Braille Alphabet & Numbers

9
 minutes

Braille Alphabet & Numbers 

Welcome to our insightful exploration of the Braille alphabet and Braille numbers, an essential guide for anyone interested in learning or understanding this unique and empowering form of communication.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of Braille, from its basic alphabetic and numerical structure to the various codes and applications that make it a versatile tool in everyday life. 

If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend also reading our article on “How to read Braille”, as this gives in-depth on learning Braille independently. Without further ado, let’s dive into the basics: the Braille Cell. 

The Braille Cell: Characters & Dot Configuration

Braille cell dots configuration

At the heart of Braille lies the Braille cell, a unique and logical system that forms the foundation of this tactile language. Each cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two vertical columns of three dots each.

These dots are numbered from top to bottom and left to right: the top left dot is number 1, followed by dots 2 and 3 below it. On the right column, dots 4, 5, and 6 mirror this arrangement. Together these 6 dots can make all braille alphabets and numbers. 

The beauty of the Braille system is in its simplicity and systematic approach. Different combinations of these raised dots represent different characters - letters, numbers, and punctuation.

For instance, a single raised dot at position 1 signifies the letter 'A', while raised dots at positions 1 and 2 together denote the letter 'B'. This pattern continues in a logical sequence, making it easier for learners to grasp and memorize.

Let’s now dive into the logic by starting with the full alphabet. 

A - J

The first 10 letters of the Braille alphabet, A through J, hold a special significance as they form the base from which the entire Braille system is built. Once these initial ten letters are memorized, learners have essentially laid the groundwork for understanding the entire Braille alphabet and even the numbers. 

This clever design showcases the efficiency of Braille as a tactile language. We will delve deeper into how these first ten letters extrapolate to encompass the full alphabet and numeric system later in the article. For now, here are the Braille codes for the Braille letters A to J:

  • A: Dot 1
  • B: Dots 1 and 2
  • C: Dots 1 and 4
  • D: Dots 1, 4, and 5
  • E: Dots 1 and 5
  • F: Dots 1, 2, and 4
  • G: Dots 1, 2, 4, and 5
  • H: Dots 1, 2, and 5
  • I: Dots 2 and 4
  • J: Dots 2, 4, and 5
Braille alphabet from A to E
Braille alphabet from F to J

K - T

The letters K through T in Braille represent an ingenious extension of the first ten letters, A to J. Each letter from K to T is formed by adding the raised dot 3 to the corresponding letter from A to J.

This efficient design means that once you are familiar with the first ten letters, you already possess the knowledge to identify these additional letters with ease. 

For instance, the Braille letter K is formed by adding dot 3 to the configuration of the letter A.

This pattern is consistent throughout this group of letters, simplifying the learning process significantly. Here are the Braille codes for the Braille letters K to T:

  • K: Dots 1 and 3
  • L: Dots 1, 2, and 3
  • M: Dots 1, 3, and 4
  • N: Dots 1, 3, 4, and 5
  • O: Dots 1, 3, and 5
  • P: Dots 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Q: Dots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
  • R: Dots 1, 2, 3, and 5
  • S: Dots 2, 3, and 4
  • T: Dots 2, 3, 4, and 5
Braille alphabet from K to O
Braille alphabet from P to T

U - Z 

The Braille letters from U to Z, with the exception of 'W', follow a logical progression similar to the previous sets, but with an added twist. In this group, each letter is formed by adding dots 3 and 6 to the configurations of the first five letters, A to E.

This continuity in design demonstrates the systematic and efficient nature of the Braille language. 

However, there's a unique historical note about the letter 'W'. When Louis Braille, the creator of the Braille system, designed this code in 1824, the letter 'W' was not part of the French alphabet, his native language. As a result, 'W' deviates from this pattern.

Here are the Braille codes for the Braille letters U to Z:

  • U: Dots 1, 3, and 6
  • V: Dots 1, 2, 3, and 6
  • W: Dots 2, 4, 5, and 6 (not following the above logic)
  • X: Dots 1, 3, 4, and 6
  • Y: Dots 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6
  • Z: Dots 1, 3, 5, and 6
Braille alphabet from U to Z

Congratulations on mastering the full Braille alphabet! And here's some exciting news: you also have the basics to understand Braille numbers. Wondering how? We'll reveal this intriguing connection in our next chapter. 

0-9

As we transition from the Braille alphabet to Braille numbers, you'll find the learning curve pleasantly gentle. The numbers 0 through 9 in Braille are ingeniously mapped to the same configurations as the letters A through J. 

The key to distinguishing numbers from letters in Braille is the use of a special "Braille number sign." This sign, which might vary slightly depending on the language, is placed before the Braille characters for A to J to indicate that these characters are to be read as numbers.

The Braille number sign is typically represented by the combination of dots 3, 4, 5, and 6. When this sign precedes any of the first ten letters of the Braille alphabet, it transforms them into numbers. For example, the Braille symbol for the letter A (dot 1) becomes the number 1 when it is preceded by the number sign.

Here's how each number is represented in Braille:

  • 1: Number sign followed by dot 1 (A)
  • 2: Number sign followed by dots 1 and 2 (B)
  • 3: Number sign followed by dots 1 and 4 (C)
  • 4: Number sign followed by dots 1, 4, and 5 (D)
  • 5: Number sign followed by dots 1 and 5 (E)
  • 6: Number sign followed by dots 1, 2, and 4 (F)
  • 7: Number sign followed by dots 1, 2, 4, and 5 (G)
  • 8: Number sign followed by dots 1, 2, and 5 (H)
  • 9: Number sign followed by dots 2 and 4 (I)
  • 0: Number sign followed by dots 2, 4, and 5 (J)
Braille number from 1 to 5
Braille number from 6 to 0

Braille Punctuation

Braille incorporates a variety of punctuation marks, each represented by unique combinations of raised dots. These punctuation marks are essential for understanding the context and meaning of written Braille texts. Here are some of the main punctuation marks in Braille:

  • Period: Dots 2, 5, and 6
  • Comma: Dot 2
  • Question Mark: Dots 2, 3, 5, and 6
  • Exclamation Mark: Dots 2, 3, and 5
  • Colon: Dots 2, 5
  • Semicolon: Dots 2, 3, and 6
  • Quotation Marks (Opening and Closing): Dots 2, 3, 5 (used at both the beginning and end of a quotation)
  • Apostrophe: Dot 3
  • Hyphen: Dots 3 and 6

Missing the punctuation mark you are looking for? At the end of the article, we will give a complete overview of all punctuation marks that exist in Braille. 

Braille punctuations
Braille punctuations

Braille Code Versions

The versatility of the Braille alphabet and numbers extends beyond its basic alphabet and numbers to encompass various code versions, each tailored to specific languages, purposes, and complexities.

These versions demonstrate the adaptability of Braille to different linguistic needs and contexts. There are over 100 Braille codes used worldwide. Here are some notable Braille code versions:

  • Unified English Braille (UEB): Developed to unify different Braille codes, UEB is used in several English-speaking countries. It's designed to accommodate the full range of English orthography, including formats like email and web addresses.
  • AEB (American English Braille): This code is specifically tailored for American English. Similar to Standard English Braille but with some variations to better suit the American lexicon and usage. AEB includes its own set of contractions and symbols designed to efficiently represent the nuances of American English in Braille.
  • Grade 1 Braille: This is a direct substitution of standard alphabet characters for their Braille equivalents, without contractions. It's often used for labeling and beginner instruction.
  • Grade 2 Braille: More advanced than Grade 1, this version includes contractions — abbreviations for common words or groups of letters. It's widely used for books, publications, and personal writing.
  • Computer Braille: Designed specifically for coding and computer-related texts, this version utilizes 8-dot cells instead of the standard 6, allowing for a greater range of characters, including those necessary for programming languages.
  • Mathematics and Scientific Braille (Nemeth Code): This version is tailored for mathematical and scientific texts, encompassing symbols and notations used in these fields.

Other ways to use Braille

While Braille is primarily known as a system for reading and writing for the visually impaired, its applications extend far beyond these traditional uses. Here are some innovative and practical ways Braille is being utilized: 

  1. Technology Integration: Braille displays and keyboards allow visually impaired individuals to use computers, smartphones, and tablets effectively. These devices convert on-screen text into Braille characters and enable input through Braille-typed commands.
  2. Labeling and Signage: Braille is commonly used for labeling everyday items like medicine bottles, food packages, and elevator buttons. Public spaces often feature Braille signage for rooms, restrooms, and exits to aid navigation.
  3. Education Tools: Braille is crucial in education for visually impaired students. Textbooks, worksheets, and educational materials are often available in Braille, allowing for an inclusive learning environment.
Braille message on medicine box

Braille Resources

This is a small list of Braille resources we recommend for your Braille learning journey: 

  1. Our “How to read Braille Guide”. This comprehensive guide is the perfect way to get started on your Braille learning journey. 
  2. PharmaBraille’s full list of all Braille symbols. 
  3. Perkin’s list of Braille symbols.
  4. The Hable One Braille Keyboard is a great way to start your journey of learning Braille. This device is a perfect way to start learning Braille and making it useful at the same time. 
  5. The Braillist Foundation, they have some amazing Braille learning courses that we support. 

FAQ

Is the Braille Alphabet the same in every country? 

While the basic structure of the Braille alphabet is universally consistent, there are variations in its use across different languages and countries. These variations are due to the unique characters and symbols in each language.

For instance, accented letters in French or ñ in Spanish have distinct Braille representations. However, the fundamental dot configurations for the standard alphabet and numbers remain largely the same globally.

How long does it typically take to become proficient in Braille?

The time it takes to become proficient in Braille varies depending on the individual's learning pace and the frequency of practice. On average, consistent learners can grasp the basics within a few months, but mastering Braille, especially with contractions, might take a year or more.

Can Braille be used for languages other than English?

Yes, Braille has been adapted for numerous languages worldwide, including non-Latin scripts like Arabic and Chinese. Each language has its Braille code system to accommodate unique characters and linguistic rules.

Is Braille relevant in the age of digital technology?

Absolutely. Braille remains relevant and essential, even in our digital age. It offers a tactile reading and writing experience that screen readers and audio technology cannot replicate, maintaining literacy skills and providing a unique form of accessibility for the visually impaired.

When it comes to learning Braille, the hardest part is starting. If you got this far, you nailed this part! You now have a good understanding of the Braille alphabet and numbers. Are you ready to take up the next challenge?

We advise you to check our “How to write Braille” or “How to Read Braille” article next. Do you have any specific questions, we are always here to help! Reach out to our team of experts at support@iamhable.com and we are happy to assist you. Now it’s up to you, you’ve got this! 

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Freek van Welsenis
CEO | Co-Founder

Hable comes from a personal inspiration. With siblings with a disability and my parents working in this space, this is my area of interest. I have a huge passion for applying tech so people with disabilities can participate.

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Order Hable One today and experience the difference.

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