Ever thought of learning Braille?

Chris Ellis typing on a Braille typewriter
Chris Ellis typing on a Braille typewriter
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A WEARSIDE blind woman is backing a campaign to raise awareness of Braille.

National Braille Week is running until January 11 and aims to give people a better understanding about its use in the UK.

Chris Ellis, member of the Sunderland and North Durham Royal Society for the Blind reading Braille

Chris Ellis, member of the Sunderland and North Durham Royal Society for the Blind reading Braille

Chris Ellis, 58, a member of the Sunderland and North Durham Royal Society for the Blind, said more people should be aware of it.

She said: “I think the week is a great idea.

“I have to be honest, I didn’t know about it, but it is a great way to raise awareness of Braille. More should be made of it.

“Braille is not used as much now, as computer technology is so advanced, with voice recognition and audio books and things.

Louis Braille

Louis Braille

“It is a shame, because for me, I prefer reading Braille to listening, as I can concentrate more on what I am reading.”

Chris has been blind since birth, and has been a member of the society for around 18 months.

She said: “I started to learn Braille when I was around five, at the Royal Victoria School in Newcastle. Using a Braille keyboard and embosser, she now produces things for others such as restaurant menus and Christmas cards.

Braille is now one of a variety of formats used by the visually impaired, but is the world’s only universal written code, and the Royal Blind Society says its Braille printing presses are busier than ever.

Chris, from Harraton, Washington, added: “I don’t really remember learning to read Braille, as such.

“But it is probably not anymore difficult than a normal child learning to read and write using standard letters.”

Throughout National Braille Week – organised by the Royal Blind Society – the tactile system of reading and writing will be celebrated with a unique exhibition of artwork by blind artists, and Braille messages from celebrities including Susan Boyle and Stephen Fry.

Blindness inspired creator

BRAILLE was developed by Louis Braille, pictured, who born on January 4, 1809, in the small French village of Coupvray near Paris.

He was accidentally blinded while playing with his father’s saddling tools, yet managed to carry on his education and was sent to the Royal Institution for the Blind in Paris.

Louis started to think about the idea of a tactile alphabet at this time too.

French army captain Charles Barbier de le Serre had already developed a basic system of raised dots for tactile reading and writing, called sonography, which he presented to the Institution for Blind Youth.

Louis set about using the system and eventually developed it, and in three years, by the age of 15, had developed the modern system of Braille.

It employs a six-dot “cells” system in two vertical lines and is based on normal spelling.

Louis Braille eventually became a teacher and died on January 6, 1852.