Here’s a little historical note to celebrate Louis Braille’s 200th birthday:
In 1809 Louis Braille was born in Coupvray near Paris. His father made harnesses. At the age of 3, Louis, while playing in the workshop, hurt his eye with one of the tools, and after infection set in, he became blind. As he was very smart, he went to school and just listened. He progressed very well and became a class leader. He became an accomplished musician as well as a school teacher.
Meanwhile a French army captain experimented with raised dots so his soldiers could communicate in the dark. He developed it further and introduced the system to the blind school where Louis studied. Louis experimented further with it, finally refining it at the age of 15 to a 6 dot system that is still used today in any language all over the world.
To write braille, Louis used a stylus and slate. Each dot is punched individually and actually has to be written backwards. Many children in developing countries, they still learn with the stylus and slate, but studies have proven that literacy develops more slowly.
A major breakthrough occurred when Perkins School for the Blind developed in 1951 a mechanical braillewriter which is considered by many to be the premiere braillewriter in the world. It is tough, reliable and indispensable. The new Next Generation Perkins Brailler which will be in production in 2010 is even better – “less force, less weight, less noise.”
Braille machines work in all countries in all languages with only six raised dots. Braille alphabets have been created in more than 140 languages. Braille can also be used for music and mathematic, all with only the six dots.
(For more information see the Perkins School for the Blind website.)