What is Braille?
The braille system is a tactile method of reading and writing for the blind. Named for its inventor, Louis Braille, it employs groups of dots to represent printed letters and numbers. The system's basic “braille cell” consists of six dots grouped in two vertical columns of three dots each. The dots in the first column are numbered one through three and the second, four through six. For example, the letter “d” (in the chart below) can be expressed as “dots 1, 4, 5.”
From the basic cell, sixty-three different dot patterns can be formed. These patterns are easily identifiable by touch. They represent letters, numbers, punctuation, and also certain letter combinations called contractions (such as “en” and “tion”), along with a few common words (“and”, “for”, “of”, etc.).
Although beginning braille readers generally prefer uncontracted braille, contracted braille tends to be the default for documents and publications.
Grade 1 (un-contracted braille)
Punctuation, Numbers and Special Symbols
The letters “A” through “I” also double as the numbers “1” through “9” respectively when preceded by the numeric indicator; and “J” represents zero.
The following line of braille reads, “To be, or not to be — that is the question.”
A typical braille page contains forty braille characters per line and twenty-five lines. One print page is equivalent to about one and one half pages of Grade Two braille which makes full use of contractions. Braille designed the characters for the first ten letters (A to J) from the top four dots, one, two, four and five. A “numeric indicator”, , consisting of dots three through six , preceding these ten configurations indicates that they stand for the numbers one through nine and zero. Braille used dots three and six in conjunction with the configurations for the letters “A” through “J” to represent the remaining alphabet and other elements in the system.
A single dot six preceding a letter indicates that the letter is a capital. Since there are only 63 braille symbols, some have more than one meaning depending upon their placement in a word or sentence. For example, the symbol "dots 1,6", , can mean the letter group (contraction) "ch" within a word. However, the same symbol also represents the word “child”.