Louis Braille

by Brett from San Diego

A common portrait of Louis Braille. (http://www.english-online.at/society/braille/louis_braille.jpg)
A common portrait of Louis Braille. (http://www.english-online.at/society/braille/louis_braille.jpg)

“What I am looking for is not “out there”, it is in me”. (Helen Keller) Everybody is looking for something, but only some find what they are looking for. Some people don’t realize that what they are looking for is within them. What happens when you can’t look because you can’t see? Do you give up because the odds are against you? Louis Braille certainly did not. When he was three, Louis Braille got into an accident in his father’s workshop with an awl, a tool with a long, pointed spike, leaving him blind in one eye. His blind eye quickly became infected, which then spread to the other eye causing him to become totally blind. The chances of Louis to become the man as we know him to be today were very slim to none because of his disabilities. However, he overcame his disability, and then, he dedicated his life to discovering a way for blind people to read and to become independent. Thus, Louis solved one of the world’s greatest problems, and with that, he made himself a hero.

Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, a small town in France on January 4, 1809. He had a normal life until he was three years old, when he had his tragic and life-changing accident. Since becoming blind, most everybody gave up on him becoming well-educated. Louis started taking matters into his own hands. He spent most of his life working hard on his studies, which all paid off, when he was ten and received a scholarship to the National Institute of Blind Youth. Braille graduated and decided to stay and become a teacher. In 1835, Braille was diagnosed in his twenties with tuberculosis, but still was dedicated to developing his invention, and lived for about 17 years longer. He died two days after his birthday on January 6, 1852; he was only 43 years old when he passed.

One of the most amazing accomplishments of Louis Braille is that he was able to overcome his disability and inspire thousands with his proven independence. When Louis invented the Braille Coding System, he gave the gift of independence and reading to every blind person in the world. Incredibly, Louis published his first book, written in Braille, at the age of 15. Not only was he being independent and keeping up with his peers, he was exceeding both the blind and seeing kids in academics and accomplishments. His invention would eventually help the world, but during this time, he was focused on helping the blind kids at his school. “Now practically every country in world uses Braille. Braille books have double-sided pages, which saves a lot of paper. Braille signs help the blind get around public spaces. And, most important, blind people can communicate independently without needing print.” (“Louis Braille”.AFB) Only a handful of people can create an invention of such magnitude. And, of those, only a percentage by the age of 15, yet only one did all this being blind. The success of his invention, to date, is the only proof needed to show how he overcame his disability, who has set a place for himself in history, with title “hero”.

Louis Braille dedicated his life to liberating the blind from their dependence on others. While he was teaching, he spent “so much of his life in such poor and damp conditions” which probably contributed to Louis Braille contracting tuberculosis in the twenties.”. (“Louis Braille.RNIB) He stayed in these living conditions to teach the blind kids even though it was killing him. Helping the children to become independent was more important to Louis than his own life because he believed that was his purpose. He also believed, “All those years ago Louis Braille decided that it was crucial that he should be able to read and above all else to be able to write down his thoughts”. Thus, his passion and dedication to reading were his sole life’s purpose, knowing that he had to develop a way to learn to read for himself and other blind people. He knew the importance of words and ideas, and reading was a basic necessity that he could not live without. He felt the world needed to hear his ideas and thoughts as well as others, and his creation would offer these opportunities to all even the disabled. When Louis was on his deathbed, he was at peace, because he felt that he had fulfilled his purpose on the earth.

The creativity and intelligence of Louis Braille was the foundation that made it possible that his invention of the Braille Coding System could adapt to the needs that had to be met, which made the system simple, but genius, and thus, why Braille could be taught to everyone. In 1812, when Louis was about 12 years old, a former soldier, Charles Barbier visited Louis’s school. Barbier had created an invention that was similar to Louis’s except Barbier’s invention was for soldiers to communicate at night. Louis took this difficult code, and made it easier to learn and more efficient. “Few inventions have been as simple yet liberating as Braille”. (Blunkett) Braille’s new, innovative system became much more popular and useful because it wasn’t just for soldiers, but for everyday people. “Louis first published the new Braille alphabet in 1829 and revised it in 1937, including the letters from the French alphabet, mathematical symbols, and even musical notation was in there”. (Ma’Ayan) Another difference between the two inventions was that Louis also invented a way to write using the Braille code. “He had a device, a grooved slate, to hold the paper, and a sliding ruler to guide the stylus. The ruler was pierced by little windows. By positioning the stylus in these openings, the blind person could punch dots across the page with precision” (Ma’Ayan). With the finished system, Braille accomplished his goal in life, but only Braille’s characteristics of passion, dedication, creativity, and intelligence could make this invention not only work but also change the lives of every blind person after him in a better way.

Louis Braille suffered a tragedy at a young age and became blind. But he did not let it keep him from his destiny. He was driven to conquer his disability not only for himself but for all of humanity. Thus he developed a system so that he could read and learn and teach. He overcame his disability, dedicated his life to his invention and inspired the world to never give up. Everything Louis Braille has ever done will prove that he is the definition of a hero.

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