Braille still as vital as ever, says Dalkeith woman with sight loss

Anne Findlay (63) from Penicuik, who was born with congenital glaucoma.Anne Findlay (63) from Penicuik, who was born with congenital glaucoma.
Anne Findlay (63) from Penicuik, who was born with congenital glaucoma.
Braille, the system of raised dots that has enabled blind people to read and write, is as vital as ever, despite the advances of new technology, says a Midlothian woman with sight loss.

Today (Tuesday, January 4) marks the anniversary of the birth of its inventor Louis Braille (1809-52), the Frenchman who himself became blind at the age of four.

Anne Findlay (63) from Penicuik was born with congenital glaucoma. "I learned to use braille at age five when I was sent to blind school," she said.

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"The doctors knew that the wee bit of sight I had would deteriorate.

"I use braille to read personal things like my bank-statements, and I write in braille as well. Braille allows me to keep my independence and control over my confidential documents. Also, it's nice to get communications sent to you in braille to be able to read them yourself.

"New technology is fine but it upgrades so often that's difficult to keep up with. I hope braille will continue to be used as a medium for people with sight loss to communicate."

The braille system is based on variations of six dots, arranged in two columns of three. Variations of the six dots represent the letters of the alphabet, punctuation and groups of letters. There are 63 combinations of these six dots.

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James Adams, director of the country's leading sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said: “The invention of braille is often compared to the invention of the printing press for sighted people. For thousands across the world, braille means independence, knowledge and freedom.

"It also lets you read out loud - a bedtime story to children, a presentation at work, sing in a choir from braille music sheets, or play games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and cards where there are braille versions available.

"Modern braille-writing equipment can connect seamlessly with personal computers and mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, while text-reading software can vocalise back to you what you've inputted. Dots, letters, numbers - it's all just input information to a computer."

The charity RNIB has 10,400 braille library master-files it can produce a book from. It also transcribes magazines into braille.