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References > What is Braille > About Louis Braille

Louis Braille (1809 - 1852)

"Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us … We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals, and communication is the way we can bring this about."
Louis Braille, 1841

Louis Braille was born January 4, 1809, in Coupvray near Paris, France. He became blind by accident, when he was 3 years old. Deep in his Dad's harness workshop, Louis tried to be like his Dad, but it went very wrong; he grabbed an awl, a sharp tool for making holes, and the tool slipped, piercing his eye and damaging it beyond repair. The other eye became infected and Louis Braille was completely blind at age of 5.

When he was ten, he entered the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, the world's first school for blind children. There he would live, study, and later teach. Children were taught to read and write using a system of raised letters. This system was difficult to use as it was hard to tell the letters apart. But even there, most of the teachers just talked at the students. The library had 14 huge books with raised letters that were very hard to read. Louis was impatient.

In 1821, a soldier named Charles Barbier vistited the school. He brought together with him a system he had invented called "night writing". Night writing had originally been It consisted of twelve raised dots which could be combined to represent different sounds designed for soldiers to pass instructions at night without having to talk and give their positions away. Louis Braille realised the potential of this system and developed it so that it could be used for blind people.

The Braille system was not readily accepted at first, some authority even banned the use of the system. However, the benefits of the system were realized and adopted a year before he died in 1852.

Today, Braille is a system of reading and writing for use by blind people almost every country in the world.

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