Celebrate Braille Literacy Month

Fort Zumwalt Vision Department     


January is Braille Literacy Month!


Louis Braille is 200 years old this year!

Louis Braille was a Frenchman who was born on January 4, 1809. As a boy he had an accident with his father’s tools, poking one eye. An infection followed and eliminated the sight from both of his eyes. Through a scholarship, Louis Braille was able to attend one of the first academies for the blind in Paris, The Royal institution for Blind Youth.

At that time, the blind were taught to painstakingly decode large raised letters. Louis Braille was very frustrated with this system, even though he became one of the fastest readers using it. He had fallen in love with the written word early in his life. And he longed to read and write with the same fluency and ease of the sighted.

The French army had developed a new code to be used at nighttime. The developer of this system used a pointed device to poke a series of fourteen dots. A demonstration was given at Louis’ academy.

Louis was very excited about its possibilities for the blind community. At the age of 15, after  many frustrating months, he developed his own system based on six dots. He modified the writing device to be a poking device (stylus) and a large template that sat on top of the paper (a slate). He spent his entire life perfecting the various uses and intricacies of his code. Long after his death, his students were still using his system and teaching others as well.


And Today?

Louis Braille’s system of reading and writing for the blind did not become the standard for a long time. Several other codes of raised letters, shapes, and dots were used. Our own Missouri School for the Blind was the first to adopt braille (vs raised print or other codes) as the  method of reading for their blind students in the early 1860s. But it wasn’t until 1932 that United States and England adopted Braille as the exclusive reading medium for the blind. United States law now requires schools to consider teaching Braille reading to all legally blind students.

Braille is a valuable alternative to individuals with significant visual difficulties as well as  those who are totally blind.


The most current biography dispels some information that was previously taught, so be sure to check out the book, Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius by C. Michael Mellor.


Some sites to explore:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2008/12/081230_doc_braille.shtml (RNIB)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98990249&ft=1&f=1007  (NPR)

www.afb.org/braillebug (kids can learn about and write braille)