ABC of braille

Braille is a tactile form of reading and writing used by people who are blind or vision impaired. It was invented by Louis Braille in 1829.

Braille is based on a six dot cell with two columns of three, like the six on a dice. The dots in the first column are numbered 1, 2 and 3 from the top down; and the dots in the second column are numbered 4, 5 and 6 from the top down. By using any number of these six dots 63 different patterns can be formed (64 combinations are possible if you include no dots).

Braille letters do not resemble printed letters. Each letter is either a single dot or a combination of dots. For example the top left dot, or dot one by itself represents the letter "a".

Example of a Braille Cell

Grade I uncontracted braille can be used for independence and spot reading and writing purposes such as messages, shopping lists, phone numbers and labelling.

Grade II, contracted Braille, is used for more extensive reading and writing such as note-taking and recreational reading.

The Braille alphabet

The braille alphabet is made up of 26 different combinations of the braille cell, each combination of dot(s) representing a letter of the alphabet.

The braille alphabet is made up of three sequences. The first sequence for letters a to j use the top and middle rows, cells 1, 2, 4 and 5 (below):

Braille alphabet a-j

The second sequence for letters k to t are formed by adding dot 3 to the first 10 letters:

Braille alphabet k-t

The remaining letters, with the exception of "w", are formed by adding dots 3 and 6 to the first 5 letters of the braille alphabet:

Braille alphabet u-z

Numbers and punctuation can also be represented in braille.


The numeral sign is a braille cell using dots 3, 4, 5 and 6. When this sign precedes the letters a - j it indicates that the letters represent numbers. For example:

Numbers in Braille

Examples of numbers in braille:

Examples of Braille numbers

As depicted above the numeral sign only needs to be used at the beginning of the number, not before each number within a number.


Punctuation in Braille

Examples of punctuation:

Examples of Braille punctuation in use

Braille is taught in two levels - grade one and grade two. Grade one braille spells each word out letter for letter (uncontracted braille), grade two braille uses “contractions” to shorten words. Both grade one and grade two are taught at Vision Australia. For further information read braille training for adults.

Examples of Braille shortcuts
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