Happy birthday, Braille: how writing you can touch is still helping blind people to read and learn
Louis Braille, who was born on January 4, 1809, invented a tactile reading and writing system which transformed the lives of countless people with severe vision impairments or blindness. Braille was blind himself, and first came up with the idea for a form of writing you can read by touch while he was still at school.
Braille code is made up of 64 characters, based on a matrix of six raised dots, which were historically embossed on paper. Different formations of these dots can represent a single letter, a combination of letters or a word. For nearly 200 years, braille code has enabled people with vision impairments around the world to get an education.
But now, technology offers visually impaired people new opportunities to access information. Today’s computers and mobile devices are equipped with speech functions, which can read information aloud for blind users. So some are wondering whether braille is still needed.
Yet based on the research we’ve done at the University of Birmingham’s Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR), we would argue that technology and braille are allies, rather than competitors.