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Braille & Braille Books

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Introduction

Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are blind or visually impaired. It is traditionally found in books and is written with embossed paper. Braille characters are small rectangular blocks called cells that contain tiny palpable bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. Braille varies from language to language.

These days Braille appears & is used on a variety of objects, so that the Blind can read:

  • Books that are written in Braille
  • Computer & Electronic Aids that supports Braille thanks to refreshable Braille displays. See Computer & Electronic Aids.
  • Braille watches
  • Money, many countries including South Africa have Braille on their bank notes. See Money under Accessible Features.
  • Signs that appear in public places like shopping centers, which helps the Blind to move about. See Building Regulations under Accessible Features.

Braille usage and the use of Braille Books has declined in the face of the increase in the number of web sites that provide Audio books & other books  that can be read on a computer with the help of screen-reader software.

 Other causes for the decline in Braille usage, including:

  • school budget constraints
  • technology advancement
  • different philosophical views over how blind children should be educated.

Braille education, however remains important for developing reading skills among blind and visually impaired children. Braille literacy also correlates with higher employment rates.

Other advances have helped to increase the use of Braille over the years, including:

  • The introduction of Thermoform Duplicator, which copies braille from paper to a Brailon (a sheet of durable plastic).
  • Computer-driven, high-speed braille printers
  • The improvement in the prices, availability & selection of Braille Books over the internet & through Blind organizations.

More about Braille

Braille is indirectly derived from the Latin alphabet. In Braille's original system, the dot patterns were assigned to letters according to their position within the alphabetic order of the French alphabet, with accented letters and w sorted at the end.

Braille was the first writing system with binary encoding. The system as devised by Braille consists of two parts:

  1. Character encoding that mapped characters of the French alphabet to tuples of six bits  (the dots),
  2. The physical representation of those six-bit characters with raised dots in a braille cell.

Within an individual cell, the dot positions are arranged as two columns of three positions. A raised dot can appear in any of the six positions, producing sixty-four (26) possible patterns, including one in which there are no raised dots.

Braille cells are not the only thing to appear in braille text. There may be embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, bullets that are larger than Braille dots, etc.

Several braille alphabets are used in South Africa. For English, Unified English Braille has been adopted. Nine other languages have been written in braille: Afrikaans, Ndebele, Sotho, Northern Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. All print alphabets are restricted to the basic Latin alphabet, with diacritics in some cases; the braille alphabets are likewise basic braille with additional letters to render the diacritics.

In English Braille there are three levels of encoding:

Grade 1 - a letter-by-letter transcription used for basic literacy
Grade 2 - an addition of abbreviations and contractions
Grade 3 - various non-standardized personal shorthands.

Braille cells are not the only thing to appear in braille text. There may be embossed illustrations and graphs, with the lines either solid or made of series of dots, arrows, bullets that are larger than Braille dots, etc.

Braille Reading techniques

Since braille is one of the few writing systems where tactile perception is used, as opposed to visual perception, a braille reader must develop new skills.

There are many different styles and techniques used for the understanding and reading of braille, including:

  • the ability to create smooth and even pressures when running one's fingers along the words.
  • using the index fingers of both hands.
  • finish reading the end of a line with the right hand and to find the beginning of the next line with the left hand simultaneously.

Writing Braille

When people produce braille, this is called braille transcription. When computer software produces braille, this is called braille translation. ( See Braille Translation in Computer & Electronic Aids.) Braille may be produced by hand using a slate and stylus in which each dot is created from the back of the page, writing in mirror image, or it may be:

  • produced on a braille typewriter
  • typed on a braille writer, such as a portable braille note-taker
  • on a computer that prints with a braille embosser.
  • typed using a Perkins Brailler, or an electronic Brailler or eBrailler.

Most braille embossers support between 34 and 40 cells per line, and 25 lines per page.

A manually operated Perkins braille typewriter supports a maximum of 42 cells per line (its margins are adjustable), and typical paper allows 25 lines per page.

Because braille letters cannot be effectively erased and written over if an error is made, an error is overwritten with all six dots (⠿).

Using a computer or other electronic device, braille may be produced with a braille embosser (printer) or a refreshable braille display.

Braille characters are much larger than their printed equivalents, and the standard 11" by 11.5" (28 cm × 30 cm) page has room for only 25 lines of 43 characters. To reduce space and increase reading speed, most braille alphabets and orthographies use ligatures, abbreviations, and contractions. Virtually all English Braille books are transcribed in this contracted braille, which adds an additional layer of complexity to English orthography.

Braille usage and the use of Braille Books has declined In the face of the increase in the number of web sites that provide Audio books & other books  that can be read on a computer with online screen-reader software. Other causes for the decline in Braille usage, including:

  • school budget constraints
  • technology advancement
  • different philosophical views over how blind children should be educated.

However, Braille education remains important for developing reading skills among blind and visually impaired children. Braille literacy correlates with higher employment rates.

Other advances have helped to increase the use of Braille over the years, including:

  • The introduction of Thermoform Duplicator, which copies braille from paper to a Brailon (a sheet of durable plastic).
  • Computer-driven, high-speed braille printers
  • The improvement in the prices, availability & selection of Braille Books over the internet & through Blind organizations.

There are also a variety of other products that available or innovations that have recently been developed, that might further effect the use and sale of Braille Books, but could make reading and books more enjoyable and easier to read. They include:

A refreshable braille display or braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Blind computer users who cannot use a computer monitor can use it to read text output. Speech synthesizers are also commonly used for the same task, and a blind user may switch between the two systems or use both at the same time depending on circumstances. Deafblind computer users may also use refreshable braille displays.

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