Keep in touch: Braille

keep in touch FINAL-01

Today we continue our digital exhibition ‘Keep in Touch’ with information about braille. If you missed our last entry on sign language, check it out here.

Feeling the words

Braille is a tactile form of reading and writing used by people who are blind or vision impaired. It is made up of raised dots, a code of 63 characters[1], and is read by touch. It is not a language, but a code by which many languages can be written. It was invented by Louis Braille in 1829, a student at National Institute for Blind Children in Paris, who was blinded when he was 3 years old [2]. Braille letters do not resemble printed letters and each letter or number is either a single dot or a combination of dots. A universal Braille code for the English-speaking world was not adopted until 1932, when representatives from agencies for the blind in Great Britain and the United States met in London and agreed upon a system known as Standard English Braille[3].It became an effective means of communication, enhancing literacy for people who are blind or with significant loss of sight.


Unified English Braille chart – detail.

Unified English Braille was adopted as the official braille code in Australia in 2005 and was designed by the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) to provide a single code that can be used throughout the English-speaking world. The Australian Braille Authority (ABA) oversees the development and maintenance of braille codes used in Australia and promotes braille as the literacy medium for people who have severe vision impairment[4].

Newspaper reports from the St George area in the late 19th century demonstrate that those living in the area who had vision or hearing impairments were often sent to and/or received support from institutions in Sydney such as the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution (now known as the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children) and the Royal Sydney Industrial Blind Institution (known as the Royal Blind Society). The Royal Blind Society began in Sydney in 1879. There are many references throughout The Propeller and The St George Call of community support for these institutions, which included holding fundraisers such as cooking stalls, athletic and sport carnivals, and dances. In 2004 the Royal Blind Society was merged with a number of other interstate organisations to form the national agency Vision Australia[5]. Other not-for-profit organisations, such as ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind Association’ (now state based Guide Dogs) were also established in the 1950s in Australia[6], to provide orientation and mobility services for vision impaired people.   


‘History of Braille’,

‘Braille writing system’,

‘Vision Australia’ ,

Get involved

  • Support a guide dog
  • For the kids: Think about one of your favourite things in your house. How would you describe it to a vision impaired person?


[1] ‘Braille writing system’,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] ‘Australian Braille Authority’,

[5] ‘Vision Australia’, Dictionary of Sydney,

[6] ‘Our History of Guide Dogs’,

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