Braille is one of the most recognisable forms of accessible documents. It may also be one of the most misunderstood. For instance, many think that braille is a language people with blindness learn. However, braille is actually a code for transcribing printed text. Braille isn’t a different language; in fact, many languages can actually be transcribed into braille translations.
Braille started out as a military code called “night writing.” It was created in 1819 by the French army so soldiers could communicate at night without speaking or having to use candles.
A French schoolboy Louis Braille (15 years old) who was blinded in both eyes due to a childhood accident, heard about the code and used it as inspiration to build a method that would allow blind people like him to read and write quickly and efficiently. He eventually developed the more usable, streamlined version of the braille alphabet we know today.
The language is consequently named after him.
Braille characters are small rectangular blocks (cells) that contain tiny palpable bumps (raised dots). The number and arrangement of these dots is what differentiates one character from another.
Nowadays, this code is used by people who are blind or visually impaired, and its various uses, such as refreshable braille displays, allow them to read computer screens and other electronic supports.
There’s a braille code for nearly all foreign languages including Chinese, French, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew. There are also braille codes for mathematics and music.