From Print To Braille: The Key to Accessible Word Documents (Extra 68)

For many years now, Sight Scotland have championed National Braille Week, an opportunity to celebrate braille usage and raise awareness of the importance and value of braille. It runs in the second week of October, to coincide with World Sight Day.

In 2023, we celebrated National Braille Week at the Braillists by running five Masterclasses, one each day, following the journey “From Print to Braille”. These episodes are the recordings of these Masterclasses.

In this episode, discover how making a few small tweaks to your Microsoft Word documents will not only lead to better automated braille, but also speed up your word processing tasks! Using styles, inserting proper characters and ensuring tables are created effectively will all be covered.

The session was presented by Barry Coates, Technology Training Manager at RNIB.

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From Print To Braille: What Should Our Braille Look Like? (episode 55)

For many years now, Sight Scotland have championed National Braille Week, an opportunity to celebrate braille usage and raise awareness of the importance and value of braille. It runs in the second week of October, to coincide with World Sight Day.

In 2023, we celebrated National Braille Week at the Braillists by running five Masterclasses, one each day, following the journey “From Print to Braille”. These episodes are the recordings of these Masterclasses.

This week, we unpack the rules and conventions of braille layout in different parts of the world. Are headings always centred? What happens if a table is too wide for the braille page? Find out the answers to these questions and so much more!

Our panel of braille transcribers was comprised of:

  • Jen Goulden from Canada
  • Anja Gibbs from New Zealand
  • Craig Morgan from Wales
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The Braille Features of Supernova (Extra 67)

Supernova is a screen magnification and screen reading package from Dolphin Computer Access Ltd, based in Worcester in the UK. Braille display support is a core part of its offering, but we don’t hear very much about it.

In this session, we were joined by Aj Ahmed, proprietor of AAT Solutions, an independent provider of assistive technology training and support. Aj talked us through how to set up a braille display to work with Supernova, the various settings which are available, and the keystrokes which will help you make the most of this functionality.

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Setting Up Braille Displays on Windows and iOS (Extra 66)

If you have a new braille display and you’re struggling to connect it to your computer, iPhone or iPad, or you have a new computer, iPhone or iPad and you’re struggling to connect it to your braille display, this session is for you.

We covered:

  • The pros and cons of Bluetooth and USB
  • Pairing and unpairing your braille display via Bluetooth
  • Drivers and how to install them
  • Screen reader setup
  • Using braille without speech

The session was presented by Matthew Horspool.



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Adding Your Own Contractions to Your Screen Reader Using Liblouis (Extra 65)

Many screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA, make use of the popular, open source Liblouis braille translation engine as part of their braille display support. In this session, we explained and demonstrated how to harness the power of Liblouis braille tables to implement additional contractions in your screen reader of choice.

If you use a long word regularly and find it is taking up too much space on your braille display, this is the session for you! It also serves as a brief introduction to Liblouis translation tables in general.

The session was presented by James Bowden. In addition to his work as Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, James is also the Chair of the Braille Technology Committee of the International Council on English Braille, and is the primary developer of the default UEB translation table in Liblouis. Over many years, he has not only added new symbols to the UEB tables, but has also corrected numerous errors with existing contractions, and he actively contributes to discussions about the future development of Liblouis.

Please note: although we did our best to present the concepts in this session in as simple and straightforward a way as possible, modifying Liblouis tables involves advanced file and folder manipulation, administration rights and working with computer code in a text editor. You do not need to be a computer programmer in order to benefit from this session, but it is best suited to people with intermediate to advanced computer knowledge.



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The Braille Shorthand Code (Extra 64)

“What’s wrong with grade 2?” In many cases, nothing. It strikes a good balance between compactness, readability and lack of ambiguity. However, in some cases, a code which is even more compact than grade 2 is extremely advantageous, especially when information needs to be written down at speed.

The Braille Shorthand Code was one attempt at creating such a system. Devised and used in the UK, it was last updated in 1959 and still has a loyal following.

In this event, we were joined by Dr Norman Waddington, a prolific user of the Braille Shorthand Code for many years. Norman explained the principals behind the Braille Shorthand Code and took us through some examples of some typical shorthand phrases. He also talked about the equipment which was traditionally used to produce braille shorthand and discussed who would benefit from using the Braille Shorthand Code.

To order The Braille Shorthand Code book from RNIB, quote archive number 513871.

A BRF version of The Braille Shorthand Code can be downloaded from the Shorthand Braille Codes page of the ICEB website.

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The New Braille Features in iOS 16 and 17 (Extra 63)

iOS 17 was released last September, bosting a number of significant braille enhancements. In this Masterclass, we were joined by Scott Davert to find out more.

Scott is well regarded in the blind community as an expert in braille on iOS. He regularly contributes braille-related content to the AppleVis website, and presented a series of three Masterclasses introducing us to braille on iOS in 2022.

This was an extensive presentation followed by your questions. We also covered some of the new braille features in iOS 16 which have not been covered in other sessions.

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CSUN Round-Up 2024 (Episode 54)

The 39th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference took place from 18 to 22 March in Anaheim, California, hosted by the Centre on Disabilities, Division of Student Affairs at California State University, Northridge. There were many exciting braille product announcements at the conference, and the latest prototypes of previously announced braille products were also exhibited.

In this episode, we are joined by a panel of braille experts who attended the conference. They will help us unpack the announcements and share their thoughts on the products they saw.

If you are planning to attend any of the Sight Village exhibitions in the UK, this episode will help you decide which products you might like to see for yourself.

Products discussed in this episode:

On the panel:

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Tactile Diagrams at the Open University (Extra 62)

Getting tactile diagrams at University is often not as easy as it should be. However, the Open University has an excellent reputation for accessibility, and has developed robust processes for students to request diagrams and for those diagrams to be designed and produced.

This session was presented jointly by Jeff Bashton, former Visual Impairment Adviser at the Open University; and Andrew Whitehead, Graphics Media Developer within the OU’s Learner and Discovery Services. It briefly outlined what the Open University is, before explaining what gave rise to the tactile diagrams initiative and how it was developed.

Andrew illustrated how diagrams are prioritised, and described the tools and techniques he uses to design and produce them. We learnt how these techniques are applied to standard graphs and charts, as well as more complex images such as a cross-section of part of the brain!

If you are currently studying at University, or thinking of starting a University course soon, this session serves as a case study of how Universities can provide effective support in this area. We gave details of DSA funding models at the end of the presentation.

If you are interested in tactile diagrams in general, this session offered valuable insights into the tools and techniques available and the reasons for choosing them.

Decision Tree: Deciding if a Tactile Diagram is Necessary

  1. Start
  2. Is the information a repeat of the facts?
    Yes:
    go to 5.
    No: go to 3.
  3. Would the information be more meaningful in text form?
    Yes:
    go to 6.
    No: go to 4.
    Return to 2.
  4. Does the graphic require the reader to use visual discrimination or visual perception?
    Yes:
    go to 7.
    No: go to 8.
    Return to 3.
  5. Do not produce graphic.
    Return to 2.
  6. Create a figure description. Do not produce a graphic.
    Return to 3.
  7. Modify the graphic.
    Return to 4.
  8. Is the actual object unavailable, too small, too large, or too dangerous to examine by touch and perceived details?
    Yes:
    go to 11.
    No: go to 9.
    Return to 4.
  9. Does the reader need the information from a map, figure or graph to complete an assessment/task or to participate in discussions and/or answer questions?
    Yes:
    go to 11.
    No: go to 10.
    Return to 8.
  10. Do not produce graphic.
    Return to 9.
  11. Produce graphic.
    Return to 8.
    Return to 9.

Tactile Diagram Transcribers

Sources of Tactile Diagrams

Sources of Swell Paper and Heat Fusers

Other Links of Interest

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Catching Up with Bristol Braille Technology: Canute 360 and Canute Console (Episode 53)

Bristol Braille Technology CIC recently released version 2.1 of the firmware for Canute 360, the world’s first multi-line braille E-reader. Canute has come up in conversation many times before, but never specifically: what is it, and what can it do? In this episode, we sit down with Ed Rogers, Managing Director of BBT, to find out.

Links of interest:

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