From Print To Braille: The Key to Accessible Word Documents (Extra 68)

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.

In this episode, discover how making a few small tweaks to your Microsoft Word documents will not only lead to better automated braille, but also speed up your word processing tasks! Using styles, inserting proper characters and ensuring tables are created effectively will all be covered.

The session was presented by Barry Coates, Technology Training Manager at RNIB.

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From Print To Braille: What Should Our Braille Look Like? (episode 55)

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, we unpack the rules and conventions of braille layout in different parts of the world. Are headings always centred? What happens if a table is too wide for the braille page? Find out the answers to these questions and so much more!

Our panel of braille transcribers was comprised of:

  • Jen Goulden from Canada
  • Anja Gibbs from New Zealand
  • Craig Morgan from Wales
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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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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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Using Braille Displays with Phones and Tablets (Episode 45)

The Braillists Foundation recently held its first face-to-face event since the Coronavirus pandemic. In this episode, we catch up with some of the people who attended, and we also hear recordings of the three presentations which took place:

  • Reading multilingual text using an iPhone, the Kindle app and a Focus 14
  • Text entry with an iPhone and a Brailliant BI40X
  • Reading books with an iPhone, the Kindle app and an Orbit Reader 20
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An Evening With George Bell (Episode 44)

George Bell has been at the helm of Techno-Vision Systems for at least 35 years. In that time, he has brought many blindness products to the UK market, repaired numerous machines which would have otherwise been condemned, and provided countless hours of technical support. He is particularly well-known for his involvement with the Duxbury Braille Translator, not only as UK sales and support but also through his tireless oversight of the documentation. He also enjoyed a very fruitful relationship with Dancing Dots, and imported many of their products including the Goodfeel braille music translator.

As we approach the end of George’s long and established career, we thought it would be fitting to spend some time in conversation with him, picking out the highlights of the past three and a half decades and thinking about what the future might look like.

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Formatting Your Braille (Extra 43)

It’s often said in the industry that garbage in = garbage out, but what does this mean in practice?

On 17 May 2022, our Chairman Dave Williams held a conversation with Kawal Gucukoglu, who worked for many years as a braille transcriber at RNIB. They discussed the principals of effective braille layout – headings, paragraphs, lists, tables and so on – and how to implement them in electronic file formats to achieve optimum quality.

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Care and Usage of your Perkins Brailler (Extra 41)

The Perkins Brailler has been a staple in the lives of braille users ever since the first one was manufactured in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1951. To this day, the Perkins is widely considered to be the most durable braille device on the market, with machines over 50 years old still going strong.

They are so popular, in fact, that it is easy to forget that we need to teach new braillists how to use them! Furthermore, even established braillists do not always know how to diagnose faults when they arise, or how to take the best care of their machines so as to minimise the risks of faults arising in the first place.

On 15 March, we were joined by Alan Thorpe of Eyecan, a certified Perkins Brailler Repair Centre. Alan took us on a tour of the Perkins Brailler, introducing us to the proper names of all of the parts! He explained how to insert paper and write braille, and described some common faults and how to overcome them. He also explained when a professional service or repair may be required and briefly explained the differences between the different models of Perkins Brailler available.

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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Braille on iOS, Part 2 (Extra 39)

Following the first successful Masterclass, we were delighted to have been joined once again by Scott Davert, one of the most well-known authorities on the use of iOS with a braille display, to continue his exploration of this winning combination. Scott is the Coordinator at the Technology, Research and Innovation Center, part of the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults, and serves on the editorial team at AppleVis.

In this Masterclass, he introduced some more advanced navigation commands, including using the rotor, and then discussed and demonstrated text editing.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 15 February 2022. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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Choosing and Setting UP Your Embosser (Extra 37)

In our first Masterclass of 2022, Matthew Horspool tackled the hows, whys and wherefores of braille embossers: choosing them, setting them up and making the most of them. The session covered:

  • The purpose and function of an embosser and why you might want one
  • Different types of embosser
  • Different types of paper
  • Connectivity options
  • The user interface
  • The relationship between embosser and computer
  • The role of translation software

This session was recorded on Tuesday 18 January 2022. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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