BRL: Braille through Remote Learning

Intro to Braille Course

Session 1 main page
Session Objectives

Session Topics
  • Writing for the Blind: A Brief History
  • The Braille System
  • Pre-Modern Day Braille
  • Modern Day Braille
  • Assessment Exercise

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  • Transcribers Course
  • Special Codes Course


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  • Session 1: Towards Modern Braille

    Towards Modern Braille

    From its earliest inceptions, one of the major drawbacks of braille has been its bulk. Braille books take up tremendous amounts of space and are difficult to transport. It was also noted fairly early on that even the best readers could not read as fast as their sighted counterparts, and that this was primarily due to the fact that fingers cannot physically scan dots as quickly as eyes can scan printed letters. In the early 1900s, supporters of braille worked to improve both of those shortcomings. The solution was the development of braille contractions, which are one- or two-cell symbols which represent either part of a word, a whole word, or both. The use of contractions worked both to reduce the bulk of braille books and to reduce the number of cells that had to be scanned by the fingers. The proper use of contractions will occupy the majority of your time as this course proceeds over the next several weeks!

    In developing contractions, three "grades" of braille were recognized: Grade 1 braille uses the 26 letters of the alphabet, some specialized symbols for punctuation, but no contractions; Grade 2 uses all of the part- and whole-word contractions. After several years of significant discussions on the various notation systems (and between American and British versions of braille!), in 1932 Standard English Braille was accepted as the uniform type for British and American braille codes. This is the current version used by the Library of Congress and the American Printing House for the Blind, the two largest producers of braille materials, and the version that is being taught in this program. While some modifications have occurred over the years, the most recent in 1962, Grade 2 Standard English Braille is the one in widespread use today. Grade 3 braille is a highly-contracted form of braille, sort of a braille "shorthand", used by few readers.

    There are several other good electronic readings on the history of braille. Check them out!

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