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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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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Two Conferences in the Summer … Or Should That Be Winter? (Episode 51)

It’s an exciting time for braille as we approach the 200th birthday of the braille code, and the International Council on English Braille will be celebrating in style this year with its eighth General Assembly, the theme of which is “Two Centuries of Braille”. It will take place from Saturday 25 May to Thursday 30 May at The Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland, 71 Mayoral Drive, Corner Vincent Street, Auckland Central, New Zealand.

But what is the International Council on English Braille, what is the purpose of its General Assembly, and how can we get involved? James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, Chair of the Braille Coding Group of the UK Association for Accessible Formats, Chair of ICEB’s Braille Technology Committee, and UK representative on the ICEB Executive and Code Maintenance Committees, tells us more.

Join the iceb-announce group on groups.io by sending a blank email to [email protected]

The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities is holding its Annual Conference the week before the ICEB General Assembly. It will be taking place at Novotel Perth Langley, 221 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, Western Australia, and early bird registration is open until 29 February 2024. The conference theme is Information Equity: Empowerment through Technology, Advocacy and Collaboration. The Annual Meeting of the Australian Braille Authority will be held on Saturday 18 May, followed immediately by the Round Table Conference from Sunday 19 May to Tuesday 21 May.

Chantelle Griffiths, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at New Zealand’s Tactile and Technology Literacy Centre and good friend of the Braillists Foundation, tells us more.

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Braille Into Christmas (Extra 61)

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, a few people joined us for a cosy fireside chat to round off the year on Tuesday 19 December.

How do you write and address your Christmas cards? How do you know whose Christmas presents are whose? And what part does braille play in all of this?

We were joined by our expert Braille for Beginners team, Mel Pritchard and Chantelle Griffiths, to get the conversation started, and we heard plenty of ideas from the audience too, on a multitude of Christmas-themed topics.

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Transferring Content to your Braille Display (Extra 60)

Have you ever downloaded a book from Bookshare or Reading Services, but struggled to extract the zip file? Have you ever had a BRF file emailed to you, but not been able to copy it to your braille display? Does your braille display only support text or BRF files, but you want to read Word or PDF files on it?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, this episode is for you!

Matthew Horspool was in the presenter’s chair on Tuesday 19 September 2023 and took us step by step through extracting zip files, converting files from one format to another, and copying files from your computer to your braille display. Demonstrations using a screen reader formed an integral part of the presentation, and as ever there was plenty of time for questions at the end.

N.B. most of the demos were carried out on Windows, but the concepts discussed should apply equally to other operating systems.

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Revitalise your Braille Reading Technique (Extra 59)

Whether you’re new to braille or an experienced braillist, reading is an important and fundamental process. To fully appreciate the brilliance of braille for use in daily life, reading is something you should enjoy and feel comfortable with. But what can you do to improve your reading skills once you have learned all the letters and perhaps some contractions as well? How can you enhance your reading speed and accuracy even if you’ve been doing braille for a while?

On Tuesday 20 June 2023, Chantelle Griffiths, Co-Founder and CEO of New Zealand’s Tactile and Technology Literacy Centre, shared some practical tips and tricks to get you on the right track with your reading, no matter how much braille you’ve done or where you are on your braille journey. There is something here for everyone.

We learnt:

  • What actually happens when we read and how reading by touch is different — or not — from reading visually.
  • How to press the “reset button” for your fingers and brain when you’re just not feeling it. Literally.
  • The fundamental braille technique you didn’t know you knew and how it enhances your reading.
  • The three C’s of braille reading; what they are and how they work together to help you connect the dots between your brain and fingers.
  • How playing the viola relates to reading in a straight line and how you can experience something similar yourself, even if you’re not a musician.
  • How to start from exactly where you are and enjoy the process.
  • Lots more practical tips, ideas and experiments you can try on your own.

This was a very practical session. If you’d like to follow along with the recording, please have some hardcopy or electronic braille handy and a couple of random objects that feel nothing like braille.

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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An Introduction to the Orbit Reader (Extra 58)

The Orbit Reader range is now very extensive and comprises the Orbit Reader 20, the Orbit Reader 20 Plus and the Orbit Reader 40. On Tuesday 30 May 2023, James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, talked us through what these products can do, how they work, and the differences between Orbit Readers and other braille displays and notetakers.

We learnt:

  • The differences between the Orbit Reader 20, 20 Plus and 40
  • How Orbit technology differs from traditional braille display technology
  • How to find and open files
  • How to find text within a file
  • How to use the editor
  • How to transfer files between the Orbit and a computer

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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UEB Indicators: How to show capitals, bold, italics, underline and more (Extra 57)

“This new braille has so many extra dots!” This is something we hear a lot, and it’s often followed by the question, “What do they all mean?”

This Masterclass will help to solve the mystery. James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, Chairman of the Braille Coding Group of the UK Association for Accessible Formats, and the UK Representative to the Code Maintenance Committee of the International Council on English Braille, described the common indicators in UEB and gave some real world examples of their use.

In particular, we covered:

  • Capital letters and block capitals
  • Making sure a word or symbol is not misread as a contraction
  • Italicised, bolded and underlined text

This session was recorded on Tuesday 16 May 2023. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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Programming for the Canute Console (Extra 56)

There was a lot to cram into the last of our computer science-themed classes. We started with a quick refresher about what we’ve covered so far before taking a deep dive into what it takes to write software and build hardware with a particular focus on the accessibility elements of the process.

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