Braille Is Not a Language. Here’s What That Means for You.

Published on

Close up view of someone reading a braille book.

It may surprise those not familiar with accessibility efforts that braille is not a separate language. The truth about braille—what it is and how it is used—can and should inform your business’s accessibility strategy.

What is braille?

First, if braille is not a language, then what is it? Unlike American Sign Language, which is a fully-developed language, braille is a reading and writing system used by people with visual impairment and blindness. Braille operates just like printed text, as a code that reproduces the sounds, phonetics, and semantics of a language.

There is more than one type of braille.

There are two commonly used types of braille. The first, Grade 1 braille, is made up of the 26 letters of the Roman or Latin alphabet. This braille is mostly used by those just learning to read and write in braille. Grade 2 braille is more complex. It includes the 26 letters of the alphabet as well as contractions and punctuation. This is the braille you see on most public signs, restaurant menus, and other materials written in braille.

There is a third type of braille, Grade 3, but this is more of a shorthand and typically only used for personal use in diaries, letters, and notes.

Why are there contractions in braille?

Braille takes up more space than printed text. For this reason, braille uses short sequences, called contractions, to take the place of words or letter groups that commonly occur in the language. For example, “the” is usually just one character in braille. The contractions save space, and they also improve the speed of writing and reading.

Interested in providing braille for your customers? Find out Why Quality Matters for Braille Documents.

Braille Alphabet and numbers.

Braille is not universal.

It may also come as a surprise that there are different braille systems for different languages. In fact, there is a braille language for many of the languages spoken today. While the move toward braille uniformity, known as Unified English Braille (UEB), has led to many correspondences between the alphabets, the languages themselves are still distinct and unique.

Braille is not a language. What does that mean for you?

Now you know that braille is not a language but a code that replaces the role of printed text for the visually impaired and blind communities. What does this mean for your business?

It means you should start thinking “Accessible First.”

An “Accessible First” strategy toward communications is similar to the “Mobile First” mindset we see companies implementing for web design and digital content. It is in response to the trend in consumers to view content on smartphones or tablets. In accessibility terms, it means braille, large print, and other accessible formats should be available for all the same documents and communications you offer your seeing customers.

If you begin your communication strategy with a goal of including everyone, accessibility becomes part of the company culture and all of your customers feel welcome, respected and valued.

Learn more about accessible documents

Tags: , , ,

Categorized in:

This post was written by Braille Works

Comments are closed here.