Have you ever noticed in modern lifts, that the floor numbers you push often have a set of raised dots either on the button or right next to it? Did you wonder what they were?
The answer is that they are Braille numbers, so that people who are visually impaired or even totally blind, can find the right button for the floor they want to go to.
Braille is a way of “writing” any language in a way that visually impaired people can “read”. It’s made up as a set of 6 raised dots arranged in a cell, 3 dots high by 2 dots wide. This gives 64 possible combinations of dots that are used to write the letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation marks and even whole words.
It was invented by French teenager Louis Braille in 1825, at the age of just 15. At 20 years old he published the first Braille book and at 28 added maths and musical symbols too.
On the downloadable Braille sheets are the 26 letters of the alphabet in Braille and a set of cells for creating your own Braille document.
You will see that the numbers 0 to 9 are the first 10 letters of the alphabet with an additional braille number sign in front of them.
So let’s start by making a set of numbers we can test and learn ourselves and then we can go out and find some examples and try and read them.
Take a sheet of Braille cells and using the dots, write some numbers on a sheet (remember to keep a separate note of what they are!)
To “write” the numbers, using the point of a pencil or ball point pen, carefully push the correct dots through from the back of the sheet, so there is a small raised bump on the front of the sheet to spell out the words.
- Start with simple numbers like 1 to 10 in the correct order first, remembering to leave a space between the different numbers;
- Then mix them up in a different order;
- Finally pick some slightly more complicated ones like your house number at home, the year 2017 or your birth year
If you do this with a friend, each do different numbers and orders and then you can swap sheets and work out what each number is – 2 points for every one you get correct and minus 1 point for every one you get wrong.
Practice reading the numbers with your eyes closed until you can read them easily.
Now head out (with an adult if necessary) and find places where there are Braille numbers used.
Lifts are good places to start, especially in multi-storey car parks or tall public buildings like libraries or art galleries with lots of floors. Try and find other places where there are Braille numbers used.
Use a smart phone to take pictures of Braille numbers you find and send them to us telling us where you found them and what the number is. We’ll send a prize to the most unusual photo that we receive by 5pm on Friday the 6th of January.