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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Multi-Line Braille in the Classroom (Episode 52)

The braille community is buzzing about the next generation of braille display: multi-line devices which can show anything from tables to tactile graphics at the press of a button are now a reality, and enthusiastic early adopters around the world are putting the technology through its paces.

These multi-line braille displays will, sooner or later, undoubtedly disrupt all our experiences of refreshable braille in many places, but perhaps most notably in education. What does this mean for teachers, and what does this mean for students in the classroom, doing their homework and progressing to further and higher education? We’ll be digging into the detail in two parts:

Firstly, we will hear from HumanWare, Bristol Braille Technology CIC, Dot Inc and Orbit Research, all of whom are developing multi-line braille displays, and each of whom will give a ten minute presentation on how they see their products working in the classroom.

Secondly, we’ll hear from a panel of education professionals. They will share their reactions to the presentations, discuss how current practice might evolve to take advantage of emerging braille technologies, and engage with the manufacturers to find answers to some of their most pressing questions.

This episode is presented in collaboration with the Professional Association for the Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW).

Manufacturers, their Products and Representatives

Panellists

The event was hosted by Dave Williams and produced by Matthew Horspool.

Extracts from the Chat

What are the dimentions of the Dot Pad please?

Participant: 273.2 mm × 228.1 mm

Mazi: 20 braille cells per line and 10 lines on the large screen. 20 cells on single line below graphics area.

Dot Pad pricing is not fixed but our goals is to make the Dotpad economically accessible.

Can you send information from the dot pad back to an iPad?

Mazi: We are working on two way interaction between the Dot Pad and connected devices. At this time, the Dot Pad is a printer. It receives content from the iPad, iPhone, PC, or Mac. It is interactive in the sense that you can scroll up and down pages and make selections. You can also scroll across icons showing on your iPhone or iPad.

If you would like more information, please be comfortable contacting me. We are rapidly innovating and all ideas and advice is welcome.

Do the graphical devices allow a tactile diagram and a braille label on the same page?

Ed: Yes. You can mix them up. We typically use a lot of Braille to make sense of the diagrams. For the Canute Console, that was.

Andrew: For Monarch, Yes, it can display both graphics and braille on the same array.

I’d be very interested to know if manufacturers were intending to (or have) produce progression charts/teaching ideas for supporting student development of skills in using these products? We can’t afford to have one for us to learn on as well as one for the student, so any help on how to use them effectively and to think about skills progression is really helpful!

Andrew: HumanWare appreciates there is a lot to learn when it comes to these types of new technology, therefore before Monarch will be released we will be conducting in-person teachers training across the UK. The objective will be to show how a Monarch could be used in a classroom along with getting a better understanding on this new ebraille file format. Please register your interest so you can stay updated on when these days become available.

Participant: I am familiar with human wear products and they have a fantastic set of training videos for all of their devices. These are easily accessible for LSAs and BSAs as well as teachers.

Would the Dot Pad be useful for a student taking physics at advanced level (up to university)? Rendering the visual data effectively has been a constant struggle/ongoing question.

Mazi: Dot would love to work with you on your content and progression idea. YES, physics is an ideal subject matter for the Dot Pad.

Participant: That’s great to hear. I have a student applying for Physics at university this year, and this might be helpful for his Disabled Students Allowance application.

Mazi: Wonderful. Exciting to know your student is going for it. Let’s connect and set up a call to figure out how to help your student.

What is a simple device for early years children instead of Perkins Brailler?

Matthew (Braillists): The Perkins is still the best device for the job in our experience.

Ed: Using the Canute Console in the basic text editing mode I demonstrated would be closest equivalent experience for our display. However as Matthew says the Perkins hasn’t been superceded by any of these devices and they aren’t meant as replacements for it.

Participant: Unfortunately, for a 4 year old with small hands and not have the strength may impact their development

Ed: In that case, pairing a multiline display with a Hable One or an Orbit Writer, be that a Canute Console or any multiline display that supports external keyboards, would be something to experiment with.

Venkatesh: The Orbit single-line and multiline displays include an ergonomic Perkins-style braille keypad. The keys require very little force and would be suitable for a young child.

Participant: Thank Venkatesh, I need to view this to understand if its suitable for my CYPVI

Venkatesh: You are welcome. Please feel free to email me and we can work out a demo.

Louise Johnson: The Annie Brailler is especially for young children. We will be purchasing two and I am happy to let you know how we get on.

How do you distinguish colour? Textures? We need to teach students to read diagrams the way they will be presented in exams.

Ed: Explaining our solution is a bit much to fit into the chat box but happy to tell you about the solutions we use and are experimenting with by email. In short though, with a display 40 cells wide you have space for a key along side every image if you need it and the image can include information about colour and other style information. That is one solution suitable for some circumstances.

Participant: In terms of development of these products, it’s worth remembering that there are a significant number of learners who are not braillists but still need tactile diagrams.

Is it easy to create a table?

Ed: Very easy to create a table for the Canute Console. You can use a spreadsheet or a text editor or generate a tables using conversion software.

Will Monarch run on an up to date Android system? BNT+ is Oreo which no longer receives security patches. (Happy to hear if this is not the case!)

Monarch will be based on Android, but will not have access to the play store, therefore it would be more capable of updating security. It should not be the case of being stuck.

Does the Monarch come with Windows applications (Word, PowerPoint) and email?

The Monarch will include KeySoft core application including word processor, email client and many more.

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