Braille is a set of six dots that in different combinations are used to replicate letters, numbers, and symbols. The system was invented by Louis Braille in 1821, and was a means of opening the door to reading for the blind. While things like books were the first to be printed in Braille, there were soon thoughts of applying the system to other things that the visually impaired might need. One of these things was the Braille watch.
As early as the 20th century, savvy watchmakers began creating pocket watches with Braille on them. They had to be open faced instead of having a glass covering to protect the hands. Not only was it important for the person using one to feel the Braille numbers, but also they had to be able to feel the hands too in relationship to the numbers in order to tell the time.
However, an open-face watch could be problematic. Time could easily become inaccurate if the hands of the watch got caught on clothing or in the hair. To remedy this, watchmakers added an opening and closing glass lid, so the hands of the Braille watch were protected when the watch was being used to tell time.
A variety of companies now offer the Braille watch in varying sizes and styles. There are those suited primarily for women and men, but it’s hard to find a Braille watch for kids. Some suggest using a woman’s watch because it may fit the wrist of a child, but others feel that this may set kids apart, especially if they are educated in a mainstream environment with sighted children.
Styles of the Braille watch available for women and men can feature a variety of straps and colors. Some watches can be not only read but heard. A few Braille watches feature a “talking” function. These have voice responses that tell the time, which may be useful if a person doesn’t have time to be fumbling with the watch face cover to read the time.
For people with sight impairment that merely means they cannot read the small numbers on a watch, there are also low vision watches. These don’t feature Braille. Instead they have a large watch face with larger numbers that make it much easier to read a wristwatch. Talking watches might also prove useful for those with visual impairment late in life and who have never learned to read Braille.