A bicentennial plus one

Today, January 4, is the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille alphabet. Braille found that with a series of six raised dots, he could form coded patterns that became the letters of the alphabet, recognizable by touch. Born in Coupvray, France in 1809, Braille was blinded in one eye in an accident and later developed an infection in the other, leading to total blindness. Faced with opposition to his system, Braille unfortunately did not see Braille used extensively until after his death from tuberculosis in 1852.

Not only is it Braille's birthday but 2009 also marked the bicentennial of his birth. Check out the website for information on the history of Braille and suggested activities for young people. You may also be interested in reading a provocative article in this Sunday's, January 3, New York Times Magazine titled "Listening to Braille" which discusses the pros and cons of braille compared to audio transmission of information. The author raises interesting questions about literacy for the blind and how it may be adversely affected by new technologies. The Library still has a number of books in Braille as well as extensive services for the blind through the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled.