reading strategies like “scanning pages” or “jumping from textbox to illustration” do not apply.
Prior to the introduction of Unified English Braille (UEB), special codes were applied to Maths, Sciences, Music, Computing etc. UEB now provides for one code, which covers most subjects. Music was the first universal braille code and remains unchanged.
What changes in UEB?
For students who have started their school life learning Standard English Braille and will now move to UEB the changes are outlined in our information sheet, which you can download by clicking this link.
For students who started to learn UEB, it should be a bit easier to learn braille, as UEB has abolished some tricky contractions and signs that can mean different things in different contexts.