Braille – how text turns to touch

WORLD Braille Day falls on January 4 every year.

World Braille Day was first celebrated in 2001 after a unanimous resolution by delegates of the World Blind Union during their 5th General Assembly held in Melbourne, Australia that previous year. The date also coincides with the birth date of Louis Braille (the creator of Braille Code) on January 4, 1809 in France.

Although now facing competition from more modern and accessible technology such as speech to text software, screen readers and audio description, Braille remains a crucial tool in supporting the education of students with visual impairment as well as in everyday notation and reading.

The relatively simple, mechanical nature of Braille makes it easier to use for people who may not have easy access to other means of notation.

Braille code was devised by Louis Braille in the early 19th Century as a system of raised dots in patterns of six. When used in various combinations, the six dots can be used to form letters of the alphabet, musical notation, chemistry symbols, numbers, and punctuation marks.

The traditional typewriter-style Perkins Brailler
Embossers can print out high volumes of text faster than manual braillers
More modern Braille devices include refreshable braille display screens, often used to access the Internet and other media

Braille has been used to represent almost every known language and publication in the world including major newspapers, academic journals and school textbooks.

In order to use Braille code, the user moves their hands over the aforementioned dots in a single direction in order to read the words in a smooth movement. Conversely, users transcribe Braille text by either making use of a typewriter-like machine called a Brailler to directly imprint Braille code on to paper, or by machines called embossers that can print based on input from specialised software.

The Special Education Unit (SEU) of the Ministry of Education (MoE) provides training and Braillers on loan to students who wish to use Braille in their studies. The SEU also provides, on request, embossing services in order to transcribe educational material such as textbooks, examination papers and reference material for students with visual impairment. At present, there are seven students in Brunei who regularly use Braille and Braille materials in school (five in secondary school and two in primary school).

2018 saw various activities in support of using Braille, including the Braillethon 3.0 initiative by the Brunei Darussalam National Association of the Blind (BDNAB) to facilitate the coding of regular books into Braille codes. The association is also hoping to produce Braille versions of school textbooks and other essential texts alongside the SEU’s own efforts.

With the participation of other stakeholders, the SEU at the MoE in Brunei Darussalam continues to assist in the planning, coordinating and implementation of special education programmes and support services for students who are blind and those with low vision.

The Specialised Support Services: Visual Impairment Section at the SEU provides braille literacy and proficiency training workshops for students, teachers and parents of students with visual impairment on request.

To date, about 412 teachers within mainstream schools have been trained by the SEU and certified to teach braille. – Courtesy of the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education