Beyond Bump-Ons: Creative Approaches to Tactile Marking (Extra 76)

Do you need an easy way to identify your shampoo from your hair removal cream? Do you want to avoid accidentally feeding dog food to your dinner guests—again? Does your granddaughter complain that you’ve covered up the print label on her favourite midnight snack with your “special dots”?

Our sense of touch can give us much more information about our environment than we may think. Naturally, there’s braille, but how else can we use this powerful tactile sense to make things easier at home and further afield?

In this Masterclass, Matthew Horspool and Chantelle Griffiths joined forces to take you on a tactile journey to help you master your sense of touch for the simple, yet powerful purpose of identification and marking.

They covered:

  • How everyday office stationery can save your sanity when travelling.
  • How a simple rubber band can turn nightmare neighbours into amicable allies.
  • How to use braille in fun and creative ways, even if you’re not yet a confident braillist.
  • Why you need to own hair ties, even if you have no hair to tie.
  • How texture and orientation work together to create a customisable system for identification that anyone can use.
  • And so much more!

Whether you’re newer to sight loss or blind since birth, there’s something here for everyone. Join us to learn how to level up your tactile marking skills, and create unforgettable experiences for yourself and others, for all the right reasons.

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An Introduction To Arabic Braille (Extra 75)

This session, presented by Saima Akhtar, is designed to give you a Whistlestop tour of the fundamentals of Arabic braille. Rest assured, it’s not nearly as complicated as you think. By the end of the session, you will have more insight into the following areas:

  • The origins of Arabic braille
  • Common misconceptions around the structure and layout of Arabic braille
  • How the Arabic alphabet is constructed (here we will tackle the puzzling conundrum surrounding how to identify consonants and vowels)
  • Next steps for anybody looking to learn more after the session

Please note, it will be much easier to follow along if you have a grasp of grade one English braille as Saima will refer to similarities between English and Arabic braille throughout the session.

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The Best SD Card for Your Braille Display (Extra 74)

Many braille displays include an SD or Micro SD card slot. However, when it comes to purchasing a suitable card, there are so many options! Which is best, and which work with your braille display?

In this session, we were joined by friend of the Braillists Ben Mustill-Rose to help make sense of them. He covered:

  • Technical terms – SD, Micro SD, SD HC, SD XC and card classes
  • How much capacity you need
  • Card readers and adapters
  • Avoiding poor quality cards
  • Unpacking and setting up your new card, including formatting and write protection
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Introducing BrailleBlaster (Extra 73)

According to its website, “BrailleBlaster™ is a braille transcription program developed by the American Printing House for the Blind to help transcribers provide blind students with braille textbooks on the first day of class.” It uses markup from source documents to automate formatting, and provides “tools to make advanced tasks quicker and easier.”

Although it is “Designed primarily for editing textbooks that meet the specifications published by the Braille Authority of North America,” the adoption of Unified English Braile in most English-speaking countries makes it suitable for use in a wide variety of applications in many parts of the world. It is free of charge and compatible with virtually all braille embossers.

On Tuesday 20 February 2024, we were delighted to be joined by two representatives from APH to introduce us to BrailleBlaster and demonstrate some of its features:

  • Willow Free is the Tactile Technology Product Manager and based in the United States
  • Michael Whapples is the Lead Developer of BrailleBlaster and based in the United Kingdom
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Fully Automated Braille Translation with RoboBraille (Extra 72)

Sometimes, you just need a BRF file with no fuss, even though you know it might have the occasional error or won’t be formatted quite as you’d like.

RoboBraille is one solution to this problem. It works with a large variety of file formats including PDF, Microsoft Word and plain text, and converts them to braille within a matter of minutes. Best of all, it’s entirely online, so you don’t need to install anything. You can use it on computers even if you don’t have admin rights, smartphones, tablets and even braille notetakers.

Join us in this episode to find out:

  • When is fully automated translation appropriate (and when is it not)?
  • Translating files through the robobraille.org website
  • Translating files by emailing RoboBraille
  • How to evaluate the output
  • Where to find help
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Free Braille Translators: Biblos, Sao Mai Braille and Send to Braille (Extra 71)

Following our exploration of braille translators during National Braille Week, we were delighted to be joined by esteemed assistive technology pioneer Dean Martineau. Dean is a long term braille user and has spent many years developing his own personal braille shorthand system.

In this Masterclass, Dean introduced us to the Biblos braille translator and demonstrated how he uses it to translate text into his personalised shorthand system. He also covered some more conventional uses of the program and compared it with other free translators on the market, including Send to Braille and Sao Mai Braille.

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From Print To Braille: Reading the Finished Product (Episode 57)

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: The final stage of the transcription journey is for someone to read the braille! Usually, this is either done by embossing the document on paper or transferring it to a braille display. Which is most suitable? How easy is it to do? Join Matthew Horspool and Jackie Brown to find out!

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Cheers Volunteers 2024 (Extra 70)

A message from our Chairman, Dave Williams, to thank our many volunteers this National Volunteers Week.

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From Print To Braille: A Deeper Dive Into Duxbury (Extra 69)

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: The Duxbury Braille Translator is used in braille production facilities all over the world. We will explore how templates can be used to produce braille according to virtually any international standard, and how styles and codes can be used to control the finer points of the braille output. The presenter is James Bowden.

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From Print To Braille: Choosing the Right Braille Translator for the Job (Episode 56)

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: Microsoft Word knows about typography and layout, but it doesn’t know about braille contractions. That’s why we need a braille translation package. There are a number of packages on the market to suit a variety of budgets and complexities, and we’ll help you decide which one is the right one for you, in conversation with Christo de Klerk.

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