Louis Braille, the man who revolutionized education for the visually challenged

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Vision. What would this world mean to us without vision? Out of the five sense organs the eyes are perhaps the most underestimated organs of all time. And why not, since we have taken our ability to see for granted, no one really spares a thought to it. But when the rooms are darkened, we begin to panic. The darkness scares us. How many of us have wondered about those who are visually impaired or challenged? Life is plunged into perpetual darkness for these differently-abled people. The joys of reading and writing are denied to them with no fault of theirs.  Why one damaged sense organ would take away one’s right to be educated? Maybe this is what Louis Braille thought and today, millions of visually challenged people are able to read and write thanks to the braille system.

Braille was a child when he was blinded in an accident. But that didn’t stop him from creating a form of communication that transcended blindness. He initially studied using the Haüy system but this system had several shortcomings. In 1821, Braille learned of a system devised by Captain Charles Barbier of the French Army. The code was too complex to use in its original military form which inspired him to come up with a convenient system that could hold a large amount of information unlike its predecessor’s system of writing. Braille worked on his system and completed it by 1824, when he was 15 years old. It was a raised-dot system that used a combination of six raised dots.

220px-Braille_alphabetThe system was soon extended to include Braille musical notations. He ensured that the system was flexible enough to accommodate notations of any musical instrument. His book Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them was first published in 1829, printed ironically using the Haüy system.

The system underwent several revisions and changes. The system was implemented as late as 1854 in the institution where Braille used to teach and gradually became to be accepted as a standard means of communication for the blind all over the world. In 1932, a universal Braille code for English was formalized. New variations of this system continue to grow and today, several languages have their system of Braille, including Hindi. A huge number of people are indebted to the efforts of this man who revolutionized education in such a significant way and has made life simpler for the visually challenged.

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