Raised dots on steering wheel are not Braille

The claim: Bumps on steering wheel of cars are Braille to help visually impaired drivers find the horn

Sometimes everyday objects make their way into misinformation on social media.

A claim made in a meme that has long been circulating online states: “Just realized these little bumps on the steering wheel are Braille so that blind drivers have no trouble finding the horn to alert other driver when necessary #themoreyouknow.”

The photo shows a large red circle around a bunch of raised dots on a section of a vehicle steering wheel and is captioned, “you learn something new every day.”

USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.

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In 2017, in response to a Quora question to a user questioned why there were bumps on their steering wheel, many responses included the claim that the raised dots were meant for people who are visually impaired. 

“This was a big problem in the early part of the twentieth century, but as usual, the amazingly not so obvious solution was staring us in the face, and of course, was elegantly simple, and more importantly cheap for the manufacturers,” one user responded.

The meme also became popular after it was posted to Reddit in 2018, where one user wrote, “My car has braille on the steering wheel so blind people know that that’s the horn.”

A search on Facebook shows the old meme has been recirculating yet again on the in recent months despite the fact it has been widely debunked. but has been found false by multiple fact checker sites, including Snopes and TruthorFiction.

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What is Braille?

Braille is a system of touch reading and writing for people who are blind or visually impaired in which raised dots represent letters of the alphabet. It also contains equivalents for punctuation marks and symbols for letter groupings, according to BrailleWorks.com.

BrailleWorks provides many resources about compliance with the American with Disabilities Act, which includes requirements for the use of Braille on certain signage and all ATMs, for instance, for accessibility purposes.

Braille was created in 1824 by Frenchman Louis Braille, who had been blinded as a child.

The system was created in 1824 by Frenchman Louis Braille, who had been blinded as a child.

However, those raised dots on a steering wheel don’t appear to be Braille at all, and according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association of the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers must have a standard of vision in order to drive. 

When using brailletranslator.org the word “horn” in Braille looks nothing like the image in the meme. Other translators — Braille through Remote Learning and Math is Fun — also reveal that the dots showed in the picture do not say “horn.”

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Impaired vision and driving

The National Federation of the Blind confirmed to Reuters that Braille is not used on car steering wheels, adding that a person who uses Braille as a primary method of reading and writing would not have good enough vision to drive.

Those standards include “a distand visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity seperately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses,” among others. 

However, the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists notes on its site that rules for drivers with low vision vary widely from state to state, and some rules are more complex in certain states. 

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Katie Ramsburgh, director, Affiliates Program & Integrated Marketing and Communications at the Center for Automotive Research, told USA TODAY, that the post is false because one cannot get a driver’s license if he or she can’t see. 

“The steering wheel details are styling elements and usually go in performance vehicles,” she said.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association told Reuters that the raised dots on a steering wheel are designed to “allow drivers to identify the pressing zone for the horn,” and that the dots are common on older vehicles where drivers had to press a certain point in order to honk — it is not needed on more modern cars.

Truth or Fiction found that because the raised dots appear across grips on both sides of a steering wheel, it could be to allow drivers to get a better hold on a steering wheel. There are also speculations that the dots could be to discourage drivers from taking their eyes off the road when pressing the horn.

Our ruling: False

We rate this claim as FALSE. The meme may have been intended as humorous but those raised dots are not Braille. It has been confirmed that a person who uses braille will not be able to have the standard vision needed in order to drive. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • Snopes, Jan. 19, 2015, Do Steering Wheels Include Braille So Visually Impaired Drivers Can Find the Horn?

  • Truth or Fiction, Jan. 14, 2019, Are Raised Dots on a Steering Wheel Braille for Blind Drivers?

  • BrailleWorks, History of Braille

  • Braille Translator

  • Britannica.com, Braille

  • BRL: Braille through Remote Learning, Contraction Lookup Dictionary

  • Math is Fun, Braille Translator

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Examining FMCSA Vision Standard for CMV Drivers and Waiver Program

  • Reuters, Sept. 4, Fact check: Bumps on car steering wheel are not in Braille

  • International Academy of Low Viision Specialists, Information About DMV Driving Laws

  • Katie Ramsburgh Interview

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Raised dots on steering wheel are not Braille