Online Accessibility Training

General Accessibility Tool:
Braille and Large Print

Definition: Braille

Universal icon for BrailleA young Frenchman named Louis Braille first developed braille around 1820. He created braille by modifying a system of night writing, which was intended for use on board ships. He did this work as a very young man and had it complete by the time he was about 18. He and his friends at the school for the blind that he attended found that reading and writing dots was much faster than reading raised print letters that could not be written by hand at all. The development of this system by young Louis Braille is now recognized as the most important single development in making it possible for people who are blind to get a good education.

It took more than a century, however, before people accepted braille as an excellent way for the blind to read and write. Even today many people underestimate the effectiveness of braille. While tapes and records are enjoyable, braille is essential for note taking and helpful for studying such things as math, spelling, and foreign languages.

Experienced braille readers read braille at speeds comparable to print readers--200 to 400 words a minute. Such braille readers say that the only limitation of braille is that there isn't enough material available.

Braille consists of arrangements of dots that make up letters of the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks. The basic braille symbol is called the braille cell and consists of six dots arranged in the formation of a rectangle, three dots high and two across. Other symbols consist of only some of these six dots. The six dots are commonly referred to by number, according to their position in the cell.

There are no different symbols for capital letters in braille. Capitalization is accomplished by placing a dot 6 in the cell just before the letter that is capitalized. The first ten letters of the alphabet are used to make numbers. These are preceded by a number sign, which is dots 3-4-5-6. Thus, 1 is number sign a; 2 is number sign b; 10 is number sign a-j and 193 is number sign a-i-c.

Adapted from “What is Braille and What does it mean to be Blind,” National Federation of the Blind Web site.

Definition: Large Print

Universal icon for Large PrintLarge print means 18-point type. But converting documents into large-print copies requires more than choosing "enlarge" on the photocopier. If you have the technology to create print materials and you follow the instructions below, you can make your print materials accessible to people with some usable sight. Or you may choose to hire a transcription service provider to convert these documents for you.

How to Convert Print to Large-Print Documents
Bear in mind that conversion will probably triple the length of a document.

  • Font is 18-point Arial with single spacing
  • Text is left-justified and in upper and lower case
  • Use of italics, bold, and underlining is kept to a minimum
  • Hyphenation at the ends of lines is kept to a minimum
  • Paper is non-glossy and heavy to prevent show-through
  • Construct tables carefully to allow tracking from one column to the next
  • Minimize use of parentheses ( )
  • Don’t crowd text onto the page, and keep the number of pages to a minimum

(From Association of the Science and Technology Centers Website, used with permission,


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