Visit our Blog for a behind the scenes look at NBP. Click here to skip navigation and go to main content

Make a Donation
Home Customize Site Login View Cart Site Map

Search   




 About Us
 All About Braille
 News & Media
 Events

Sign up for our eNewsletter

   Follow us on Facebook
   Look us up on Twitter
   Read our blog
   Watch and Listen on YouTube
   Pinterest link



Everything Braille logo.
About Braille logo.

If your child or student is blind, you may be wondering whether or not they need to learn braille. Read on to find out more about how braille works, why it's important, and where to find braille resources.

Below you'll find information on...


What is Braille?

Braille is a system of touch reading for the blind which employs embossed dots evenly arranged in a cell. Each cell contains six dots, three high and two wide. By selecting one or several dots to emboss (so they can be felt by touch), 63 different characters can be formed. To aid in describing these characters by their dot or dots, the six dots of the cell are numbered 1, 2, 3, downward on the left, and 4, 5, 6, downward on the right.

Image of a braille cell.     

American literary braille, as officially approved, comprises two levels. Uncontracted braille is in full spelling and consists of the letters of the alphabet, punctuation, numbers, and a number of composition signs that are special to braille. Contracted braille consists of uncontracted braille PLUS 189 contractions and short-form words, and should be known as "English Braille." There are also other specialized braille codes that use the same arrangement of dots. Currently these are: Nemeth Code Mathematics and Science Notation, Braille Code for Columned Materials and Tables, Braille Code for Chemical Notation, Braille Music Notation, and Code for Computer Braille Notation.
(Excerpted and edited from Braille Authority of North America)

Back to Top


Why Learn Braille?

Braille instruction benefits students who are functionally blind in the following ways:

  • Braille allows reading and writing skills to be developed.
  • Because literacy is based on the ability to read and write, braille is the only media available for obtaining literacy for people who use their tactile sense as the primary means of gathering information.
  • Braille allows the student who is functionally blind to have the same "written" materials in the classroom as sighted peers.
  • Braille allows for instruction in correct written language usage such as structuring sentences, spelling, formatting paragraphs and editing.
  • Braille allows the selection of a book or magazine for the pleasure of reading independently at any time or place without additional equipment.

Back to Top


Books and Pamphlets About Braille

  • Reference Section
    National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    The Library of Congress
    Washington, DC 20542
    Phone: (800) 424-8567
    Web: www.loc.gov/nls/index.html
      Braille: Into the Next Millennium
      A 600-page anthology of articles by international braille experts.
  • American Foundation For The Blind
    11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
    New York, NY 10001
    Phone: (800) AFB-LINE (800-232-5463)
    Email: afbinfo@afb.net
    Web: www.afb.org/store/default.asp
    • Beginning with Braille: A Balanced Approach to Literacy
      by Anna M. Swenson
    • Braille Literacy: A Functional Approach
      by Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D.
    • Building Blocks: Foundations for Learning for Young Blind and Visually Impaired Children
      by Betty Dominguez, Joe Dominguez
    • Burns Braille Transcription Dictionary
      by Mary F. Burns
    • Foundations of Braille Literacy
      by Evelyn J. Rex, Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D., Robert L. Baker, Alan J. Koenig, Ed.D.
    • Guidelines and Games for Teaching Efficient Braille Reading
      by Sally S. Mangold, Myrna R. Olson
    • Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy
      edited by Frances Mary D'Andrea, M.Ed., Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D.
    • Braille Literacy: Issues for Blind Persons, Families, Professionals, and Producers of Braille
      by Susan Spungin, Ed.D.
    • Foundations of Education, Second Edition (set)
      edited by M. Cay Holbrook, Ph.D., Alan J. Koenig, Ed.D.
    • Foundations of Education, Second Edition Vol II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments
      edited by M. Cay Holbrook, Ph.D., Alan J. Koenig, Ed.D.
  • BANA, (Braille Authority of North America), Publications
    Order from:
    American Printing House for the Blind
    1839 Frankfort Avenue
    PO Box 6085
    Louisville, KY 40206-0085
    Phone: (800) 223-1839
    Fax: (502) 899-2274
    Email: info@aph.org
    Web: www.brailleauthority.org/publications-area.html
    • English Braille, American Edition, 1994; Revised 2002
    • Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, 1997
    • Nemeth Code for Mathematics & Science Notation, 1972 Revision
    • Addendum 1 to the Nemeth Code for Mathematics & Science Notation, 1972 Revision: Ancient Numeration Systems
    • Braille Code for Chemical Notation, 1997
    • Computer Braille Code: 2000 Revision
    • Computer Braille Code: Flowchart Design for Applicable Braille Codes Supplement, 1992
    • Guidelines for Linear Braille Format, 1987
    • Music Braille Code: Learning the Nemeth Braille Code: A Manual for Teachers and Students Ruth H. Craig, 1987
  • National Braille Association
    3 Townline Circle
    Rochester, NY 14623-2513
    Phone: (585) 427-8260
    Fax: (585) 427-0263
    Email: nbaoffice@nationalBraille.org
    Web: nationalBraille.org
      Sells a variety of code books, manuals, and reference charts in print and braille.
  • National Braille Press
    88 St. Stephen St.
    Boston, MA 02115
    Phone: (800) 548-7323
    Fax: (617) 437-0456, fax
    Email: orders@nbp.org
    Web: www.nbp.org
    • Sells a variety of books, manuals, and reference charts in print and braille.
    • Individual Braille Transcription Services List is a free list of transcribers throughout the U.S. who will take on smaller braille transcription jobs. Updated annually.
  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Phone: (800) 424-8567
    Fax: (202) 707-0712
    Email: nlsref@loc.gov
    Web: www.loc.gov/nls/index.html
      Provides code books and braille instruction manuals to registered students and transcribers.
  • National Federation of the Blind
    1800 Johnson Street
    Baltimore, MD 21230
    Phone: (410) 659-9314
    Fax: (410) 685-5653
    Web: www.nfb.org
    • The World Under My Fingers
    • The American Action Fund's Twin Vision Dictionary of Braille Problem Words
    • Braille: A Code for Success: A comprehensive tutorial for the National Literary Braille Competency Test compiled by the International Braille Research Center in cooperation with the National Federation of the Blind and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped with the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration.
    • The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child by Carol Castellano and Dawn Kosman
    • Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students
    • Braille: A Birthday Look at Its Past, Present, and Future
    • Braille: A Renaissance
    • Braille: A Survival Skill for All Blind People
    • Braille: An Overview - History, Problems, Technology, and Future Prospects
    • Braille Contractions, Are They Really So Hard?
    • Braille Literacy: Issues for Consumers and Providers
    • Braille: Pedagogy, Prejudice, and the Banner of Equality
    • Braille Reading Speed: Are You Willing to Do What It Takes?
    • Braille: What Is It? What Does It Mean to the Blind
    • Building Braille Reading Speed: Some Helpful Suggestions
    • Can Braille Change the Future?
    • Choosing your Braille Embosser
    • Literacy: The Key to Opportunity
    • Model Braille Bill
    • Nemeth Code Reference Sheet
    • Of Braille and Honeybees
    • Of Literacy, Braille, and the Oddities of Semantics
    • Reading by Touch: Trails, Battles, and Discoveries by Pamela Lorimer
    • She Makes Braille Look Easy
    • What Is the Chance for Braille?
    • Why Not Braille?
  • Exceptional Teaching Aids
    20102 Woodbine Avenue
    Castro Valley, CA 94546
    Phone: (800) 549-6999
    Email: exteaching@aol.com
    Web: store.exceptionalteaching.net
    • Children with Visual Impairments: A Parent's Guide
    • Braille Codes and Calculations by Pesavento
  • The Foundation for Blind Children
    1235 E Harmont Dr
    Phoenix, AZ 85020
    Phone: (800) 322-4870
    Web: www.seeitourway.org

  • From Amazon.com
    • Specification for Selecting a Vocabulary and Teaching Method for Beginning Braille Readers by Hilda Caton
    • Working With Braille
      by Barry Hampshire
    • Communication Skills for Visually Impaired Learners: Braille, Print, and Listening Skills for Students Who Are Visually Impaired
      by Randall K. Harley, Mila B. Truan, Larhea D. Sanford
    • Reading by Touch
      by Susanna Millar
    • Alternative Assessment Techniques for Reading and Writing
      by Wilma H. Miller
    • The Secret Code (Rookie Readers)
      by Dana Meachen Rau, Bari Weissman (Illustrator)
    • Instructor's Manual for the New Programmed Instruction in Braille
      by Larhea D. Sanford
    • Handbook for Learning to Read Braille by Sight by Schubert
  • Garlic Press
    1312 Jeppesen Ave.
    Eugene, OR 97401
    Phone: (541) 345-0063
    Web: www.garlicpress.com
    • Braille for the Sighted
      by S. Harold Collins

Back to Top


Braille Instruction

The following is a partial list of resources for obtaining instruction
or courses in braille.

American Printing House For The Blind
1839 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
Phone: (800) 223-1839
Web: www.aph.org

    The Braille Connection is a fast-paced APH curriculum to teach adventitiously blinded students, who formerly were able to read print, to read braille.
    Building on Patterns: The Primary Braille Literacy Program is a complete program designed specifically for young beginning braille readers, kindergarten through second grade level.

BRL (Braille through Remote Learning)
Web: www.brl.org

    Offers online courses available, including Introduction to Braille course, Transcribers course, and Specialized Codes course.

DotlessBraille
Web: www.dotlessBraille.org

    A site whose main goal is to increase braille literacy for all by making braille more accessible for sighted persons.

Exceptional Teaching Aids
5673 W Las Positas Blve, Suite 207
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Phone: (800) 549-6999
Web: www.exceptionalteaching.com

    Offers numerous resources and courses, including the Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition, The Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception and Nemeth Numeral Recognition, and The Combined Reading and Math Program, all by Dr. Sally Mangold.

Grant Wood Area Education Agency
4401 Sinxth Street SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
Phone: (319) 399-6714
Fax: (319) 399-6457
Website: www.aea10.k12.ia.us

    Offers Braille Too!, written for secondary students who have previously been print readers, who are now learning braille as a primary or additional tool.

The Hadley School for the Blind
700 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093-2554
Phone: (800) 323-4238, (847) 446-8111
Fax: (847) 446-9916
Email: info@hadley.edu
Web: www.hadley.edu

    Provides free courses for learning both uncontracted and contracted braille.

Louise Johnson
197 West 1100 South
Orem, Utah 84058
Email: sierra@fiber.net
Web: www.kesterbraille.com

    Louise Johnson who taught braille for 20 years, has developed the Kester introductory braille instruction manual. Kester Braille provides a user-friendly script of the way she taught beginning braille. Level 1 consists of teaching alphabet and beginning sounds in braille, and Level 2 teaches three-letter words with short vowel sounds, writing sentences, and numbers 0 to 20. It is written to teach braille reading and writing for children ages 4 to 8, and can be adapted for older children who have difficulty learning. The Level 1 student text and teacher's guide is $30; Level 2 student text and teacher's guide is $35.

National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen St.
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: (800) 548-7323
Fax: (617) 437-0456, fax
Email: orders@nbp.org
Web: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/JETKB.html

  • Publishes Just Enough To Know Better, now in its 11th edition. This self-paced workbook is for every mom and dad who just want to know enough braille to help their blind son or daughter learn to read. Using your sight, you will learn to identify the braille alphabet, numbers, contractions, and even a few exceptions to the rule that make braille so interesting. Most of all, you will show your child that braille is a special talent. One volume print book with exercises in braille for $15.00, or free as part of our ReadBooks! Because Braille Matters program. Includes a chart of braille symbols (letters, contractions, and punctuation).
  • Individual Braille Transcription Services List is a free list of transcribers throughout the U.S. who will take on smaller braille transcription jobs. Updated annually.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Braille Development Section (Library of Congress)

    The NLS has awarded a contract to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to conduct NLS braille certification programs. The Librarian of Congress and the NLS Director will continue to authorize and issue certifications for braille transcribers and proofreaders.

    All inquiries related to the literary, mathematics, and music transcribing and proofreading courses should be addressed to:

    Jennifer Dunnam
    Manager of Braille Programs, Jernigan Institute
    National Federation of the Blind
    1800 Johnson St
    Baltimore, MD 21230
    Phone: (612) 767-5658
    Email: transcribers@nfb.org

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, TX 78756
Phone: (512) 454-8631
Toll-free: (800) 872-5273
Fax: (512) 206-9450
Web: http://www.tsbvi.edu

    The Texas School For The Blind And Visually Impaired, (TSBVI), offers The Braille FUNdamentals program. This program has ready-made hardcopy braille instructional student materials. You can order it at any or all of the four different levels - Primary, Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School. Volume 1 contains Overview and Use, and Volume 2 teaches the alphabet and whole word signs. The other 2 volumes contain the rest of the braille code.
    Also visit www.tsbvi.edu/math/math-resources.htm for braille math resources.

Program for Teaching Braille Based on a New Theory of Braille Reading
Web: www.econ.keio.ac.jp/staff/nakanoy/article/Braille/BR/chap2/2-6/2-6.html


Braille Literacy Organizations

  • Braille Revival League
    Lynne Koral, President
    1102 W. International Airport Road
    Anchorage, AK 99518
    Email: aiblink@ak.net
      Braille Revival League is a special interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. They publish the magazine Braille Memorandum.

  • The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
    President: Nadine Jacobson
    5805 Kellogg Avenue
    Edina, MN 55424-1819
    Phone: (952) 927-7694
    Website: www.nfbcal.org/napub/napub.htm
      The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) is one of the divisions of the National Federation of the Blind. A major initiative of NAPUB is the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.

Back to Top


States with Braille Literacy Laws

(Data obtained from www.nfb.org)
  • Arizona, July 1, 1991 (Amended June, 1997)
  • California
  • Colorado, April 1994
  • Florida, April 1993
  • Georgia, April 19, 1994
  • Idaho, April 1993
  • Illinois, September 14, 1992
  • Indiana, April 1993
  • Iowa, April 1993
  • Kansas, April 2, 1991
  • Kentucky, April 14, 1992
  • Louisiana, 1988; amended 1992
  • Maine, June 17, 1991
  • Maryland, April 2, 1992
  • Massachusetts, August 1996
  • Michigan, May 30, 2000
  • Minnesota, April 29, 1992
  • Mississippi, July 1, 1995
  • Missouri, 1990
  • New Hampshire, June 9, 1997
  • New Mexico, May 1993
  • New York, August 2000
  • Ohio, March 1994
  • Oregon, July 1993
  • Puerto Rico, September 2002
  • Rhode Island, July 1993
  • South Carolina, May 20, 1992
  • South Dakota, February 13, 1991
  • Texas, September 1, 1991
  • Utah, November 1993
  • Virginia, 1990
  • Washington, March 1996
  • West Virginia, March 1998
  • Wisconsin, April 13, 1992