Decoding Braille

January 8 (I checked my IG post) was the day I figured out how to memorize the basic Braille alphabet and numbers, and some of the punctuation marks. I don’t know why it took me so long to focus on it but when I did, it just took me about an hour. I studied each code and I had a eureka moment. Since learning Braille has been one of my bucket list items, I wondered why it took me so long to delve into it.

Last month I had the privilege of sharing my discovery to the Women’s Club group of my Church congregation. I was also helped by someone who was blind since he was 13 (he’s in his senior years now) and he lent us the props and even bought new Braille paper for the presentation I told him about. He also lent 2 pairs of slate and stylus. Before my presentation that evening, he demonstrated how to use the tools. You write (punch) from right to left and you read the other side from left to right.

Braille slate and stylus

After punching, this is the reading side.

Braille characters consist of 6 imaginary dots, 2 across by 3 down. Where the dots are positioned tells what character it is.

It is easy to find a copy of the Braille code online. Something like this:

A copy from Wikipedia.

The first 10 are letters A-J and numbers 1-0. You prefix a code of flipped “L” to signify that the following code is a number. Letters K-T is another set of 10 characters but with the addition of the lower left dot (red). Then letters U-Z (except for W) added another lower right dot, thus, 2 lower dots (green). How the W was separated to follow the 10th code with just the lower right dot added, I have no idea and I have not searched yet.

Identifying the first, second, and third sets is easy. Memorizing the first 10 codes can be confusing. So here is my solution:

My cheat sheet.

If you look at a, b, and c, you start with the upper left corner (a), you go down (b), then right (c).

Now for d, e, and f, imagine your arms and hands in a sideways snake position (imagine Jackie Chan). Looking at the person, looking from left to right you have a Westward snake (d), a backslash on the body (e), and an Eastward snake (f).

For the letter g, imagine the torso as the square (four upper dots).

And the last set, imagine Arnie showing his Mr. Universe muscles. Again, looking from left to right, the first muscle arm (h) a forward slash on the body (i), and the other muscle arm (j).

So it’s the same with letters k-t but with an added lower left dot.

Letters u, v, x, y, z are just the first 5 (a-e) with both lower dots. As for w, it is like the j but with just the lower right dot added. I imagine that, though, as a fallen w to the right (check the cheat sheet).

So with this cheat sheet, you may be somewhere without the full cheat sheet like that from Wikipedia but at least with the imagery that I came up with, you can write it down from scratch and maybe figure out a book written in Braille. Or, if you have a blind friend who can write, offer that you would like to read and practice your new-found information.

All you have to remember is the following:

START, DOWN, RIGHT

SNAKE, BACKSLASH, SNAKE

TORSO

MUSCLE, SLASH, MUSCLE

The rest are easy.

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