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What is Braille?

Braille is a system of six raised dots created in 1821 by French schoolboy Louis Braille. It is an essential tool with which children with profound or total loss of sight can learn to read and write.

While tape recorders and talking computers are handy and important sources of information for blind people, only braille allows for complete command of written language.

Braille and Literacy

In recent studies, blind people who learn braille at an early age have generally been found to complete more years of school, have higher incomes and employment rates, and read more in adulthood than do blind people who do not learn braille in childhood.

Literacy rates for blind people declined sharply from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, a trend that coincided with the mainstreaming of blind children in public schools where few teachers knew braille.

To reverse growing rates of illiteracy, organizations of blind people, joined by parents and teachers of blind children, spearheaded a movement to reinstate braille instruction in public schools. Thus far, more than 30 states have enacted braille literacy bills. These bills, along with U.S. Department of Education regulations, have been a catalyst for the teaching and learning of braille.

Several factors, including advances in medical care for premature infants, have caused the number of legally blind children in the United States to increase, rising from 43,000 in 1987 to more than 56,900 in 2004.

In 2004 there were 1,932 braille-dominant students in grades K-6 nationwide.

Most blind children — 85% — attend public schools. About 9 percent are in private residential schools for the blind, 3 percent are in programs for the multi-handicapped, and 3 percent are in rehabilitation programs.