10 (more) things you probably don't know about braille

Which pop superstar put braille on her new album? How can braille help criminals go straight? What’s the latest trend in braille tattoos?

Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West with braille characters spelling “FourFiveSeconds”

Did you know Rihanna is a fan of braille? The cover for her single “FourFiveSeconds” (with Kanye West and Paul McCartney) spells out the song title in braille, and her 2016 album “Anti” features a poem written in braille.

July 20, 2016

Chances are you already know the basic facts about braille. It’s a tactile system of reading and writing. Various combinations of raised dots form the letters. It was invented by Louis Braille almost two centuries ago. It's a powerful literacy tool for people who are blind.

But there’s a lot about braille that may surprise you. For example, did you know that…

  1. Rihanna is a fan of braille. The cover of the pop superstar’s 2016 album “Anti” features a poem written in braille by poet Chloe Mitchell. “This is the first time an album has ever incorporated physical braille,” said Rihanna. In addition, the cover for her single “FourFiveSeconds” (with Kanye West and Paul McCartney) spells out the song title in braille.
  2. Kendrick Lamar is also a fan. The acclaimed rapper’s 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly” includes liner notes with a short message written in braille. On the CD itself, the album title is spelled out only in braille.
  3. There’s a Rubik’s Cube in braille. If the classic color-coded Rubik’s Cube isn’t fiendishly difficult enough for you, there’s also a version available in braille. It’s so popular it’s currently sold out.
  4. Some braille reader’s fingers can really fly. While the typical sighted person can read 300 words per minute, some fast braille readers can whip through a book at a speed of 400 words per minute. The secret to reading braille so quickly is a light touch – and using both hands (one hand reads while the other is poised to start on the next line).
  5. Braille helps criminals go straight. The American Printing House for the Blind runs a program called the National Prison Braille Network (NPBN) that teaches inmates to transcribe print documents into braille. The program gives inmates valuable job skills and helps them stay out of trouble once they leave prison. The recidivism rate for NPBN participants is estimated at less than 3 percent, far below the national average of 76 percent.
  6. Braille can be delicious. You can show your support for braille in a tasty way by baking braille cupcakes for your friends. (Use M&M’s to make the braille letters.)
  7. LEGO bricks could someday come in braille. A Brazilian foundation has invented a LEGO-style brick that can help children who are blind learn to read and write – while building cool toy structures. Braille Bricks, created by the São Paulo-based Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind, are similar to LEGO bricks, but each brick has a raised braille letter on top, which allows the bricks to interlock. The Foundation is working to convince the toy industry to produce the bricks.
  8. You shouldn’t capitalize “braille.” When writing about the braille code, the name should be lowercase, according to the Braille Authority of North America. When referring to the proper name of Louis Braille, capitalize it.
  9. There’s a rap song about braille. It’s called “The Braille Rap Song” and it helps kids learn braille. The 26 verses use easy-to-remember rhymes to explain the combination of dots that form each letter. For example: “A dot two-four-five is a J / Hey! Hey! What do you say?” The song was written by Lynn Horton and Tammy Whitten from the Helen Keller School in Talladega, Alabama.
  10. Braille is the latest trendy tattoo. Some braille tattoos are simple (like “love”) and some are complicated (like the lyrics of an entire song). Most people get flat (ink) braille tattoos, while others reportedly get small surgical beads inserted under their skin to create raised braille dots. If you’re not ready to go that far, temporary braille tattoos are also available.

Read our previous list of surprising facts about braille »