What is Braille

Braille is a tactile writing system where letters, words and sounds are represented by a series of dots. Each Braille character is represented by a cell containing six dots arranged in two columns and three rows. Each dot has a number, the dots in the left hand column are one, two and three and the right hand column are four, five and six


Each cell contains six dots, arranged in two columns, and three rows

The position and number of dots within a cell determines the letter, word or sound.

The Letters ABC in Braille

The diagram shows that for the letter A dot one is raised, for the letter B dots one and two are raised and for the letter C dots one and four are raised.

The Braille Alphabet

Braille Alphabet

Numbers in Braille are represented by the letters A (one) to J (Zero). A special number symbol is used to tell the reader that the following cell(s) contain a number.

Types of Braille

There are two main types of Braille Grade 1 and Grade 2.

Grade 1

This is the simplest type of Braille each cell represents a letter. Grade 1 is used when first learning Braille.

A Sentence written in Grade 1 Braille

Grade 2

In grade 2 or literary Braille each cell can represent a word, letter or sound. Grade 2 Braille is faster to read and write and takes up less space on the page. Most Braille readers read grade 2.

A Sentence written in Grade 2 Braille

In the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog", 'the' has been contracted into one cell, the 'qui' of quick has been contracted into one cell, as has the 'ck'. The 'ow' in brown, 'ed' in jumped and 'er' in over have all been contracted. So instead of requiring fourty five cells of braille it only requires 33 cells.

Each language has its own Braille character set, there is also Braille for mathematical and scientific documents, computer programming and music.

Producing Braille

By Hand

The paper is held in a frame and the dots produced using a sharp implement. As you are writing on the back of the paper you have to write from right to left and the Braille cells have to be reversed.


Braille Frame

Perkins Brailler

The Perkins Brailler was invented in 1951, it has a seven key keyboard with six keys for each of the dots in the Braille cell plus space. One or more keys are pressed at the same time to produce the cell. This type of keyboard is known as a chording keyboard.

Perkins Brailler


Computers provide the easiest and quickest way of producing Braille. The Braille can either be read on screen, using a Braille display or printed out using an embosser. The downside of using computers to produce Braille is the cost. Embossers range in price from £1,000 upto £16,000.

Computer Braille

Before Braille

Prior to Braille a number of tactile writing systems existed, the earliest of these was produced by Valentin Hauy in 1786. Hauy's book "Essai sur l'éducation des aveugles" (Essay on the Education of Blind Children) was the first book to be published for the blind. Hauy's system used a very stylized font, which was quite difficult to read and required a special printing press to produce. Other systems used simpler characters but still required special printing presses. Braille is the only system that blind people can write by themselves without requiring specialist equipment.


Moon is a British invention, developed by Dr William Moon in 1845. Moon is a simpler and easier system to learn than Braille. The characters are larger and many resemble their print equivalent. This makes moon especially useful for those who have lost their sight later in life or whose fingers are not sensitive enough for Braille.

Moon Alphabet



What's New

To mark our 110th Anniversary a new tactile map was unveiled at a special event held on Tuesday 9 May 2017.

Show your support with peronsalised greeting cards