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 digfferent 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 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, Contracted Braille 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”
Contracted Braille can vary from language to language. Some people compare learning Braille Contracted Braille 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.