US Mint Announces Coin With Braille

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The United States Mint has announced the release of its first coin with readable Braille on it, a commemorative silver dollar in honor of Louis Braille, the creator of Braille, to be released next year. The Braille is on the reverse.

The reverse of the Braille commemorative silver dollar

The coin is not in Braille; the Braille is only symbolic, a group of four characters on the reverse: ⠠⠃⠗⠇. These spell "Brl", an abbreviation for "Braille". The reason that there are four characters is that Braille does not have capital letters. Instead, it uses a capitalization operator. ⠃ by itself is lower-case <b>. The capitalization operator ⠠ has the effect of capitalizing the following character.


  1. Jeremy said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 5:08 am

    Just wondering…what browser are you using and does it display the Braille characters correctly for you? Opera, Firefox, and Internet Explorer all display just boxes or other weird characters.

  2. Jussi said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 5:24 am

    You'll need a font that contains the Braille glyphs. AFAIK, such a font is not installed (by default, at least) on Windows systems.

  3. Kellen said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 5:30 am

    it's occurred to me that since here in china so much of the anti-forgery stuff they put on the bills is based on touch, braille in the form of a thick ink would be something quite easy to do that would differentiate the bills for the blind. coins, however, seem to not need it beyond commemoration since their not otherwise of the same size.

    @jeremy: probably you'll need a font installed that supports that range of unicode.

  4. Faldone said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 7:53 am

    @Jeremy. Kellen's got it right. I have an ancient Firefox ( and an ancient Ubuntu (5.10) and I see them perfectly.

  5. Sili said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 8:48 am

    What font are you using? I have a relatively new Opera and have both Lucida and Charis installed.

  6. Mabon said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 10:51 am

    Ironic, isn't it, that the wording in Braille on the coin says "Braille", as opposed to the denomination, "One", which would be of practical use.
    I would suggest that the Treasury first make its coins and currency usable by the vision-impaired before celebrating something it has not yet fulfilled.

  7. Adam Layne said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    Mabon: US coins are usable by the vision impaired. Pennies and nickels have smooth edges while quarters and dimes have textured edges, so you can readily tell the difference between them by touch.

  8. Ollock said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 11:55 am

    Yes, the coins aren't so difficult to distinguish. It's the bills that need some reform. All of our notes are the same size, and there's really not a reliable way to tell them apart without reading the numbers.

  9. Janice Huth Byer said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

    As Adam Layne says, the vision-impaired are already able to identify regular American coins by the edges, plus, in a sense, isn't writing on coins already "legible" being engraved and embossed? I wonder if people who are blind can feel exactly what US coins say, or are the coins, as I imagine, too small for the naked finger, in which case they'd be too small to hold identifying Braille?

  10. Bill Poser said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

    As several people have said, you just need a font containing the Braille glyphs. Since I work with a wide range of languages and writing systems, I have pretty much every font known to man.

    US coins are distinguishable by touch because of the different edges already mentioned and of course the different sizes. Note also that this coin is a commemorative that will sell for considerably more than its face value, so people will only buy them for collections or as an investment, not for ordinary use. It is legal tender, which is what makes it a true coin and not a medal, but except for a few that are spent by mistake, it won't circulate.

  11. Ellen K. said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

    Just? It's not just having the font. One has to know which font to use (if one has it), or know where/how to get a font and which one, if one doesn't.

    Though, as I can see the coin picture just fine, it's not an issue for me. I know what the boxes are supposed to be.

  12. Mark A. Mandel said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

    I posted this announcement on my LiveJournal blog, and a friend of mine who is blind commented:

    They don't need to put Braille on bills. Braille is too easily scrubbed. It won't even work on coins for long. My dad got me one that was fresh the day he got it, but when it got to me, I couldn't read the Braille at all. Maybe the Braille will lsat 24-48 hours after it leaves the bank. With so many people handling it, the Braille won't last long. The only ways they could make it work would be to make the money out of very heavy card stock, plastic, or metal. Any of these methods would scrub out eventually.

    We're better off putting efforts into making different-sized bills, something the National Federation of the Blind is seriously opposed to doing, for reasons I can't fathom, except possibly the fear that different sized bills will make it easier for people to get ripped off. I think it would make it easier for blind people *not* to get ripped off.

    I've lived without different-sized bills all my life, and I have always had to have sighted assistance in sorting my paper money; I'm waiting for the day when I will no longer have to ask someone, "Is this a five or a ten or a one?" I'll be able to easily distinguish paper bills on my own.
    Most coins are easy to distinguish because they are different sizes and have different textures on them.

  13. Mark A. Mandel said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    On fonts: I'm using Firefox on a Windows machine. I just looked at the fonts that I've specified in Firefox Tools:Options:Content:Advanced — Arial and Courier New, neither of which displays the Braille text when I paste it into WordPad. I also have checked "Allow pages to choose their own fonts instead of my selections above", so maybe LLog's site is choosing the font, but I still don't know which.

  14. Bill Poser said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

    The post does not specify what fonts to use. It is up to you and your browser.

    Some fonts with broad coverage are listed on my Computational Resources for Linguistic Research page (scroll down to "Fonts"). To look for a font with coverage of a particular Unicode range, try Alan Wood's font page.

  15. Ellen K. said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

    The post may not specify, but there's apparently font specification at the site level (perhaps build into WordPress), because I can only use my own font if I go into accessibility and tell it to ignore fonts specified on Webpages.

  16. Bill Poser said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

    I just searched the page source and didn't find any font specs. They may be in the stylesheets.

  17. Thomas Norman said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    As an interesting addendum, the new Canadian dollar bills all have a Braille-like system embedded in them. See, for example, It's simple enough that even those unfamiliar with Braille can use it as a fast method of distinguishing bills without looking at them.

  18. Mabon said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

    I realize that the common US coins are easily identifiable by touch, but the coin at the top of this page might not be. I would have hoped that, as long as they were going to use Braille, they would have done so in an attempt to make it useful to those who depend on it.
    BTW, there is also Braille on the Alabama state quarter, but it is in such a minuscule size that I would imagine it is impossible to read with a fingertip.
    And I agree with Mark A. Mandel's friend that US currency is where change needs to happen (no pun intended).

  19. Bill Poser said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 1:52 am

    the new Canadian dollar bills all have a Braille-like system

    We don't have dollar bills here in Canada. We have nice coins called loonies, and two-dollar coins, called toonies. Paper currency comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

  20. Stephen Jones said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 7:25 am

    American notes are notoriously difficult to distinguish. For those of us who only deal with them occasionally the chances of getting ripped off are not inconsiderable.

  21. Sili said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 10:39 am

    I took "dolllar bills" to include notes of all values, not specifically "one dollar".

  22. Arnold Zwicky said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

    Sili: "I took "dolllar bills" to include notes of all values, not specifically "one dollar"."

    I think you'll have trouble finding other speakers (from the U.S. or Canada) who have this sense.

  23. hdh said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

    @Jeremy: According to the PDF samples the free DejaVu family has Braille characters covered.

  24. Sili said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

    Thank you. Once again I learn just how feeble my grasp of English is.

  25. M. Oxley said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    @Bill: Your Computational Resources for Linguistic Research page loads as a blank page for me in the newest version of Firefox and in the IE tab plug-in.

  26. Don Campbell said,

    July 7, 2008 @ 2:04 am

    Thank you. Once again I learn just how feeble my grasp of English is.

    Your grasp may not be feeble – it may just be non-North American.

    I (an Australian English speaker) also took "dollar bills" to mean all denominations, as Australians call them "notes". Also, we don't have a one dollar note anymore.

    Arnold's point is valid for US English though, so that's something for both of us to keep in mind.

  27. Dan T. said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

    @M. Oxley, re @Bill: That web page has a bogus "STYLE" tag in its header that seems to cause some browsers to think the whole rest of the page is part of the content of a style element, and fail to render it as normal HTML content. What he seemed to mean was to put the stuff within the angle brackets of the tag as the content of the element, which would require taking it out of that position and instead putting it after the STYLE tag and before a closing tag for the style; alternatively, perhaps he meant to make it a "style" parameter within a different tag, which would require putting the parameter value within quotes. There are some other validation errors, which can be seen by using

  28. First US Braille Coin - Disability Commentary said,

    October 10, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    […] bicentennial silver dollar celebrating the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth. The picture at Language Log shows a rather large, copper colored, coin with a four braille characters spelling […]

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