Oct 10, 2011

Blind Louis Braille - Gave Reading to the Blind...

There was a time, not long ago, when most people thought that blind people could never learn to read.
 People thought that the only way to read was to look at words with your eyes.
A young French boy named Louis Braille thought otherwise. Blind from the age of three, young Louis desperately wanted to read. He realized the vast world of thought and ideas that was locked out to him because of his disability. And he was determined to find the key to this door for himself, and for all other blind persons.
At four o'clock in the morning of January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France, a local midwife eased tiny Louis Braille into the world.

Louis was the fourth child of his mother, Monique, and his father Simon, a leather worker. The pair formed a sturdy middle-class couple, devout and prosperous. But the boy appeared frail, so they arranged to have him baptized right away.

Louis quickly showed himself to be a bright-eyed child, prying into everything.

 The early death that had been feared for him did not happen. However, another disaster struck. Three-year-old Louis had been warned not to play with his father's tools. But temptation was strong. One day, when no one was looking, he took up a sharp knife and tried to cut a piece of leather. The blade slipped, gouging one of his eyes. The wound became dangerously infected. Then the infection spread to his good eye.

 Louis was blind.
The town's old priest died. Father Jacques Palluy took his place. He saw the potential of young Louis and began to teach him. Afterward, Palluy arranged for a newly appointed schoolmaster to instruct Louis. The good priest later got Louis admitted to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth.


At the institute, Louis proved to be an apt pupil.

 In addition to his regular subjects, he learned to play the piano. Playing religious music on the organ would become one of the joys of his later life.

Captain Barbier introduced a system of raised dots to the Royal Institute. It had serious flaws.

Young Louis was still just a boy, but he set out to solve the problems of Barbier's system. The captain was reluctant to accept suggestions from a boy, so Louis began to experiment at night.

At fifteen, he created the world's first really good system for blind reading.

At nineteen years of age, he developed a Braille system of writing music. At twenty, he was a teacher at his own school.

How did Braille do it?.. In Brief...

When he arrived at the special school for the blind, he asked his teacher if the school had books for blind persons to read. Louis found that the school did have books for the blind to read.
These books had large letters that were raised up off the page. Since the letters were so big, the books themselves were large and bulky. More importantly, the books were expensive to buy. The school had exactly fourteen of them.
Louis set about reading all fourteen books in the school library. He could feel each letter, but it took him a long time to read a sentence. It took a few seconds to reach each word and by the time he reached the end of a sentence, he almost forgot what the beginning of the sentence was about.
 Louis knew there must be a better way.
There must be a way for a blind person to quickly feel the words on a page. There must be a way for a blind person to read as quickly and as easily as a sighted person.
That day he set himself the goal of thinking up a system for blind people to read.
He would try to think of some alphabet code to make his 'finger reading' as quick and easy as sighted reading.
Now Louis was a tremendously creative person. He learned to play the cello and organ at a young age. He was so talented an organist that he played at churches all over Paris.
Music was really his first love. It also happened to be a steady source of income. Louis had great confidence in his own creative abilities.
He knew that he was as intelligent and creative as any other person his own age. And his musical talent showed how much he could accomplish when given a chance.
One day chance walked in the door. Somebody at the school heard about an alphabet code that was being used by the French army. This code was used to deliver messages at night from officers to soldiers. The messages could not be written on paper because the soldier would have to strike a match to read it.
The light from the match would give the enemy a target at which to shoot. The alphabet code was made up of small dots and dashes. These symbols were raised up off the paper so that soldiers could read them by running their fingers over them. Once the soldiers understood the code, everything worked fine.
Louis got hold of some of this code and tried it out. It was much better than reading the gigantic books with gigantic raised letters.
But the army code was still slow and cumbersome.
 The dashes took up a lot of space on a page. Each page could only hold one or two sentences. Louis knew that he could improve this alphabet in some way.
On his next vacation home, he would spend all his time working on finding a way to make this improvement. When he arrived home for school vacation, he was greeted warmly by his parents.
His mother and father always encouraged him on his music and other school projects. Louis sat down to think about how he could improve the system of dots and dashes. He liked the idea of the raised dots, but could do without the raised dashes.
As he sat there in his father's leather shop, he picked up one of his father's blunt awls.
The idea came to him in a flash.
The very tool which had caused him to go blind could be used to make a raised dot alphabet that would enable him to read.
The next few days he spent working on an alphabet made up entirely of six dots. The position of the different dots would represent the different letters of the alphabet.
Louis used the blunt awl to punch out a sentence.
He read it quickly from left to right. Everything made sense. It worked...



In writing of his own system, Louis never sought glory, happy to remind his readers how much he owed to Captain Barbier.

This, despite the fact that Barbier fought Louis' system and tried to get his own method made the official medium of instruction. Louis showed true saintliness. His frustration must have been great, because teachers, afraid of losing their jobs, also resisted the improved system.

Deeply modest, Louis hid his many acts of kindness and charity.

 These were often sacrificial.

 For instance, he gave up a position he loved, playing organ for a church, simply because another blind person needed it more than he did.

Louis developed tuberculosis in young manhood. As he lay dying he said,

 "God was pleased to hold before my eyes the dazzling splendours of eternal hope. After that, doesn't it seem that nothing more could keep me bound to the earth?"

He asked for final communion about midday on January 6, 1852.

 After three and a half hours of agony late that afternoon, he died at seven-thirty in the evening.


Modern Braille system:

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Braille’s Invention is of great usage today to take the Gospel to the Blind.....

There are missions which are involved in carrying the gospel to the millions who are blind by sight in this nation...

One such mission is

Mission To The Blind

A recent estimate says that in India there are 43 million blind and visually impaired people (18 million totally blind and 25 million visually impaired).

This accounts for 25% of the global blind population. The number keeps increasing due to various factors like accidents, neglect of medical treatment, home remedies, diseases, malnutrition etc. A major cause is cataract left untreated.

Blind people in India are not in the mainstream of the society. They are rejected, exploited, alienated and also considered a curse by those who believe it is a punishment for the person’s sins in his previous birth.

Mission to the Blind was formed in June 1992 to concentrate on the holistic development of the blind people. The organization was registered as a Trust with the government (No 606/92) and with the Income Tax Department for exemption of payment of tax for its income. The mission is registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs for receipt of funds from overseas. Mission To The Blind is also a member of the India Missions Association.

The Mission is governed by a National Board comprising of Christian leaders from different parts of the country. Currently, the Mission operates in eleven States of the country with a staff strength of 78 out of whom 17 are blind.

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