Plaster bust of Louis Braille by Étienne Leroux with his eyes closed and wearing a jacket and perhaps a shawl against the chill sits on a pedestal with a black background.

9 Braille and His Invention (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

In the previous chapter, “Performing Enlightenment,” Godin examined the origins—historical and philosophical—of the first school for the blind. We continue the tale of the early systematic education of the blind that began in Paris and quickly spread around the world using, at  first, embossed Latin characters and, later, a point system. This system, first invented by Charles Barbier a captain in Napoleon’s army was soon much improved by Braille. In this chapter we learn about the ingeneous invention and the resistance to it by many sighted teachers, then and now. WE also wonder why so few blind people learn Braille today and how and why we might go about changing that reality.


“Braille and His Invention” Endnotes


  1. Ross, Journey into Light,
  2. I’m referring here to the physical ink-print book; there was no ebook version when I bought it (I believe there still is not). It is available at NLS in braille and
  3. Mellor, Louis Braille,
  4. Mellor, Louis Braille,
  5. Mellor, Louis Braille,
  6. These paragraphs on Braille and Barbier, as well as the next section, on learning braille with Jewel, are adapted from my Catapult piece “Reading Blind.”
  7. National Federation of the Blind, “The Braille Literacy Crisis in America.”
  8. Mervosh, “Lego Is Making Braille Bricks. They May Give Braille Literacy a Needed Lift.” Although the Lego Braille Bricks (which are very expensive and available only to educational institutions) can not alone dismantle the pervasive systemic problems facing braille literacy in our schools, they may help to mitigate the isolation that blind kids sometimes feel by offering an opportunity for blind and sighted kids to play with one another and learn from one As Danielson put it: “With these LEGO bricks, blind and sighted children will be able to play together, and that will sort of take away the sense of otherness, and the sense of being different.”
  9. Mervosh, “Lego Is Making Braille Bricks.”
  10. Mellor, Louis Braille, 97–99.
  11. Mellor, Louis Braille,
  12. Rubin, Do You Dream in Color?
  13. Rubin, Do You Dream in Color?
  14. Caitlin Hernandez shared with me the text of her keynote speech that she read for the 2019 CTEBVI (California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired) annual
  15. Russell, To Catch an Angel,
  16. American Foundation for the Blind, “Movie Magic: Helen Keller in Paris to Honor Louis Braille, ” Quoted from the transcript, itself translated from the French.
  17. New York Times, A Century of Louis Braille.”
  18. Rosenblum, See What I’m Saying,



“Its inventor, Louis Braille, blinded by accident at the age of three years, became first a pupil and then a teacher at the National Institution for the Blind in Paris, which was the parent of all such schools. At the age of sixteen he had worked out his alphabetical system, boldly addressing it to the finger only, not at all to the eye; and he had supplied a slate to write it on. The whole world of educated blind people uses it today, practically as he left it. Next to Valentin Haüy himself, the founder of the first school for the blind, we consider Louis Braille our greatest benefactor.”

–Helen Keller, Midstream

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