We all have heard about and seen the braille script. But we do not know who invented it. On the occasion of World Braille Day let us learn about the inventor of Braille and how we can help visually impaired people.
World Braille Day is annually celebrated on January 4, the birthday of Braille inventor, Louis Braille. The day recognizes the contributions of Louis Braille in helping blind and visually impaired people to read and write. Braille is a code that uses bumps and indentation on a surface to represent letters, which can be recognized by touch. Louis Braille, a French man who was blinded in an accident at a very young age, invented it. Before Braille invented this form of communication, visually impaired people read and wrote using the Haüy system which embossed Latin letters on thick paper or leather. This was a complicated system that required much training and only allowed people to read, not write. Discouraged by this, Braille at the age of 15 invented the Braille code. While there are now several different versions of Braille, Louis Braille’s code was arranged in small rectangular blocks called cells with raised dots in a 3 x 2 pattern. Each cell represented a letter, number or punctuation. Since Braille is a code, all languages and even certain subjects like mathematics, music and computer programming can be read and written in braille.
Braille was blinded at the age of three in an accident that occurred while he was playing with tools in his father’s harness shop. A tool slipped and plunged into his right eye. Sympathetic ophthalmia and total blindness followed. Nevertheless, he became a notable musician and excelled as an organist. Upon receiving a scholarship, he went in 1819 to Paris to attend the National Institute for Blind Children, and from 1826 he taught there. He published a treatise on his type system in 1829, and in 1837 he published a three-volume Braille edition of a popular history schoolbook.
Helping visually impaired people
- Introduce yourself and ask if the person needs help. A blind person may not necessarily need help all the time. Confirm it before you grab their hand and frighten them.
- Assumptions can often come naturally because of misconceptions and stigmas that many non-disabled people have, but they can be very frustrating for blind and visually impaired people. Not making assumptions makes the situation so much easier for everyone.
- Treat a blind or visually impaired person like you would anyone else. There is no need to treat them specially. They may feel uncomfortable when you treat them with extra care.
- Don’t change your vocabulary when talking to a person with a visual impairment. Generally, a blind person does not get offended by someone saying words such as ‘look’ or ‘see’, we all use those words, they’re part of our vocabulary so there’s no need to change the things you say to us.
- When you are standing far from them, talk a little loudly so that they can properly hear and understand you.