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.
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.
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 rota, and then discussed and demonstrated text editing.
Kawal Gucukoglu on Being a Braille Transcriber and What Braille Means to Her (Episode 33)
Transcription, for anyone who doesn’t already know, is the process of taking content in one format and converting it into another. In this case, print is being converted into braille, a process ubiquitous in the production of braille books, magazines, bills, bank statements, legal documents and much more. Humans have been at the heart of this process since its inception and, in spite of numerous technological advances, they remain so today.
Kawal Gucukoglu, herself blind since birth, was a braille transcriber at RNIB for over 23 years, and in this episode of Braillecast, she shares some of the highs and lows of this part of her career, as well as what braille means to her more generally. We discussed the change to Unified English Braille, the evolving role of technology, the division of labour within a large organisation, and unique opportunities afforded to her through her braille-related work.
Perhaps you’re thinking about learning braille, but don’t know whether it’s worth it. Maybe you learnt braille as a child, but haven’t used it since. You might know braille and want to use it in your daily life, but can’t work out where it will fit. Or you could be bamboozled by braille technology, gadgets and gizmos.
A panel of passionate braillists met in front of a live audience on Tuesday 12 October 2021 to celebrate National Braille Week. They explored how to overcome common obstacles faced by people who could benefit from reading by touch, sharing a diverse range of perspectives from braille learners to braille experts, technology enthusiasts to people who just need to get on at home or in the workplace. The audience also had the opportunity to ask questions and contribute their own tips and suggestions.
Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about Teaching Braille but were Too Scared to Ask (Episode 29)
“Most of us who know braille were taught it.” It sounds like such an obvious statement – so obvious, in fact, that it seems appropriate to conclude that the world has an abundance of braille teachers, and the methods and techniques that they use are mature, uniform and understood by everyone working in the field. Presumably, approaches that work well have been iterated over time, those that haven’t worked so well have been abandoned, and the entire process has been well-documented so that future teachers can learn from the mistakes of the past.
The reality is less clearly defined, although certain concepts which have withstood the test of time especially well have become accepted as common knowledge. Pre-braille skills, for instance, feature regularly in discussions about teaching braille, as do the differences between learning braille by touch and by sight and teaching braille to children and adults.
On Tuesday 29 June 2021, we explored this topic in more detail in a live panel discussion with three braille teachers:
Christine Williams recently retired from Exhall Grange Specialist School and Science College in Coventry, where she held the post of Lead Teacher of the Visually Impaired. In that capacity, she taught braille not only to the pupils at Exhall Grange, but also peripatetically to pupils of all ages in mainstream schools throughout Warwickshire (via the Vision Support Service). Prior to this, she taught French at Exhall Grange for a number of years, where braille also played a significant role. In her retirement, she teaches braille voluntarily at Coventry Resource Centre for the Blind, predominantly to adults who are losing or in danger of losing their sight.
Melanie Pritchard has an extensive background in teaching braille to adults, either with visual impairments themselves or who are sighted friends or relatives of people with a visual impairment. Most recently, she taught the Braille For Beginners course remotely for the Braillists Foundation.
In Using Braille on Windows, we introduced you to the basics of making a braille display work with various screen readers. In this session, we took this to the next level in the first of an occasional series of Masterclasses looking at the braille settings of a particular screen reader.
This time it was JAWS. There are lots of settings and we weren’t able to cover all of them in an hour, so instead we reviewed some of the most common questions we’re asked, found the settings that relate to them, and explained what they do.
Adding and selecting your braille display
Choosing your braille code and grade
Status cells and their use in structured mode
Reversing panning buttons and panning by paragraph
The Most Inexpensive Braille Reading Setup in the World? Introducing Braille on the Amazon Fire Tablet (Extra 27)
Over the years, blind people have benefitted from incredible enhancements in the fields of electronic braille and accessibility in general. In fact, it’s now possible to purchase a fully accessible Amazon Fire tablet for under £50 which, pared with an inexpensive braille display such as an Orbit Reader, and Amazons Kindle store which offers access to quite literally hundreds of thousands of digital books, makes for an incredibly cost-effective braille reading setup. But how does it work?
In this masterclass, presented by Ben Mustill-Rose, we provided a general overview of the Fire tablet, the basics of setting it up, how to connect a braille display and how to navigate the device using it. We then purchased a book from the Kindle store and walked through how to read it on a braille display.
If you’re a blind Android user, you’re bound to have come across Steve Nutt at Computer Room Services. He’s blind himself, been in the accessible smartphone business for over 20 years, and has a vast amount of knowledge and experience when it comes to using smartphones with braille displays.
We’re delighted that he joined us on Tuesday 18 May to present an introduction to using an Android device with a braille display. He covered which braille displays work with Android, how to connect them, how to navigate the operating system, other key concepts, and how to use braille input.