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right. Louis Braille, however, a teacher in the National Institution for Blind Young People in Paris, made this system practicable by making the letter-base consist of only half as many possible points--three points high and two points wide. This has been adopted, letter for letter, in the English Braille type and the German Braille, except of course for the accented letters. The greatest defect in Braille's French system has therefore inevitably crept into its English and German counterpart. M. Braille, more eager to perfect characters for the reading of music than of French, neglected to apply the simplest combinations to those letters of the alphabet which occur most frequently. His choice of pointed symbols for the alphabet was therefore not only arbitrary, but also haphazard.
Mr. Smith, recognizing this defect, adopted Braille's form of a letter-base of six points, three points high and two points wide, but applied to it the principle of the frequency of recurrence of the letters. Thus those letters that occur most frequently in writing English can be made most easily, and the more difficult signs are left for those letters that occur only rarely. This has made a vast saving in the energy of the reading or writing blind man, and also in his time as well. And anything is worth while that can make life and work easier for the blind, who are already so heavily handicapped in life's battle.
Thus Mr. Smith entirely remodelled the alphabet, thereby producing a type that could be more easily written and more quickly read by the blind. This system has come to be known as the American Improved Braille. The system at once appealed strongly to those who learned to use it, and from being a mere plaything developed into a language.
Today it is taught in more institutions for the blind in this country than any other alphabet, and no institution having once begun to teach it has ever abandoned the American Braille. short time ago, when the Board of Education in New York City decided to place all blind pupils in the same classes as the sighted pupils in the public schools, it instituted a most searching investigation of the merits of the various systems with the result that the American Braille alphabet has been adopted as the official language of the blind in the New York City public schools. The influence of American Braille promises to widen as the years advance, and
no one can now measure the extent to which it may ultimately reach.
JOEL WEST SMITH-AN APPRECIATION
EDWARD E. ALLEN
Director of Perkins Institution for the Blind
Although Joel West Smith, who recently died at *East Hampton, was in his 86th year, over sixty of these years were passed in physical blindness. During nearly all this time he had two homes -the Perkins Institution, Boston, for the school year, and East Hampton for the summer vacations.
Readers of Hartford and other nearby papers know of Mr. Smith as that blind man, who was so progressive and public spirited that his home town has long recognized him as leadingi citizen. What they do not know so well is that he was also leader among the blind of New England. Should the massed Perkins Institution alumni be asked to tell which of their teachers they regarded as their most potent friend, they would unhesitatingly name Mr. Smith.
The secret of his influence was personality-a personality of cheer, service and character—and achievement. But he was withal so modest that everybody who knew him both loved and respected him.
Dr. Howe, who was director when Mr. Smith came as pupil to the institution, soon promoted him to assistant, and eventually to one of his mainstays. Mr. Smith organized the school's department of piano tuning and early obtained for its certified graduates the contracts for keeping in tune and repair the public school pianos of the City of Boston, a contract which they have held ever since. When later his friend and fellow instructor, Mr., afterwards Sir Francis Campbell, was about to open a department of tuning at the
* Although a resident of East Hampton, Mr. Smith's death occurred at the hospital in Middletown, Conn.
Royal Normal College for the Blind, London, he borrowed Mr. Smith for three years to organize it.
The typewriter is perhaps the greatest emancipator of the blind, enabling them to carry on their business and personal correspondence without the help of outside persons. Indeed, the early models of this machine were evolved in attempts to put blind people in written touch with their seeing friends. Our Mr. Smith no sooner heard of this machine than he got one and worked out for himself what is now known and universally taught as the touch system of using it.
Realizing as he did that blindness is a condition shackling enough in itself, he continually labored in behalf of better means of school education, devising first a simplified system of the Braille point code of reading and writing, and then pushing its use in place of the old raised line letter which only a half of the young blind could learn to read with comfort and profit. Next he devised improved slates with which to write it; but he never failed to welcome such means as were better than his own. For four years he carried on a monthly publication in common type—The Mentor, which was the pioneer organ of communication among schools and workers for the blind,-finally giving it up only because events forced him to do so.
Mr. Smith had a pet name for most of his fellow teachers. They liked to be nicknamed-by him. When he received a letter he might say, “Come, Cleopatra, lend me your peepers.” When afterwards any of these teachers returned after a vacation or from a visit there was no one whom they sought to see first if not their friend, Mr. Smith. He was, then, a chief citizen of the Perkins Institution community, and everyone recognized this fact.
It is not easy to appraise a life such as his. But when, as in this instance, the block of granite which is an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong," not only those handicapped by blindness can take heart but we who are blessed with our sight can learn, too, the lesson that “they can who think they can."