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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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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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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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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Six Dots to Success: What Braille Means to Me and Panel (Extra 55)

The final recording from the recent Six Dots to Success conference held in collaboration with Sight and Sound Technology Ltd.

This episode features:

  • Options in Education with Braille with Alannah Moriarty
  • Panel discussion chaired by Roger Firman
  • Summing up
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Six Dots to Success: Braille in Higher Education and Employment (Extra 53)

The third of a series of recordings from the recent Six Dots to Success conference held in collaboration with Sight and Sound Technology Ltd.

This episode features a recording of one of the breakout rooms.

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Meet Hable One: the Portable Bluetooth Controller for your Smartphone (Extra 52)

Hable One is a powerful, fun and exciting way for you to interact with your smartphone or tablet using braille. As well as being a fully functional braille keyboard, supporting both grades 1 and 2, it also serves as a wireless remote control for every aspect of your smartphone or tablet, from moving around the screen to selecting, playing and pausing music, dialling numbers and changing settings.

For beginner braillists, it is a uniquely satisfying way of putting your braille skills into practice. For more advanced braillists, it is a vital productivity tool. It works in partnership with the smartphone or tablet’s screen reader and supports all popular apps including messages/WhatsApp, Facebook/Messenger, Twitter, Spotify, mail, contacts, calendar, reminders and notes.

On Tuesday 21 February at 7:30 PM GMT, we were joined by representatives from Hable, who told us more about this innovative device. We learned how easy it is to set it up and saw some practical examples of how it works both as a keyboard and a remote control. There was also plenty of opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

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