Not only is January Glaucoma Awareness Month, but it is also Braille Literacy Month in the United States. This is the month that is used to raise awareness about braille literacy. Louis Braille was born on January 4th. World Braille Day is the day internationally recognized to honor the birth of Louis Braille.
Braille code is a writing system that enables blind and people with low vision to read and write through touch. Braille is not a language. Braille is a system consisting of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision, braille code is designed to be perceived by touch. With hand movements from left to right across the raised dots, a visually impaired person can feel the letters on a page.
The braille alphabet was invented by Louis Braille (1809-1852), A French educator who worked with blind students. Braille was blinded at age 3. While playing with an awl in his father’s workshop, hitting himself in the eye. By age 5 he had become blind in both eyes due to infection.
Louis Braille was 15 years old when he invented the braille code, and it is known worldwide simply as braille. Louis Braille had perfected his writing system. He had trimmed Barbier’s 12 dot cells into six dot cells and found 63 ways to use a six-dot cell in an area no bigger than a fingertip. The code which came to bear his name could be used for music and mathematics as well as straightforward text. It had symbols for capitalization and punctuation marks.
Braille’s code was based on French military combat code “night writing” developed by Charles Barbier de la Serre (1767-1841). Barbier served as an artillery officer in Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army. Many soldiers – including his fellow officers – were killed in the dead of night when the light they used to read maps or orders illuminated them waiting for enemy snipers. When night writing was considered unacceptable to the French military Barbier believed his invention could be of immense value to the blind.
When he was twenty-six, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Little by little, he grew weaker and frailer, but he remained devoted to his students. He was a beloved and admired teacher who often used his humble savings to help a student in need. Surrounded by loving friends, Louis Braille died at the Institute on January 6, 1852, at the age of forty-three.
In the decades that followed, the Braille system was accepted as the reading method for blind people throughout the world. The Braille system has changed extraordinarily little to this day.