From his experience with Charles Barbier’s system of “night writing code” while still a child, in 1821 French educator and inventor Louis Braille developed the system that allowed blind people to read for the first time. Braille, himself, was blinded in an accident at the age of 3 and received his education at the French National Institute for the Blind.
Braille signage is now mandated by most Western governments as part of building code and product labeling. Signs with braille characters and raised tactile graphics and characters have to be installed if the sign identifies a permanent room or facility space including exits, or if the sign informs about functional spaces and accessible features of a facility. There are no regulations for marketing signs, temporary signs, company logos and the like, although use of braille and raised characters in these signs is also increasing.
Braille signage is produced on non-glare surfaces since glare and reflection are a special problem for visually impaired or legally blind people. Signs that have visual content have a high light-dark contrast between characters and background. They are produced in easy-to-read typeface, with no decorative, condensed or extended typefaces. The size of the type is a function of the distances they are likely to be viewed from. The braille and tactile pictogram elements of the sign are carefully located to be found easily by touch. Contracted braille (formerly called Grade 2 braille) is generally used in the braille signage.
The use of braille for general reading and literacy throughout the world has been steadily declining. It is now estimated that fewer than 10% of legally blind people read braille and just around 10% of blind children learn braille in school. Screen-readers for computers and smartphones that speak have widely replaced braille for general reading. Technology has been creating wonderful tools to convert visual text into sound. However, for the majority of blind people tactile building signs and product labeling has remained vitally important.
Brailliant Touch Australia is a national signage company, specializing in braille, tactile, and wayfinding signage in Australia and New Zealand. Please contact us to learn more.