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What are the Types of Braille?

What are the Types of Braille?

There are two commonly used types of braille: Type 1 and Type 2 (also known as Grade 1 and Grade 2 respectively). Type 1 is a direct correlation to the English alphabet and is typically learned first. Type 2, also known as contracted braille, is more frequently used because it combines some words and common used phrases, making for faster reading. Braille has changed much throughout the years, and is still evolving today! Read on to learn more.

The History of Braille

Before braille, there was “night writing” that originated in the early 1800s from the French military. Rather than using lamps to read written messages in the dark, night writing was a tactile-based method that allowed troops to remain hidden from the enemy.

Braille we know today were originally created by Louis Braille and were based closely on this early military code. Louis made the initial transition to Grade 1 braille so that each character could be felt in one motion, making reading much faster. Over time, hand motions changed to raised cell of dots containing rows of 2 by 12 to rows of 2 by 6. In 1860, braille made its way to America following the adaptation of contracted braille where groups of dots represented frequently used groupings of letters or entire words. 

The two types of braille most used today (1 and 2, also known as non-contracted and contracted, or Grade 1 and 2 respectively) may seem very similar at first glance given they both use a series of raised dots to represent letters and punctuation. However, they serve two vastly different writing styles.

What is Non-Contracted Braille (Type 1)?

Type 1 is “non-contracted” which means that each cell of dots represents a single letter or punctuation mark. This is more often used when learning to read braille. Each letter, number, or punctuation mark is represented by a series of raised dots. However, due to its large size, it is difficult to fit full paragraphs of Type 1 braille onto a single page.

What is Contracted Braille (Type 2)?

The second of the two types of braille, Grade 2 (also known as Type 2 contracted) is a more condensed form of braille that is used in books, magazines, and Green Dot signs. It uses the same systems of dots as non-contracted braille. However, it combines some dot characters to create efficient common compound words or letter patterns such as “for” or “wh”. 

Types of Braille: Braille letters diagram

What are the Braille Requirements for ADA Signage? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides further information regarding types of braille to be used on signs. The ADA requires Grade 2 contracted braille in section 703.3 braille. These specifications include aspects such as the dimensions of the braille dots, their spacing, and more regarding the visual properties and location of the sign. 

Required Measurements of Braille

  1. The diameter of the base of a dot must be 1.5mm to 1.6mm
  2. The distance between two dots  in the same cell must be 2.3mm to 2.5mm
  3. The distance between corresponding dots in adjacent cells must be 6.1mm to 7.6 mm
  4. The height of dots must be between 0.6mm and 0.9mm
  5. The distance between corresponding dots from one cell directly below another must be between 10mm and 10.2mm

Required Positioning of Braille on Signage

  1. Braille should be below the corresponding text and separated by at least 9.5mm from all characters, borders, and decorations. 
  2. The braille signage should be located at least 48 inches above the ground and at most 60 inches above the ground. These measurements are based on the lowest and highest character on the sign respectively. 

Green Dot Sign® meets all of these standards ensuring your building meets all ADA signage requirements.  If you are interested in learning about general ADA sign requirements we have great guide to review. 

Global Standards of Braille Signage 

Outside of the United States, countries such as Canada, Australia, and many more have similar regulations defining their own types of braille. The International Council on English Braille has further information on specific details such as the adoption of the “Accessible Design – Application of braille on signage, equipment and appliances” in the UK. In countries outside of the United States, it is most common to see them using Grade 2 uncontracted Braille with minor specifications varying between. 

What are the Required Specifications and Measurements of Braille Signage in Australia?

  1. Tactile characters must be raised or embossed to a height of not less than 1 mm and not more than 1.5 mm.
  2. Sentence case (upper case for the first letter of each main word and lower case for all other letters) must be used for all tactile characters; and
    1. upper case tactile characters must have a height of not less than 15 mm and not more than 55 mm; and
    2. lower case tactile characters must have a height of 50% of the related upper case characters.
  3. Tactile characters, symbols, and the like, must have rounded edges.
  4. The entire sign, including any frame, must have all edges rounded.
  5. The background, negative space, or fill of signs must be of matt or low sheen finish.
  6.  The characters, symbols, logos, and other features on signs must be matt or low sheen finish.
  7. The minimum letter spacing of tactile characters on signs must be 2 mm.
  8. The minimum word spacing of tactile characters on signs must be 10mm.
  9. The thickness of letter strokes must be not less than 2 mm and not more than 7 mm.
  10. All tactile text must be left-justified, except that single words may be center justified.
  11. All tactile text must be Arial typeface.

This information is from the Federal Register of Legislation, section D4.3.

What are the Required Specifications and Measurements of Braille Signage in Canada?

Canada does not have any federal legislation regarding braille signage, although they do have these recommendations made by Braille Literacy Canada. 

  1. Braille dots should have a domed or rounded shape – make sure they are not pointy or flat.
  2. The spherical radius of each dot should be 0.75-0.80mm. The base diameter of each dot should be 1.5-1.6mm.
  3. Each dot should have a height of 0.6-0.9mm.
  4. The horizontal and vertical distance between two dots in the same cell should be 2.3-2.5mm.
  5. The distance between corresponding dots in adjacent cells should be 6.1-7.6mm.
  6. Distance between corresponding dots from one cell to the cell below should be 10-10.2mm.
  7. The standard for braille in Canada is Unified English Braille.
  8. For braille signs of 10 words or fewer, use uncontracted braille.
  9. For French text, use uncontracted braille.
  10. For floor directories, use uncontracted braille.
  11. For signs of greater than 10 words, use contracted braille only if the sign consists of sentences such as emergency evacuation instructions. Ensure contracted braille follows Unified English Braille rules.
  12. Generally, do not use capital letters in braille signs, except for emergency instructions which comprise sentences.
  13. If text is multi-lined, place all the braille a minimum of 9.5 mm below the entire raised print text.
  14. For multi-lined braille text, a semi-circular braille indicator may be horizontally aligned with and placed directly before the first braille character. This indicator is not essential.


What are the Required Specifications and Measurements of Braille Signage in the UK?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) lists guidelines for braille signage in the United Kingdom. 

  1. Tactile characters should be between 1mm and 1.5mm thick.
  2. Dots should have a diameter of 1.4mm and be spherical. 

What are the Recommended Specifications and Measurements of Braille Signage in New Zealand?

This list encompasses the recommendations that Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind makes regarding braille signage. 

  1. Braille dots should have a domed or rounded shape—make sure they are not pointed or flat.
  2. Braille dots must be raised from the surface of the sign plate. Engraved braille is impossible to read.
  3. The spherical radius of each dot should be 0.76-0.80 mm. 
  4. The base diameter of each dot should be 1.2-1.6 mm.
  5. Each dot should have a height of 0.4-0.9 mm. 
  6. Horizontal and vertical spacing within the same cell should be 2.29-2.54 mm. 
  7. Spacing between one dot and the corresponding dot in the adjacent cell should be 6.0-7.6 mm.  
  8. Empty space between braille cells or words should be preserved or braille will be unreadable.
  9. Vertical spacing (from 1 cell to the cell below) should be 10-10.5 mm

What is the Importance of the Different Types of Braille?

Braille has a fascinating history and has developed to help millions of people around the world. Today, there are two types of braille commonly used. Type 1 allows those with no understanding of how to read braille to develop basic skills. Type 2 allows people to read braille more efficiently in books and signs. It is important to fully understand your country’s regulations regarding the use of braille to make sure you or any business fully comply.