How to read & write Braille, a brief overview

Braille is the alphabet used by the blind and the visually impaired, with each letter shown by a particular arrangement of dots in a 3×2 matrix.  The Braille alphabet is named after its creator, French educator Louis Braille, who first published it in 1829.  (Braille’s system was a development of a dot-based military writing system proposed by French army officer Charles Barbiere de la Serre, who aimed to use dot-based writing so soldiers could communicate at night without light.)

The Braille alphabet comes in three interrelated varieties: Grade 1, which contains only letters, numbers, and punctuation; Grade 2, which is Grade 1 plus certain standardized contractions for common words; and Grade 3, which is an even more abbreviated form of Braille.  Grade 1 is generally used to learn to read and write; Grade 2 is used for most everyday usage; and Grade 3 is a non-standardized shorthand used for personal communications.

Braille was originally written with a slate and stylus, but is usually written with a specialized typewriter in modern times, or printed by special machines.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, public entities, and places of public accommodation are required to provide, among other things, Braille signage may be required for rooms in your establishment under the ADA’s Accessible Design Guidelines or your local laws.

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