Sun, 22 Oct 2000

A braille website creates a breakthrough

By Lim Tri Santosa

BANDUNG (JP): Should we look for the greatest benefactor of the visually impaired; the individual who has given them a perpetual source of delight and profit, the choice would certainly fall upon Louis Braille. Louis Braille invented the embossed system which has borne his name ever since, and which enables the blind to read and write easily with their fingers. His magic wand was a group of six raised dots in which the vertical line consists of three dots, and the horizontal of two. A combination of these dots in various positions produces characters to each of which we assign a particular meaning, just as the seeing do to the characters of printed ink.

It is amazing how six dots can be combined in such a way to represent so many things such as letters, punctuation marks, signs, numbers, musical notes and accents in foreign languages. There is no difference between the way the blind and the seeing read except that the blind use one sense-channel while the seeing use another.

Many people have learned braille so as to be able to write letters to their blind friends which they could read by themselves. A letter always seems to belong more to the recipient if he/she can read it than it does when someone reads it to him/her. Imagine if you read your lover's letter by yourself and if you heard the letter read by someone else.

Louis Braille's invention was revolutionary because for the first time blind people had the ability to communicate with the outside world. Braille serves the same function for the blind as print does for the sighted, and with a little creative thinking it can be just as versatile. Once you start thinking creatively about how your braille skills can serve you better, you will be amazed at how versatile Louis Braille's little invention actually can be.

Here is a useful site for getting started. Soon you will wonder how you ever functioned without braille. Your only boundaries will be imposed by the limits of your imagination.

The site is called, the only free braille transcribing service on the Internet. Located in Oakland, California, HotBraille was founded by a group of Web and braille enthusiasts with the mission of providing anyone with free braille. With you can send letters in braille to your visually impaired friends.

Once you register as a member, you can use the services as many times as you want and send to as many people as you want, as long as you limit each letter to 2 pages, which is equivalent to approximately 250 words, or 1 print page. HotBraille will print the message you provide on the screen, convert it to braille, and send it for free.

All letters bearing a "Free Matter for the Blind" stamp the U.S. Postal Service will send them as third class postage. It does not incur any postage costs as they provide the service for free. When you want to send or receive physical braille you need look no further than Using "Send Braille" feature you compose an address and a message on their web site.

HotBraille will transcribe your message in braille and send it to the specified address.

You can use the community search tool to browse for members and search for a user that fits certain criteria you specify. The membership directory compiles people's interests, country, gender, hobbies, likes and dislikes so potential pen pals can meet from around the globe.

The site helps visitors to understand and learn about the braille language. Here you can learn about the alphabet, and communicate with others who have an interest in communicating in braille. There are some online games that can help teach you this language. You can even see what your name looks like in braille.

Enjoy your visit to this site. It is an educational and informative site, and shows how the Internet can help to get a message across the globe physically. Don't forget to tell your visually impaired friends, or family members, to use this site as their own personal transcribing service. Now, the visually impaired are able not only to read braille in a book, but also receive braille letters from pen pals.