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Minnesota Musing: Braille - The Tool of the Blind

Updated on August 15, 2017

Infant Changing Station in a Restroom


There's My Sign

Now, this all started because I was sitting in a bathroom, and the stall had a baby changer fold down bed. I noticed the Braille Box on the side, and wondered to myself what it said.

I cannot read Braille. At least, not enough to find my way out of trouble. I have found things out since I started pondering about the little raised dot signs everywhere. I was chatting with a few other people, and the majority of the group was in agreement that if a person was to go blind, or sightless, how would they find all the little signs. Sometimes, a sighted person can barely find something that is obvious, and those sign people really make a blind person have to work for it.

The signs are found on doors, ATM's, and as I mentioned before, baby changing platforms.

What is Braille?

Braille is a system of dots, placed in a consistent sequence so that blind people can feel them and read.

Originally, the raised dots were used during the war, so that the troops could read messages from their battle commanders and read them by touch instead of needing a light to see the words. A light would have given them away and made them vulnerable to attack.

Louis Braille improved the system, and later, the system became refined and restructured. There are several frames in the Braille lifeline, and not unlike stenographer's shorthand, many common words have been shortened for easier communication.

Braille is Everywhere I Look

I admit, I feel a little left out. I can see placards with raised dots everywhere I look. They are on bathroom doors, and this particular picture was taken in a bathroom of the braille on the baby changing table that folds down from the wall.

According to my now limited facilities for reading Braille, I am now aware that the note is admonishments about not leaving the baby unattended. About using paper under the baby and cleaning up your mess when you're done.

I personally cannot picture being blind and groping around on a baby changing table and feeling the dots while carrying a small child and then, after feeling the instructions, opening the table, placing the child on there and pulling the diaper off and wiping the child off.

How do they see what they are wiping off and how do they know when they are done. Perhaps I do not want to muse any longer about useless topics like that.


I can understand the Braille needs to be on the door. How embarrassing it would be to walk into the wrong gender bathroom and be exposed to the wrong sex.

Oh, wait. I'm blind. I can't see them anyways, so does it matter?

Now, with multi gender bathrooms, now you probably don't need Braille on the door to find the little boys room or the little girls room.

You know, a single stall bathroom can be multi gender, you know, just like at home.


The one raised dot placard that I find disturbing is the one you find on a drive up bank window.

Why does there need to be one at a drive up window?

If you are blind, will you be driving a car through the drive through? Perhaps I have been wrong all these years, that you do not need to be able to see to drive.

Well, actually, you wonder sometimes about people on the highway, if they can see other drivers or not.

Reading Braille

Obviously, you need to touch the raised dots to read them.

So, what are the dots and how do you read them?

Braille Translator

I was not aware that there was a Braille Translator tool online until I spotted this page. It says type your text in the box and hit enter.

I typed I need to find the bathroom, and this is the Braille I got:

Braille - I Need to Find the Bathroom


A More Visual Explanation

The Dark Dots are raised, the Light dots are there just for clarification
The Dark Dots are raised, the Light dots are there just for clarification | Source
Each set of dots is small enough to fit under your finger.
Each set of dots is small enough to fit under your finger. | Source
You must use your finger to feel. Actually, you use both hands to read braille.
You must use your finger to feel. Actually, you use both hands to read braille. | Source

Basic Braille

As I look at the Braille alphabet, I am learning that the positions for a - j are the building blocks for learning the rest of the letters. Once you know A - J, the next letters are added by adding a raised dot in the lower left corner, K - T. Then, a second dot is added for the remaining letters, U - Z.

As you progress, numbers are learned by adding four raised dots to the side and bottom. Capital letters are added by adding a raised dot in position 6. Punctuation is added by use of yet another raised dot.

It doesn't end there. For other forms of communication, there are musical notations and science and math.

Reading Braille Without a Translator

So, how do you read Braille without a translator? You need to know how the letters are made:

Braille is Based on Six or Eight Dots

Braille, from what I'm reading, is like writing in binary.

I recall binary from my college, computer programming days. Binary has only one digit and one zero. Unlike the system we are used to writing in, with nine digits and one zero.



As I am reading about Braille, I am reminded of the 1970's when I was enrolled in Shorthand for secretaries. This method of writing was used to record the speech of employers as they used your skills to compose letters to their clients and associates.

Braille seems to employ the same types of methods.

My Focus

In all honesty, my fascination with Braille isn't to learn Braille at all, but to help my father to have something to do as his vision and his hearing fade away.

He used to love to play the concertina, which he cannot do now, as he cannot read the music anymore. He used to love to play solitaire, but again, is stopped by his inability to see the cards.

I wonder if there are cards that are made with the raised numbers that he could feel and play his game. Perhaps a deck of regular cards with raised letters. Not Braille, but just raised hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs and raised letters and numbers.

Velcro or some other fuzzy sticker.

Grade 1 Braille


Braille is a useful tool for anyone to learn. I am inspired to create the cards for my father in law to give him something to do. Perhaps they won't be in Braille, but maybe they will help him somewhat.

Teaching people to know Braille is done by certified professionals to keep the newest codes accurate.

Braille Note Taker

If you are interested in a note taker with a Braille touch keyboard, Humanware is available, with several products.


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    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 7 months ago from Minnesota

      Thank you, Larry Rankin!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 7 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful overview of this fascinating and necessary language.