Fun with Braille

by Marisa Bennett, contributing writer


Fun with Braille

Recently, when bored by insomnia, I entertained my brain in a way that only sighted Braille dorks like me (who are also linguistics geeks) tend to do. I went through most of the photos tagged “Braille” on flickr and posted transcriptions of the ones I could read. The ones in English were fairly straightforward, as long as enough characters were in clear view. I also got to try my hand at entries in Dutch, German, French, and on Japanese beer cans (!). Wheee! 

From this experience, I’ve learned that: 

a)    Artists who use giant Braille in public art often seem to have no reason for picking the Braille words they use,b)    People on flickr feel the love when you tell them what the Braille sign on a diaper changing table says, andc)    Some people have small or large Braille tattoos. 

Read Between the (Braille) Signs


Have you always wondered what all those dots in the elevator *really* say? Well, so do some blind people, because man, those sign companies have no clue what they’re doing a lot of the time. I once visited my high school a few years after my graduation, and saw the sign on the teacher’s lounge door. In print it said “teacher’s lounge” but in Braille it said “cafeteria.” umm, yeah. Kinda makes you wonder what the “cafeteria” and “men’s room” signs say in Braille, now doesn’t it? 

Wanna learn more??


Did you know that, though Braille is the current worldwide standard, there were many other tactile writing systems? Braille was developed by a blind teenager, Louis Braille, because he was so frustrated with the unwieldy systems preferred by sighted teachers.If you’re interested in learning Braille as used in English, see AFB’s Braille Bug for fun instruction on the alphabet and numbers; AFB’s Braille Trail curriculum is also excellent.See Braille thru Remote Learning if you want to learn how normal (contracted) English-language Braille works, with all the special characters, standardized abbreviations and their usage rules. If you’re American, you can take a free correspondance course from the Library of Congress on how to read, transcribe, and proofread Braille. If you want to learn Braille as it is used in other countries, use the free online pdf copy of World Braille Usage, a book compiled by Unesco. There are listings by country along with contact information for each country’s Braille authority/organizations — most of which probably have their own web sites by now. They can probably direct you toward Braille learning resources in their country. A great resource. Braille fonts so you can play with “ink Braille for sighted people” on your computer. Check out this ASCII Braille cheat sheet to see how to use your keyboard to type special Braille characters in those fonts. Braille and Braille/Fingerspelling blocks from Uncle Goose More toys and Braille practice materials from The Braille Superstore.Have fun learning Braille! 

About the Author

Marisa Bennett learned to read Braille with her eyes at age eleven and has since worked at many schools and organizations that serve blind and deafblind people. She has a master’s degree in linguistics from
University, and currently works with blind students in

This entry was originally posted on January 10, 2007 on Marisa’s blog at



Here are all the URLs for the links in this document: 

·       “Braille” on flickr·       Dutch·       German·       French·       Japanese beer cans·       giant Braille·       public art·       Braille words·       diaper changing table·       small·       large Braille tattoos·       many other tactile writing systems·       Braille Bug·       Braille Trail curriculum·       Braille thru Remote Learning·       free correspondance course from the Library of Congress·       World Braille Usage·       Braille fonts·       ASCII Braille cheat sheet·       Uncle Goose·       The Braille Superstore

This entry was posted in Contributing Writers, Education & Training, World Wide Web. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fun with Braille

  1. Ashton says:

    I would like to know… is a Braille language? Same as ASL and English? Ashton x

  2. marisa says:

    No, Braille is a writing system, not a langauge. It is an alternative format for regular print, and just about anything you can put in print, you can put in Braille.

    Because Braille is so bulky, most countries have adopted an official system of Braille abbreviations (and rules for how to use the abbreviations), based on the written language(s) they use. Standard Braille documents are written in this contracted form, so things don’t take up as much space as if you had to spell everything out.

    Usually, only beginning Braille readers use uncontracted Braille – where each character only stands for one letter or punctuation sign (including the special Braille number sign, which allows us to re-use the symbols for the letters A through J as the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0.)

    For more info, see the links in the post above. (Right now it seems to be white text on a white background, so you’ll have to select-all or change your browser colors to see it. Or just read the original entry at


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