What is Braille?

What is Braille?

Braille is a system of raised dots that are read with the fingertips by people who are blind or have low vision. The alphabet consists of six dot positions, and braille symbols are composed entirely of those six dot positions. Braille has been adapted to encode many languages for the blind, including English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. It also uses a set of contractions to help speed up reading time as well as a number signifier system which assigns values from 1-6 to letters depending on where they appear in any given word (for example “1” means A).

Who Invented Braille?

The Braille system was created by Louis Braille in 1821. He had been blinded as a child and wanted to find an easier way for blind people to read, write and do math. This new alphabetical method of communicating allowed the transmission of information through touch from one person’s fingers to another’s without needing speech, sound or sight.

How is it Made?

Braille is written on a brailler (a machine that embosses dots onto paper), with larger print letters being made up of multiple sets of six raised dots each which can be felt individually by the reader’s fingertips; or it may be written out longhand using tactile writing methods such as slate and stylus, plastic bumps alongside braille pins on pads, or the Teeline system of dots.

Braille is a very personal way to communicate, so readers and writers usually have their own ways of formatting documents that they create themselves to suit different purposes. Some common features are the use of symbols or abbreviations such as ‘&’ for “and” or ‘*’ for “asterisk”, acronyms like USA (for United States), contractions such as don’t — do not want unneeded letters such as the word would be spelled ‘wd’ rather than would’ve; and punctuation marks which include parentheses (), brackets […] – sometimes paired with other symbols) plus exclamation points (!), semicolons (;) and periods/full stops (.); all these may appear either before or after the line they are a part of.

Braille Signs

Braille signage can be useful to note when entering a space. It may provide information about accessibility (e.g. wheelchair ramps), emergency procedures or who is allowed in that area (i.e.: members only).

Numerals are written from right to left; each number is made of two columns of three dots that represent the digits 0-36 for letters A through Z. Punctuation includes a space or dash between words, exclamation point (!), question mark (?) and at least one full stop/period (.). The other punctuation marks including semicolons (), brackets […] – sometimes paired with other symbols) plus asterisks (*), parentheses () – usually used around quotation marks (“”) which can be either single or double quotes such as “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog””.

Braille books are not electronic but may be read on an eReader or converted into audio files.

Braille in The Real World

Braille (pronounced bry-uhl) is a writing system that creates words and sentences using patterns of raised dots on the page. A person who becomes blind learns to read braille by starting with simple books for children, such as Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat or The Little Red Hen, which are written in uncontracted (simple) braille. There are rules about how many cells high each letter must be so that people can recognize them without confusion, but also some variations depending on whether it’s capitalized letters or not.

Braille signs can commonly be found on elevators, toilet facilities and in restaurants. Especially in government buildings and at local attractions e.g. museums, but more and more often brailles signage can be found in private buildings and businesses too. Signage written in braille is also found on the steps of many public buildings, including banks and court houses.

What Percentage of People use Braille?

Blind or visually impaired people make up about 20% of the disability population.

How long does it take for someone who can’t see print or other visual media read text in Braille?

It takes about twice as long – up to four times as long if they’ve never learned braille previously but with training this decreases significantly over time. It’s also worth noting that people may not be able to use both hands at the same time so they’ll likely alternate between one hand and the other.

Is Braille Useful to Know?

It is very useful to know how to read and write in braille, especially if you have bad vision, or are close to a blind or visually impaired person. You should consider learning braille if any of the following apply to you:

  • you are blind or have low vision
  • you work with people who use braille on a regular basis, such as teachers and rehabilitation professionals

It is easily possible for sighted people to learn how to read and write in Braille. For example, if someone becomes visually impaired later in life, they might find that learning braille will help them continue reading independently. If you’re interested in learning Braille but don’t currently know any words, there are many good tutorial videos on YouTube to help you learn.

Watching videos online is a free and easy way to learn the basics of braille. There’s no need to spend all day staring at those funny looking lines when you could have sighted assistance instead! Learning how to read and write braille will take some time but it will make life easier as an adult if something were to happen to your vision or to the vision of someone you know and love.


Braille is a useful skill to know, and it might be worth your consideration to learn to read it if you cannot already. Having knowledge of braille will allow you to communicate with other people who are blind or visually impaired, and could be a life-saving skill if your child or someone else you care about ever becomes legally blind.

In conclusion, Braille is an important tool that can help you to navigate the world as someone without sight. Learning braille will make it possible for you to read books in braille (something most libraries have), write notes on behalf of others who cannot see what they’re writing, and more!

Cristina Macias
Cristina Macias is a 25-year-old writer who enjoys reading, writing, Rubix cube, and listening to the radio. She is inspiring and smart, but can also be a bit lazy.