World Braille Day is celebrated, as every year, on January 4. It was established by the UN with the main objective of raising awareness among member states to integrate measures in all areas of society and to standardize braille as language and means of communication. A fundamental right for blind and visually impaired people.
It is precisely a communicative resource that determines access to education, culture and knowledge that is the Braille alphabet. It was an innovative and transgressive creation that lasts through time. As can be deduced by the name it was Louis Braille who developed this indispensable communicative resource.
Louis Braille was born in a commune of Coupvray (Paris, France) on January 4th 1809. When he was three years old, in his father’s workshop, the little boy played with an awl that accidentally stuck in one eye. The infection spread to the other eye, causing loss of vision. However, this did not prevent him from going to school when he was seven years old. Although his learning was based on recitation, he proved to be a valid student. In fact, he won a scholarship to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth (RIJC).
The system of reading used in this institution consisted of the printing of a few books with embossed letters, a resource devised by the founder of the center, Valentin Haüy. The problem with this method was the slowness and difficulty in being able to form the phrases, after identifying the letters one by one tactilly.
Later, French army captain Charles Barbier shared in the institution a technique dubbed “night writing”, with which soldiers could read messages on the battlefield at night without having to light lanterns. Instead of using letters, this system was based on dots and dashes in relief. However, it reflected phonetics rather than standard French spelling and therefore lacked elements such as capitalization or punctuation.
While most students gave up on this resource, Louis Braille researched and sought ways to improve the method. Until three years later, when he was 15 years old, he managed to find a new system. He used the same tool that took his eyesight away to create the raised dots that were smaller than those designed by Barbier. In this way, they could be felt with a single touch of the fingertip. In addition, as a good music lover he also created a system to read the musical notes.
Despite being a great invention, the academic world was slow to accept this method. So much so that it was not until two years after Louis Braille’s death at the age of 43 that it began to be applied in the institution where he studied. From 1882 onwards, the system spread throughout the world and has been adapted to many languages. It has also been developed in areas such as mathematics.
Today the Braille method is universally known and accepted and is a basic element for blind or visually impaired people to study and learn different subjects without their vision problems disabling them.