Braille is writing system which enables blind and partially sighted
people to read and write through touch. It was invented by Louis Braille
(1809-1852), who was blind and became a teacher of the blind. It consists
of patterns of raised dots arranged in cells of up to six dots in a 3 x 2
configuration. Each cell represents a letter, numeral or punctuation mark.
Some frequently used words and letter combinations also have their own
single cell patterns.
There are a number of different versions of Braille:
Uncontracted or Grade 1, which consists of the
26 standard letters of the alphabet and punctuation. It is only used
by people who are first starting to read Braille.
Contracted or Grade 2, which consists of the 26 standard
letters of the alphabet, punctuation and contractions. The contractions
are employed to save space because a Braille page cannot fit as
much text as a standard printed page. Books, signs in public places,
menus, and most other Braille materials are written in Contracted Braille.
Grade 3, which is used mainly in personal letters,
diaries, and notes, and also in literature to a limited extent. It is a kind
of shorthand, with entire words shortened to a few letters. There is
no official standard for this version of Braille.
Braille has been adapted to write many different languages, including
Chinese, and is also used for musical
and mathematical notation, chess, computing, science
These letters are arranged to show how they are related:
the middle row is the same as the top row with an extra dot in
the bottom left corner. The bottom row is the same as the middle
row with extra dot in the bottom right corner. W was an afterthought
and doesn't fit this scheme, as Braille was invented for French
and W is rarely used in French.
The symbols in the first box correspond to the basic letters.
Those in the second box are additional symbols.