We explain what the Braille writing system is, its origin and how this system works. In addition, its characteristics and translation.

Braille is a reading and writing system that uses touch instead of sight.

What is Braille?

It is known as Braille or Braille System to a reading and writing system designed for blind people, based on the sense of touch. It was created in the mid-19th century by Louis Braille, a French pedagogue who was accidentally blinded at a few years of age. It is based on a previous reading-writing system designed by Charles Barbier de la Serre.

Braille is not a language or its own language, but a writing mechanism based on raised dots on a smooth surface. It is a different way of representing the traditional alphabet of verbal languages.

In short, it is a form of writing that does not require sight but touch. Thus, must be adapted to the alphabet of each particular language: The Chinese language in Braille will remain Chinese and the Spanish will remain Spanish.

See also: Dialects

History of Braille

Louis Braille
Louis Braille reinvented the Barbier writing method to create Braille.

Louis Braille was an individual with a particular aptitude for the linguistic sciencesalgebra and music.

Consequently, he received a scholarship to enter the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.

His father Simón-René had already taught him to read, marking the letters on a piece of wood with pencil marks.

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At the Institute, Louis Braille he also learned Barbier’s writing methodwhich had been invented for military purposes.

After a while reinvented it into an early 8-point writing system. Over the years, he ended up simplifying it and reducing it to only 6 points, thus obtaining the Braille we know today.

How does Braille work?

Depending on the position in which the point(s) appear, it is one or another letter.

The Braille System consists of a set of cells in which six points are inscribed in relief. They are arranged in a three-row by two-column matrix, usually numbered from top to bottom and left to right.

A) Yes, the presence or absence of dots allows encoding the symbols of verbal language; depending on the position in which the point(s) appear, it is one or the other letter.

In this way a possible matrix of 64 combinations is obtained (all letters and punctuation marks). To them are added special differentiating symbols that serve to denote capital letters, italics, numbers or musical notes.

Also there are special signs in Braille for shorthandfor the special characters typical of each language, for the mathematical signs.

Later the Braille expanded to 8 points to be able to code each letter in a single cell and accommodate any ASCII character. Therefore, the 256 possible combinations make it possible to respond to the Unicode standard.

Braille alphabet

The Braille alphabet, as we have said, varies by language of reference. In Spanish and other languages ​​that use the same alphabet, it is the following:

Braille Numbers

Numbers in Braille are coded in a similar way to letters, as the following graphic shows:

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Braille transcription

Various methods are available for transcribing Braille, known as “Grade 1”, “Grade 2” and “Grade 3”.

  • Braille grade 1. The most commonly used and the only official to publish in Spain, according to its Braille Commission.
  • Braille grades 2 and 3. Known as stenotyping, they are similar to shorthand. Each one forms a fast writing system, with a greater capacity for synthesis, since in Braille space cannot be saved by reducing the printed surface, as in verbal language. The signs must have a standard size in order to be recognizable by touch.

Braille transcription in the world employs thousands of specialists, which transcribe entire books, free access documents, to allow blind people access to information. Notable among these centers are the United States Library of Congress and the ONCE Bibliographic Service Adaptation Network in Spain.

Braille “translators”

There are many applications capable of translating Braille in its various degrees.

exist computer applications capable of “translating” (although in reality the proper verb would be “to transcribe”) to and from Braille in its various degrees. For example, the website Brailletranslator.org provides us with a free online one.

Why is Braille important?

First of all, the invention of Braille was a leap forward in the incorporation of the blind population into organized life, since it allowed them to read and write without the need for intermediaries. In addition, it constitutes a binary numbering system that arose long before the binary code that allowed the emergence of computing.

Braille in culture

braille banknotes
Many countries use Braille on their banknotes and coins.

The incorporation of Braille into daily life is expanding throughout the world. First, there are countries like Canada and Paraguay that use it on their banknotes. In addition, its use has spread in subway stations or public transport in various countries such as Japan, Spain, Argentina, among others.

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However, there are digital sound text recognition systems which, in the case of the youngest, are preferable to learning Braille.

world braille day

World Braille Day combats discrimination against the blind.

Each World Braille Day is celebrated on January 4., as a way to celebrate his appearance. In addition, it is a day used to combat forms of discrimination against the blind and draw attention to efforts to promote equality.

Biography of Louis Braille

As we have already said, the inventor of this reading/writing system was called Louis Braille and he was an outstanding French scholar. born in 1809 and, after being blind at the age of three, he was educated in institutions for the blind, where he later collaborated as a teacher of the method of his own invention.

There he developed his knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, history, geometry, algebra and above all music (he played the piano, cello and organ). Around his forties he contracted tuberculosis. and had to withdraw from his usual activities, except music. He died at the age of 43, on January 6, 1852.


  • “Braille (reading)” on Wikipedia.
  • “Who invented Braille?” in Very History.
  • “Braille Language” in Discapnet, portal for people with disabilities.
  • “Braille System” at the Argentine Library for the Blind.
  • “Braille Writing System”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • “The Braille system” in Inclusive Education. People with Visual Impairment.

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