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

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.


Braille Around the World (Episode 37)

We know about braille in the UK, of course, and we regularly hear about braille in other developed English-speaking countries – the US, Australia, New Zealand and so on. But there are many other countries in the world about which we hear much less. How is braille taught? How is it produced? How easy is it to obtain? What braille technology is in use?

On Tuesday 4 January, to mark World Braille Day, we explored these issues in detail with three panellists:

  • Adrijana Prokopenko is a teacher of English and English braille in a school for the blind in Macedonia.
  • Yanan Yu from China has a Master’s degree in Disability Studies and is currently an intern at Bristol Braille Technology. Prior to this, she worked for a year as an Editor at China Braille Press.
  • Christo de Klerk is a founding member of Braille SA, the first President of the South African Braille Authority and the Immediate Past President of the International Council on English Braille. He is a former student of the Pioneer School for the Visually Impaired (formerly the School for the Blind in Worcester), where he later returned as a staff member, teaching law and braille and establishing computerised braille production. He qualified in law and practised as a lawyer before retraining as a computer programmer, and has developed braille tables for ten South African languages in Duxbury, eight in Liblouis, and one for Afrikaans for the Embraille iOS app. His last job before retirement was as an IT Specialist in one of South Africa’s banks.