Louis Braille Plaque

This limited edition, cast-resin plaque was designed so that the blind can feel its details. It commemorates the 200th birthday of Louis Braille.

Ann Cunningham, tactile artist. Judith Krimski, designer. Tactile plaque. Boston: National Braille Press, 2009. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (001.00.00)

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Braille Slates and Styli

The slate and stylus are the basic portable tools of literacy for blind people. Produced in various sizes, slates have front and back plates joined by hinges and are made of plastic, aluminum, or metal. The slate holds the paper as the stylus is used to create braille characters. Stylus handles can differ in shape and size to allow for personal preference and comfort. The back plate has shallow holes arranged to represent the six dots of a braille cell. The front plate has rectangular openings to guide the stylus into the paper.

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Perkins Brailler

Manufactured by Howe Press of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, the Perkins Brailler is a “braille typewriter” featuring six keys corresponding to the six dots of the braille cell. Designed in 1951 by David Abraham, a Perkins instructor and machinist, the handmade machine is a durable, reliable, and easy-to-use device that remains the premier mechanical braillewriter in the world. More than 330,000 machines have been sold in 170 countries since production began.

Perkins Brailler. Watertown, MA: Howe Press of the Perkins School for the Blind, n.d. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (004.00.00)

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Library of Congress Reading Room for the Blind, ca. 1902

The Library of Congress opened a reading room for the blind in 1897, shortly after opening the building now known as the “Thomas Jefferson Building.” In this photograph, a group of people are gathered in a reading room located in the northeast corner of the building on the ground floor. The space held approximately five hundred braille books and music items. By 1912, the collection had grown to two thousand volumes.

Reading room for the blind, ca. 1902. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00)

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Discorsi Sulla Cecita from the Helen Keller Collection

Author and activist Helen Keller referred to Louis Braille as the “greatest benefactor of the sightless” because his invention brought literacy to blind individuals and enabled them to read and write with their hands. Keller, deaf and blind from early childhood, discovered the world through books. An ardent reader, she was fluent in several languages. Discorsi Sulla Cecita (Speeches on Blindness), written by Italian author Aurelio Nicolodi (1894–1950), and published in 1944, is one of the foreign-language braille books in Keller’s personal library.

Aurelio Nicolodi. Discorsi Sulla Cecita. Florence, 1944. Helen Keller Collection, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (007.00.00)

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Helen Keller

Helen Keller (1880–1968) is one of the most widely known braille readers. Blind and deaf from nineteen months, Keller was brought out of her sensory isolation at seven when Anne Sullivan, a Perkins School for the Blind graduate, taught her finger spelling and, later, braille. With Sullivan’s help, Keller learned to communicate and became a world-renowned author, political activist, and lecturer.

Helen Keller with braille book and a rose. Copyprint. Chelsea, Massachusetts: Whitman Studios, ca. 1904. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.00.00)

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Good Morning, America from the Helen Keller Collection

Good Morning, America, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and poet Carl Sandburg (1878–1967), was originally published in 1928. The braille version, shown here, was produced in 1955. Both Keller and Sandburg were advocates for working-class people, and in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson simultaneously awarded each the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.

Carl Sandburg. Good Morning, America, vol. 1. Transcribed by Elizabeth Lodge, Washington, D.C., under the sponsorship of the Library of Congress with permission of the publishers. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1955. Helen Keller Collection, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (009.00.00)

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Braille Music Transcription

Blind musicians rely on braille music scores, which in the United States are available through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress. Transcribers must have a thorough understanding of literary and music braille codes in order to prepare these scores. This training manual, Introduction to Braille Music Transcription, explains to student transcribers the techniques and methods of producing braille music scores.

Mary Turner De Garmo. Introduction to Braille Music Transcription, vol. 1. Revised and edited by Lawrence R. Smith, Bettye Krolick, Beverly McKenney, and Sandra Kelly. Washington, D.C.: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, 2005 (010.00.00)

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Braille Calendar

The braille calendar Fifty Years of Service: The International Year of the Disabled Person, was published in 1981 by NLS to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary. Currently NLS produces braille materials for more than 43,000 braille-reading patrons. Annually more than 600 braille books are produced and distributed through the NLS national network of local braille-lending libraries. In 2009 NLS provides 32 braille magazines to more than 4,513 subscribers.

Fifty Years of Service: The International Year of the Disabled Person. Braille calendar. Washington, D.C.: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1981 (012.00.00)

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Karen Braille Used in Asia

Braille systems, which represent letters, numbers, musical notations, and scientific symbols, are used globally. Karen braille, shown here, is a code used in Southeast Asia. Approximately eighty-five other braille systems that use the traditional six-dot cell are described in World Braille Usage, compiled by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and UNESCO in 1990.

Lawrence F. Campbell. Karen braille. Thailand and Myanmar, 2000. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (014.00.00)

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Tactile Map of the District’s Metrorail System

This poster-size tactile map of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail System illustrates the system and includes a tactile key to platform center stations, side platform stations, and transfer stations. Such aids afford blind and visually handicapped travelers independence.

J.W. Wiedel. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail System. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, n.d. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (015.00.00)

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Tactile Map of Capitol Hill and the National Mall

The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that disabled people have equal access to parks, museums, libraries, and other public accommodations. Tactile maps, such as these of Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., use braille labels to help blind people identify and enjoy tourist attractions.

J.W. Wiedel. Tactile Map of Capitol Hill and the National Mall. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, n.d. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (016.00.00)

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Braille Edition of Scrabble®

Selchow and Righter first produced a deluxe braille edition of the popular Scrabble® board game in 1954. Divided into the same 225 squares found on the standard board, the braille version has clear, hard-plastic ridged squares. In the deluxe edition, squares and tiles have braille markings, and each tile rack has two rows of five holes.

Deluxe Braille Scrabble®. Bay Shore, N.Y.: Selchow and Righter, n.d. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (017.00.00 and 018.00.00–018.00.03)

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Touch the Invisible Sky

Printed with a new technology called “technobraille,” a process in which epoxy is applied to the printed page to facilitate embossing it with braille and tactile images, Touch the Invisible Sky is one of five tactile astronomy books written by astronomer Noreen Grice. Endorsed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the books are designed to allow blind and visually impaired people to better comprehend celestial objects and the distant universe.

Noreen Grice. Touch the Invisible Sky. Technobraille book. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ozone Publishing, 2007. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (021.01.00)

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Tactile Watch

This battery-operated quartz watch for women is an example of the many timepieces available to blind individuals. On the face of the watch three crystals are arranged vertically at 12:00, two crystals horizontally at 3:00 and at 9:00, and two crystals vertically at 6:00; all other hours are marked with one crystal, enabling the owner to tell time by touch.

Braille watch for women, n.d. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (022.00.00)

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A Picture Book of Louis Braille

This biography of Louis Braille for kindergarten through third grade is a print/braille book designed for blind and sighted people to share simultaneously. The print pages have corresponding braille overlays so that blind parents can share the story and brightly colored pages with their sighted children, and blind children can read with sighted friends.

David A. Adler. A Picture Book of Louis Braille. New York: Holiday House, 1997. Print/Braille. Boston: National Braille Press, transcribing agency and distributor, 2002. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (026.00.00)

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History and Future of Braille

Braille into the Next Millennium, compiled and published by NLS in 2000, examines the history and future of braille. It covers the development of the literary, Nemeth (mathematics), and music codes; braille production; legal issues; library service; and literacy and computer-access concerns. Shown is the six-hundred-page print edition with the corresponding four-volume braille version. The book is also available on Web-Braille, an online service for NLS patrons.

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Bicentennial Poster to Celebrate the Birth of Louis Braille

This poster marks the five-day celebration held in Paris in January 2009 to honor Louis Braille’s life and legacy.

4 Janvier, 2009, Bicentenaire de la naissance de Louis Braille. Paris: Association Valentin Haüy, 2009. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (029.00.00)

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Jot a Dot Pocket Brailler

The Jot a Dot portable pocket brailler allows users to quickly record notes in braille. Manufactured by Quantum Technology, Australia, the portable device measures 8 x 4.5 x 2 inches and weighs less than one pound. It embosses lightweight paper, 4 x 6-inch index cards, and self-adhesive notes. To access notes, the user simply turns the machine over.

Photograph of Jot a Dot pocket brailler. Rydalmere, Australia: Quantum Technology. Copyright 2009 Quantum Technology (030.00.00)

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Braille Wave

Portable note-taking devices like the Braille Wave, manufactured by Handy Tech Elektronik, Germany, provide fast and efficient braille communications. Notes on the Braille Wave can be transferred to a computer. The device also has wireless capabilities.

Braille Wave. Photograph of note-taking device. GmbH. Nordstetten, Germany: Handy Tech Elektronik. Photography copyright 2009 (031.00.00)

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Next Generation Perkins Brailler

Introduced in 2008, the Next Generation Perkins Brailler was developed by Perkins School for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind. In addition to being sleeker, lighter weight, and quieter than the older machine, its updated style includes a colorful chassis, easier-to-press keys, an erase button, and a more user-friendly knob for the paper roller.

Photograph of the Next Generation Perkins Brailler. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind and Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. Copyright 2008. (032.00.00)

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Web-Braille

With the advent of the Internet, electronic braille was made accessible online through Web-Braille, a system developed and administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress. Braille users can read digital files using a refreshable braille display or may download books, magazines, and music materials for embossing. Readers are also able to access hundreds of music scores and all braille magazines produced by NLS. Copyright restrictions limit Web-Braille access to NLS patrons and eligible institutions.

Photograph of Web-Braille user accessing braille materials over the Internet. Washington, D.C.: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, 2009 (033.00.00)

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2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar

The Louis Braille Bicentennial—Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 109–247, authorized the United States Mint to produce and issue a silver dollar commemorating the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth. The obverse side features a portrait of Louis Braille. The reverse shows a child reading a braille book, with the word "braille" in braille code (BRL). Surcharges from coin sales will be used by the National Federation of the Blind to promote braille literacy.

2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar. Washington, D.C.: United States Mint. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (034.00.00) (034.00.01)

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Braille Transcription Certification

Since 1943, the Library of Congress has ensured that braille transcription is a professional practice. Approximately two hundred transcribers and proofreaders receive certification each year, after completing coursework in literary, music, and mathematics braille transcription. While NLS remains the certifying authority for braille transcribers, the National Federation of the Blind, under contract to the Library of Congress, has administered the program since 2007.

Transcription certificate for mathematics, 2003. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (035.00.00)

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Braille Alphabet Card and Date Finder

The braille alphabet is used for writing and reading materials. Each braille cell has six raised dots, which are displayed in two columns and numbered. To indicate a capital letter, dot six is placed before the cell. The letters “a” through “j” become numbers “1” through “10” when the number sign—dots 3, 4, 5, and 6—is placed before the cell. Shown are the braille alphabet card that describes and illustrates the braille reading and writing system, and the date finder—a portable braille calendar—that provides a signature guide.

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