Braille is a code which enables blind persons to read and write. It was invented by a blind Frenchman, Louis Braille, in 1829. Braille is comprised of a rectangular six-dot cell on its end, with up to 63 possible combinations using one or more of the six dots. Braille is embossed by hand (or with a machine) onto thick paper, and read with the fingers moving across on top of the dots. Combinations of Braille dots within a cell represent contractions of two or more print letters and Braille characters take up three times as much space as print.
Braille is used by blind persons whose vision is
sufficiently impaired that they cannot ordinarily read print. Braille is the
only reliable method of literacy for blind persons because it enables them to
read and write and can actually be substituted for print in most circumstances.
Blind persons of all ages and in all walks of life use Braille in the same ways
that sighted persons use print.
Until the mid-nineteen sixties, most
blind students attended segregated residential schools for the blind. As blind
students were integrated into public school programs, the teaching and use of
Braille decreased. There is a significant shortage of qualified teachers of the
blind who know Braille and can teach it. The use of tape recorders, and
computers with synthetic speech have reduced the use of Braille. Listening to a
document is not the same as reading it. Listening is not literacy.
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