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Louis Braille and His Braille Writing Methods

Louis Braille was born in the village of Coupvray in the January of 1809 and was the youngest in the family where he lived with his mother, father, his two sisters and brother.

When Louis was born, Coupvray was a small village where most people worked in specific trades such as tailors, locksmiths and weavers or worked cultivating the nearby vineyards or tending to farmyard animals and the vegetables needed.

You will find Coupvray around forty kilometres from Paris and yet this area is still very much unchanged from when Louis was born all those years ago, still providing fertile soils, vineyards with country cottages and farmhouses amid the gentle hills of the countryside and the cobblestone streets.

Louis Braille Writing

- Louis Braille
- Musee Valentin Hauy
- Valentin Hauy Institute

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Louis Braille

The father of Louis, Simon-Rene Braille was a master craftsman and the harness-maker that was well known throughout the region for his excellent work. From a very young age Louis like to watch his dad work cutting the leather to make harnesses, saddles and reigns in his workshop that was attached to their house.

Unfortunately, when Louis was only about three years old he went into the workshop and decided to cut some leather like his dad did, whilst he was not there, but the sharp tool slipped and plunged into his eye.  To make matters worse, the injured eye became infected and the infection spread to the other eye, which in turn led to Louis becoming completely blind.

Many young children that were blind did not have a future in society, unless they came from a wealthy family and they usually ended up as beggars or performers in shows like the one that Valentin Hauy experienced in Paris where everyone laughed at them.  But Louis parents were obviously concerned for their son and decided to still try and teach him to read and write.  A priest from the village church also began teaching Louis Braille how to identify different things that surrounded him such as birds and animals from their different sounds and he taught him different aspects of life and nature such as the change in the seasons through smell and touch.

When he was seven years of age Louis Braille attended the local school and despite being blind, he was very intelligent and was soon at the top of his class, yet everyone was still concerned for his future and the Priest found out about a special school for the blind in Paris that was set up by Valentin Hauy.  After managing to get a place, when he was ten years old he then travelled to Paris and became a student at this unique school called the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, that was situated in a building near to the River Seine.  Louis lived and studied at the school, where the aim was to give each child a trade by then end of their studies and Louis done very well at every subject, but his main love was music and he became an excellent pianist and he then managed to get a paid positions as an organist at different churches in Paris.

Valentin Hauy had developed a printing system where letters were raised in the books, but there were not very many and they were heavy and it was time consuming for the children tracing every letter, yet this was the first foundation for teaching the blind children.

When a new director was appointed to the institute he set about improving the children's living and studying conditions and providing them with more diversity such as trips to the Botanical Gardens and things started to improve greatly for the students.

He also held a celebration day for Valentin Hauy, who was the original founder of the school some forty plus years prior and it was this particular day that made a lasting impression on Louis Braille who was twelve at the time and it was the same year that Louis started experimenting with different shapes in leather to try and develop a set alphabet for the blind.

Taking an initiative from Valentin Hauy, the Captain of the Army, Charles Barbier had developed a way for soldiers to communicate in the dark using certain arrangements of dots and dashes and he felt it could be used by the blind.  But unfortunately, the students at the institute found it difficult to master, yet this inspired Louis Braille to take things further and started to experiment with this type of method to create a specific alphabet that was simpler to learn and use.

By the time Louis reached the age of fifteen he had finished this blind alphabet, but continued to adapt these dots and dashes into music and when he was twenty published a book on how to write music, and songs and it was this that became the basis of Braille as we know it today, but this took time, as initially it was not accepted, although the students and director at the institute thought it was brilliant and the director then helped him perfect this method even further. 

Louis Braille lived and worked at the institute as a teacher all his life helping others overcome their misfortune and over the years he continued to perfect his blind alphabet and the method.  Plus he looked into ways where the blind and people with vision could communicate in the written form and came up with a stylus system, that the blind could touch and the people that could see, could read the words.   

The building was old and damp and over the years Louis health suffered, but this was eventually replaced by a new building in 1843 and Louis was recognised for his Braille methods at the opening, but unfortunately not even ten years later and at only 42 years of age, Louis Braille died in the January of 1852 and was buried in the cemetery of his home town of Coupvray, but many years later his remains were moved to the Pantheon in Paris to rest alongside other famous individuals. 

Braille, as it became known in memory of Louis Braille was officially recognised in France in 1854, then it was recognised by world congress and it started to spread throughout the world and by 1890 was being adopted in schools all over the world.

Numerous different items relating to Louis Braille are recognised at the Musee Valentin Hauy in Paris and the stone house where he was born in Coupvray has also been turned into a museum.

Braille Writing Methods

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