Braille, the system that revolutionized the universe of the blind

The United Nations General Assembly agreed in November 2018 to commemorate for the first time the World Braille Day January 4, a date that coincides with the birth of its creator.

BrailleBlind since childhood as a result of a domestic accident, he created this method of communication of raised dots in 1825, when he was only 16 years old, from another less evolved system that had been used by the French military man and adventurer Charles Barbier de la Serre , years before.

One of these blind people who Braille transformed his life is Pedro García Domínguez (Salamanca, 1946), who was a professor and philologist, who offers his testimony in an interview on the occasion of this commemoration.

Domínguez retired 25 years ago to a beautiful medieval town in Salamanca, Mogarraz, where he has lived with his wife Concha since he lost practically all vision.ófono-en-la-mano-2cfbcbcf.jpg


January 4 is World Braille Day. (Shutterstock)

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“You have to apply yourself, but you learn quickly”

– What does it mean for a philologist who has dedicated a large part of his life to writing and reading to lose his vision? At what age did it happen?

– 25 years ago I lost my sight, although that happened progressively due to a disease in my retinas. I was a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and a philologist in the Department of Urgent Spanish of the Efe Agency, created by the academic of the Language Fernando Lázaro Carreter, and losing my vision meant that I abandoned everything I loved and retired early.

Not being able to read my books or write caused me great frustration. A person who loses his vision at age 50 is a drama and like a feeling of losing everything. Even friends!

Look, in my case being a writer and a great reader, who was all my life, and blind, leads me to the phrase of the Mexican poet, Francisco de Icaza, who in one of his writings referred: “there is nothing in life like the shame of being blind in Granada ”.

– When did you start using the system Braille? How did you feel the first time you used this system and how did it affect your life?

– I started using it when I was 50 years old when I lost my vision almost completely, and I assure you that it was definitive and gave me back the dignity and pride that I had lost.

It is something prodigious. I have “seen” (laughs Domínguez who has a minimum of vision left in one eye) blind read with Braille and it is dizzying, because the sheets slide almost at the same time that they pass the hand through the characters with great ease. It is something incredible, although I need to go character by character to read or write.

He knew the method before, but did not use it. And now yes of course. But you have to have a special machine for it.

– Who taught you to handle this method?

– Professors that the National Organization of Blind Spaniards (ONCE).

– Do you remember the first word you wrote or read with this method?

– Yes! The first was the ONCE! It is the best organization for our collective and a pioneer in the world. Blind There are in all countries, but none protects you as the ONCE does in Spain.

In Latin America, I know that, with your help, they have created wonderful institutions for the blind that do not even exist in Europe. I would like to see how they work and I will go sometime to Peru to Venezuela or to Mexico.

I will tell you more. I do not know of any organization of blind in France with the projection of the ONCE despite the origin of the founder of the Braille.

– Is it difficult to learn this literacy system? How long did it take you to master it?

– You have to apply. But you learn fast. It is like a six point game and the absence or presence of the point adds value to the character. It is easy when you learn. I still admire myself every time I see a blind man read a page just by moving his hand up and down. The typewriter is peculiar and small and strikes a sheet. It is very interesting.

Braille, the system that revolutionized the universe of the blind


A worker reviews a text in Braille system in Jakarta, Indonesia. (EFE / EPA / ADI WEDA)

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Six points that open millions of blind people to written communication

– Has the Braille obsolete with the appearance of new technologies or do you consider that it is still a good tool?

— The method Braille It is an essential tool because it is very small and can be written anywhere. It is still the great system despite the new technologies.

The audiobook and the voice keyboard are other facilities that we have, but they are not a literacy system and I insist that a blind person can read a page just by passing his hand.

However, if I find a disadvantage and it is that a huge space is needed to store the books for blind with the system Braille because they are very bulky. A good library in this method will not fit anywhere because of the space it needs. By cons, the typewriter is very small.

Before losing my sight, I saw the bookstore owned by a blind man in Madrid whose shelves occupied the entire house, which impressed me.

The Braille is a dotted reading and writing system that has been adopted in blind education programs around the world.

It is based on the combination of six raised points on a smooth surface, arranged in two columns of three each, which are easily perceived with the fingertip.

It is not a language, but an alphabet with which -with those six points- the blind can form, both letters and numbers or signs in any language, which makes a communication method universal only comparable to the milestone that it meant for humanity the invention of the printing press.

The method also makes it possible to create symbols braille for particular spellings, punctuation marks, mathematics or musical scores.

In 2009 and to better adapt to new technologies, the Braille computing, which is made up of eight points (two columns of 4), expanding the combinations from 64 to 256.

In the case of Spain, around a million citizens have some type of visual impairment due to complications of the retina and some 73,000 suffer from total blindness.