One week ago today, on January 4th 2016, marked 207 years since the birth of Louis Braille, a French educator and inventor of a system of reading and writing for use by the blind or visually impaired. This system remains in use to this day, known worldwide simply as braille.
Born near Paris in the small town of Coupvray in 1809, Louis was blinded in an accident aged merely three years old. Despite being completely blind in both eyes, Louis was determined and remained in education. He was bright, gaining a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris when he was ten, however he was evidently aware of the huge aspect of education unavailable to him and many other – reading.
It was in 1821, during a visit to the school from a former soldier by the name of Charles Barbier, that an idea was sparked in the mind of you Louis Braille. Barbier shared his invention known as ‘night writing’, a code of 12 raised dots that allowed soldiers to share secret information on the battlefield without needed to speak. Unfortunately this code had proved too difficult for the soldiers to master, however Louis, 12 at the time, saw promise in this code.
Louis trimmed Barbier’s 12 dots down to 6, making adjustment and amendments to the system until, at the age of 15, he published the first ever braille book. A few years later, he even added symbols specifically for mathematics and music.
Despite this great development, the public at the time was still very sceptical of Louis Braille’s work. Even the Royal Institution for Blind Youth, where he himself was educated and developed braille, didn’t teach the system until after his death. It was in about 1868 when braille finally began to become widespread globally, when a group of British men, now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, took up the case.
Today, practically every country in the world uses braille. From books to public signs, braille can be found in all sorts of places, making the lives of those with visual impairments so much easier. Louis Braille remains a true inspiration, proving that anyone can achieve great things and make a positive change in our world.
For more information regarding Louis Braille, his biography and invention, visit the websites here and here. You can also listen to a Radio 4 programme on his life, featuring the politician David Blunkett.
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