The Man Who Empowered the Blind


Louis Braille

Did you know that the braille system, which is used by blind people to read and write, was invented by a 15-year-old French boy? Louis Braille was the blind man who invented a system that allows blind people all over the world to live productive and independent lives.

Louis Braille was born in the small village of Coupvray near Paris, France on January 4, 1809, in a modest family. His father owned a leather craft workshop, and Louis loved to visit there while his father worked. When he was three years old, Louis attempted to use the awl (a sharp tool used on leather), but he had a serious accident. He poked his eye with the awl! His injured eye became infected, and the infection spread to his other eye. By the time he was four years old, he was totally blind. Braille’s family believed strongly in the importance of education, however, and he was taught to read, with the help of his father, who carved the letters of the alphabet for him in wood.

Despite his inability to see, Louis was a bright and inquisitive child. He started going to the village school when he was about eight years old. He was one of the brightest students in the class, but he could only acquire a small amount of knowledge. He couldn’t read or write and the school didn’t have the resources to teach him. If he hadn’t mastered those skills, he would have been forced to beg on the roads, as many blind people were at the time.

With the help of his father and the local priest, Louis was admitted at the National Institute for Blind Children in Paris, the world’s first school for the blind. He went away to school when he was ten years old, where he was the youngest student. The school was cold, damp, and very tough, but Louis studied and worked hard.

There were only fourteen books to be read at the school for blind children. The books had raised letters that were hard to find out, but Louis read them all and learned many things, including music. He’s learned to play piano, organ, and cello. He eventually played in churches across Paris.

In 1821, a soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school and spoke about the method he had developed called “Night Writing.” He had designed it for soldiers to use at night so they wouldn’t have to speak to each other and give away their location. It used 12 raised dots positioned in different combinations to represent different sounds.

Louis, however, experimented on it and adapted it to a six-dot system. It has been simplified and made easier to use. He wrote a book on it, Method of Writing Words, Music and Plain Song by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged by Them. He has worked on the system for many years and has also developed a code for music and mathematics.

Louis Braille has been a well-respected teacher at the Institute. His braille system was not taught at the Institute when he was living. It was not universally known in his lifetime, but he continued to work on it, and he acknowledged its significance to the blind.

Louis Braille died of tuberculosis on January 6, 1852, at the age of 43. He was laid to rest in his hometown of Coupvray. Louis Braille’s grave was transferred to the Pantheon in Paris, where national heroes are enshrined, on the one-hundredth anniversary of his death in 1952. His hands are now buried in Coupvray as a token of Louis’ touch reading system as a tribute to his hometown.

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Louis Braille’s contribution to the lives of blind people was finally recognised by France and the rest of the world. In France, he became a hero, and he is now known for teaching blind people around the world to read and write.

Thinking About The Text | Textual Questions

Q1. How did little Louis lose his eyesight?

Ans. Louis lost his sight at the age of three as the result of an accident that occurred while playing with the tools his father used in his trade as a saddler.

Q2. How did the young blind Louis find his way to different places?

Ans. Louis walked with the help of a wooden cane which helped him to move to different places without facing many difficulties.

Q3. What helped him to excel in playing musical instruments?

Ans. He enrolled in some of the classes with a well-known mentor who helped him start the basics. He would also practise with complete focus whenever he had any free time and search the internet for online courses. Moreover, he never lost the chance to play the musical instrument in the company of his colleagues.

OR

Royal Institute for the Young Blind, Paris, helped Louis to excel in playing musical instruments.

Q4. How were, the blind taught reading when Louis Braille started studying at the Institute for the Young Blind?

Ans. He started his education by attending classes at the Village School, and at the age of ten, he was given a scholarship to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. At the Royal Institute, students were taught to read books that were embossed with printed letters.

Q5. What was Captain Barbier’s invention? How did it help Braille?

Ans. During the late 18th century, Charles Barbier de la Serre served in the French Army. He invented multiple kinds of shorthand, as well as “Ecriture Nocturne” (night writing) using embossed dots, which became the basis for what is now known as Braille.

Q6. Why were the authorities of the Institute for the Young Blind unwilling to accept Braille’s method?

Ans. The Institute for the Young Blind’s authorities were hesitant to embrace Braille’s method because people who could see were pleased with the old methods and saw no reason to change, and most printers of old-style embossed books were afraid of losing business if they followed his model.

Q7. How did the concert prove to be a great event in Louis’ life?

Ans. The concert was a watershed moment in Louis’ life because all of his hard work paid off, and the schools decided to implement his system. The young girl who had been taught braille by Louis and who gave concert held up her hand for silence. She then gave a speech about Braille and what his method had meant to her. “I beg you to applaud him, not me,” she said, “I play through his eyes.”
The next day the Paris newspapers were filled with headlines about Braille and his work for his blind pupils. So much interest was aroused that many schools eventually agreed to use his system.

Q8. Give the following biographical details about Louis Braille:

Louis Braille

1. Year of birth:
2. Father’s name:
3. Father’s occupation:
4. The year in which he joined the Institute for the Young Blind:
5. The year of graduation:
6. The year in which he made the system for the blind:
7. The year his system was introduced in the Institute:

Answers

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Louis Braille

  1. Year of birth: 1809
  2. Father’s name: Monsieur Braille
  3. Father’s occupation: Harnesser
  4. The year in which he joined the Institute for the Young Blind: 1819
  5. The year of graduation: 1827
  6. The year in which he made the system for the blind: 1829
  7. The year his system was introduced in the Institute: 1854

Language Work

A. Complete the following statements:

1. Blind people before and during the days of Louis Braille earned their bread by ————–.

2. The people of Coupvray were ————–. to Louis Braille when he became blind.

3. The reading method used by Louis Braille had limitations such as ————–.

4. Louis Braille was ————–. when Captain Barbier explained his new invention to him.

5. Louis Braille evolved a system in which one letter was distinguished from another by —————-.

6. Even when so many punched books were available for the blind, Louis Braille looked unhappy because —————-.

7. Louis Braille’s method of teaching the blind was called —————-.

Answers

  1. Blind people before and during the days of Louis Braille earned their bread by begging.
  2. The people of Coupvray were sympathetic/kind to Louis Braille when he became blind.

  3. The reading method used by Louis Braille had limitations such as errors cannot be erased.

  4. Louis Braille was overjoyed when Captain Barbier explained his new invention to him.

  5. Louis Braille evolved a system in which one letter was distinguished from another by a special combination of dots.

  6. Even when so many punched books were available for the blind, Louis Braille looked unhappy because it was not accepted by the authorities of the institute.

  7. Louis Braille’s method of teaching the blind was called Braille.

B. Read these sentences:

  1. The head of the school soon found that Louis quickly learned whatever was taught to him.
  2. A person can never be truly educated unless he can read.

In the above sentences, quickly and truly are adverbs. Now pick out at least five adverbs from the lesson and write them in the spaces below:

  1. ———– 2. ———– 3. ———–
  2. ———– 5. ———– 6. ———–

Answers: Adverbs from the lesson, are given below:

1. Blindly 2. Exactly 3. Readily 4. Quickly 5. Mostly 6. Truly

C. Give one word for the following:

Answers:

1. A keyboard instrument
Ans. Piano
2. To move back
Ans. Retreat
3. To clap your hands to show appreciation
Ans. Applaud
4. A person who plays the piano
Ans. Pianist

D. Match the words with their opposites.

Words Opposites

1. tough – a. clumsy

2. forgive – b. fresh

3. weary – c. failure

4. nimble – d. calmness

5. tremendous – e. crooked

6. triumph – f. tender

7. excitement – g. ordinary

8. straight – h. punish

Answers:

WordsOpposites

1. tough – f. tender

2. forgive – h. punish

3. weary – b. fresh

4. nimble – a. clumsy

5. tremendous – g. ordinary

6. triumph – c. failure

7. excitement – d. calmness

8. straight – e. crooked

Grammar Work

Use of would and used to.

1. Louis would trace each letter over and over again.

2. So even a very short story would fill many heavy volumes.

In each of these sentences would is used to talk about repeated actions in the past. These repeated actions in the past could also be expressed by, used to. For instance, one would say,

Louis used to trace each letter over and over again.

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Used to is also employed while talking about past situations as in the following sentences:

1. She used to travel a lot when she was young.

2. There used to be a lot of trees on this road.

A. Rewrite the following sentences using used to and would. If both can be used in some cases, indicate the second alternative in the bracket.

1. This huge building was a coffee house.

Ans. This huge building used to be a coffee house

2. She helped the poor when she was at school.

Ans. She used to help the poor when she was at school.

3. I played football every day last year after office hours.

Ans. I used to play football every day last year after office hours.

4. When my sister was seven years old, she ate ice cream regularly, but now she does not like it at all.

Ans. When my sister was seven years old, she used to eat ice cream regularly, but now she does not like it at all. (would eat)

5. Her parents celebrated her birthday every year till she was five.

Ans. Her parents used to celebrate her birthday every year till she was five. (would)

6. Tinku never sang earlier but now he sings in almost every school function.

Ans. Tinku never used to sing earlier but now he sings in almost every school function.

7. My father smoked twenty cigarettes a day until two years ago but now he does not even touch them.

Ans. My father used to smoke twenty cigarettes a day until two years ago but now he does not even touch them. (would)

8. Whenever our English teacher was angry with us, he gave us a lot of homework.

Ans. Whenever our English teacher used to be angry with us, he gave us a lot of homework.

9. The main road facing my house was always empty a few years ago, but today it is awfully crowded.

Ans. The main road facing my house used to be always empty a few years ago, but today it is awfully crowded.

10. I drove very fast when I began to learn, driving.

Ans. I used to drive very fast when I began to learn driving. (would)

Let’s Talk

Discuss with your classmates the contribution of Louis Braille.

Let’s Write

As the head boy/ girl of the Roshni School for the Blind, J&K, you have been asked by the editor of the school magazine to contribute a brief biographical sketch of Louis Braille for the first issue of the magazine. Using the information collected in question 8 of Thinking about the Text, write a biographical sketch of Louis Braille in a brief paragraph.

Answer: ‘Louis Braille’ was born on 4th January 1809 in Coupvray in France, into a modest family, and lost his sight at the age of three as the result of an accident that occurred while playing with the tools his father used in his trade as a
saddler. Braille’s family believed strongly in the importance of education, however, and he was taught to read, with the help of his father, who carved the letters of the alphabet for him in wood.

Louis Braille himself was blind and worked in a blind school in Paris. He perfected a system of reading and writing especially for the blind. This writing is called Braille. The system that he developed in 1834 was not used much until about the time of his death.

Louis Braille died on 6th January 1852 at the age of 43. He will always be remembered for his system remains known worldwide simply as braille.

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