A SYSTEM of raised dots that has enabled blind people to read and write has been hailed as vital, as the anniversary of the birth of its inventor is celebrated.

Louis Braille, who was born on January 4, 1809, became blind at the age of four.

Now, more than 200 years after his birth, braille remains vital, despite the advances of new technology, according to North Berwick resident Ken Reid.

The braille system is based on variations of six dots, arranged in two columns of three.

Variations of the six dots represent the letters of the alphabet, punctuation and groups of letters.

Ken started learning braille when he was about 40, initially for labelling his CD and talking book collections.

The 62-year-old, who has retinitis pigmentosa, began to lose his sight in his twenties.

He said: “Braille is the nearest thing to sighted reading available to blind and partially sighted people.

“We’re not dependent on the intermediary of a narrator to get a flavour of a book.

“Any characters and nuances of plot will be influenced only by our own interpretation.

“Reading braille is much more sociable.

“With audio-formats, we disappear behind our earphones, cutting ourselves off from those we are with.

“With braille, our ears are still open for others to interact with us.

“It’s also good that when I’m tired, I can just rest my hands and reading stops.

“While it isn’t difficult to rewind digital talking books – unlike the old days of cassettes – with braille this just isn’t an issue.”

Ken stressed there were still issues when it came to reading braille, particularly in public places.

However, he felt it remained important and said: “It’s very difficult to read braille that’s positioned on a vertical surface, such as a wall, and at waist-height, such as inside a lift.

“I absolutely hope braille will continue to be used.

“Braille is part of the armoury that enables people with sight loss to lead interesting and fulfilling lives.

“And recent developments in electronic, refreshable braille means that it has become much more affordable, portable and inclusive.”

Charity RNIB has 10,400 braille library master-files it can produce a book from.

It also has electronic braille master-files for braille music scores and various maths and science books and codes, as well as maps.

RNIB also transcribes magazines, including television guides, into braille.

James Adams, director of the national charity RNIB Scotland, said: “The invention of braille is often compared to the invention of the printing press for sighted people. For thousands across the world, braille means independence, knowledge and freedom.

“Braille also lets you read out loud – a bedtime story to children, a presentation at work, sing in a choir from braille music sheets, or play games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and cards where there are braille versions available.”