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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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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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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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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Braille Technology Throughout the Ages (Episode 47)

This episode focusses on braille technology: its past, present and future. We are joined by historians, people working in the braille technology industry today and developers of the next generation of braille hardware and software.

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Introducing Linux (Extra 48)

Linux: it powers everything from laptops to toasters, braille displays to coasters. You may have heard of the world’s most popular operating system if you follow technology related news, but what is it and how do you get started exactly?

In the second of our computer science themed Masterclasses, we explored how to get started using Linux with technologies that you’ll already be familiar with. We started by getting access to a test system to experiment with, then introduced everyone to a few basic commands that allowed us to perform some basic tasks.

For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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What Happened at ICEB? (Episode 39)

The International Council on English Braille held its Mid-Term Executive Committee Meeting from 5-9 June 2022. As well as transacting various items of business, there were lively discussions around the history of braille, braille music, braille technology and the braille code itself.

In this episode of Braillecast, we were joined by ICEB President Judy Dixon to discover the highlights of the Mid-Term and look ahead to how the discussions that took place will influence the future of braille around the world.

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Braille Without a Braille Display: Braille Screen Input and More (Extra 44)

If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android device, it’s highly likely that you can braille in grade 2 directly on the touch screen and have it back translated instantly – a perfect replacement for the on screen keyboard. In this episode, Matthew Horspool and special guest Chris Norman demonstrate how this works on both iOS and Android.

We also briefly explored other ways of entering braille without a braille display, including the popular Perky Duck program from Duxbury Systems.

This session was recorded on Tuesday 5 July 2022. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

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