Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Overview of Braille

What is braille?

braille alphabet

Braille is a code used by people who are blind or visually impaired to read and write. It is a tactile system through which letters and words are represented using raised dots, and it is not a separate language. In fact, there are different braille codes for different languages. Unified English Braille is a code used by English-speaking people throughout the world.

Braille uses sets of six dots, called cells, in various combinations to represent letters of the alphabet, punctuation, numbers, and whole words.

How was braille invented?

The braille code used today in the United States was invented by Louis Braille, while he was a student at the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France in the 1820's.  Learn more about Louis Braille and the history of braille here.

What is the difference between Grade 1 and Grade 2 braille?

Braille can be written using individual letters of the alphabet, and this is known as Grade 1 or uncontracted braille. It can also be written using contractions or Grade 2 braille. There is currently a great deal of discussion in the field about the advantages of teaching contracted versus uncontracted braille. Learn more in the article Reading for Everyone: Expanding Literacy Options by Cyral Miller.

What kinds of braille codes are there in the United States?

  • Unified English Braille (UEB)
  • Nemeth Code (for science and math notation)
  • Music Braille
  • Foreign Languages

See BANA for more information on different codes.

Is braille becoming obsolete?

Braille is very much alive and well! Most braille readers will tell you that braille literacy has opened the door to independence for them, both at home and at work. While there are many ways to receive and share information using auditory and electronic methods, braille remains an essential tool to independence for those who are blind or unable to read print.

Where can I learn more about braille and braille literacy?


Collage of overview of braille