Celebrating World Braille Day and a new code

January 4 is World Braille Day. We honor Louis Braille, born on this day in 1809 in France, who invented the Braille and after whom the code is named.

Since its development nearly 200 years ago, Braille has offered the power of communication and knowledge to millions of people who are blind or visually impaired. It has been adapted to almost every known language across the globe.

Braille is an essential tool for many people who are blind or visually impaired. If you or someone you know hasn’t learned Braille, using it can lead to a more fulfilling, productive and independent lifestyle.

What is Braille?
Braille is a system that enables people to read and write through touch. It consists of six raised dots placed in “cells”, where each cell represents a letter, a word, a combination of letters, a numeral or a punctuation mark. The dots are arranged in two columns that fit under the fingertips.

To make is easier and quicker to use, Contracted Braille offers shortcuts for combinations of letters or words. For example, the letter ‘p’ by itself means people; ‘c’ is can; ‘v’ is very.  The Braille letters ‘cd’ make the word “could,” and ‘tm’ means “tomorrow”. Mathematics and music, both of which, along with Unified English Braille (UEB) are taught at Lighthouse Guild, have different Braille codes.

A New, Uniform Code
January 4, 2016, is particularly significant because it’s the effective date of the nationwide use of Unified English Braille (UEB) that has been adopted by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). The new code replaces English Braille, American Edition. As print evolved, there was a need to bring the Braille code up-to-date to include new characters, such as hashtags, and remove ones that are outdated.

A key benefit of UEB, as its name suggests, is that all English-speaking countries will now be using the same code. BANA has worked with vision organizations in planning the transition.

UEB standardization is designed to simplify reading and writing. For example:

  • Ambiguous contractions and symbols have been eliminated. It’s simpler to write a number, capitalize a word in mid-sentence or write an email address.
  • Computer documents, including web pages are more easily translated into Braille.

Find out about Lighthouse Guild’s comprehensive services for people who are visually impaired or blind, including Braille instruction and our state-of-the-art Adaptive Technology Center. Call 212-769-6274.

Want to learn more about UEB? To help make the transition, you can find commonly used, new symbols at the beginning of many recently published books and magazines. Also, visit the Braille Authority of North America’s website at www.brailleauthority.org.