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Braille is a system for reading by touch. Each letter or symbol is represented by one to six raised dots within a small rectangular space called a Braille cell. Different arrangements of these dots indicate letters, numbers, punctuation and capitalization. At the advanced level, there are 189 different contractions and 76 short-form words used in Braille to reduce the space and paper needed to produce books in Braille and to increase reading speed. Braille can be used to transcribe prose, poetry, music, mathematics and science.
Braille is a very important communication tool that enables people who are blind and visually impaired to read for both pleasure and information. Braille users can record and access information at will. Braille also enables its users to communicate privately with each other. With proper training, dedication and practice, reading speeds in excess of two hundred words per minute are possible, and even much slower speeds are useful for day-to-day living. Knowledge of Braille not only enhances a person's enjoyment of life, but also provides a mechanism for competing in the workplace, thereby increasing a person's employment potential.
At the BSBP Training Center (a part of Michigan's Bureau of Services for Blind Persons), students learn to read and write Braille using both the mechanical Braille writer and the slate and stylus. Students who become proficient in standard Braille are also introduced to new technologies that record and reproduce Braille and/or speech electronically. Students who have a difficult time discerning standard Braille may still find jumbo Braille useful for recording addresses and phone numbers and labeling things such as canned goods, medications, and clothing.