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It's been a long time since I’ve produced an article on this site. The last article I wrote was in July 2018, and since then, I’ve been busy with other projects and one in which I believe this readership would be interested in.
In this 2017 article I wrote talking about how Music Braille was created, I’ve been pondering about how to discuss braille in general.
While thinking about this article, I’ve been working on a Braille transcription course, which I started in September 2018 and got my report for its first course assignment back in October. Since then, I’ve learned more about the piece of software I’m using, and I thought it was time to talk about how Braille is produced.
As discussed in the 2017 article, Braille was created by Louis Braille, who went blind due to an accident. He developed music braille before the literary system because he needed to read his music as an organist. Did you know how all of the braille comes out?
As discussed, special paper is used to produce the braille, and it can be done either on one side or two sides of the paper.
With that out of the way, did you know how this type of work is done? Besides the Braille Writer, there are now programs written in Windows and Mac that allow for the writing of text into this system. Programs include: Braille 2000, Duxbury, and Braille Blaster. There is also a program that does six-key entry only called Perkey Duck, made by the folks at Duxbury.
Music braille, itself, can only be done using six-key entry, where the braille is entered using only six keys, just like the Braille Writer. All other text, including foreign language, is done in regular text. This means that I can just take a word document, and convert it into braille by just opening it in a program, checking for formatting, fixing it up, and having it embossed using a braille writer type of printer called an embosser. This makes this type of work easy to do.
As we learn braille, we learn the alphabet with no special signs or contractions. Simple contractions are learned as we build our vocabulary. Below, uncontracted, I’ll show you the alphabet in braille.
As you can see from each letter, they can visually take on different shapes or patterns. The goal here is not to teach braille, but to illustrate how the finished product may look.
Each software (linked later in this article) may do the job a little differently, but the concept is the same. The person using the software will have a document and can tell the software to open the document and have it translated. There are also different formatting rules that must be followed, and that's not the purpose of this article.
Let's take an example using some of the letters, and show how contracted braille works. Contracted braille is known as short form in some aspects of the codebooks, and it can be complex. For illustrations, we’ll take simple words to illustrate how the letters illustrated above can be used in sentences, or even in different ways, such as lower-cell words.
In the sentence "I like camp." above, we have several different things. The capital I is shown with two different symbols, which the software knows about. The dot number shown is a dot 6. This dot 6 standing by itself as a cell is the capital sign. The short form for like is just "l," just like the image of the Grade One letters shown above. The period is dots 2-5-6, when at the end of a sentence. Other punctuations such as question mark, exclamation points, commas, and other symbols (not to be discussed here), can be represented in braille. The software knows how to produce all of these symbols, as shown in the illustrated sentence above.
We’ve not even covered lower-cell contractions; for example, words like enough, were, and his. "Enough," for example, can also be “en” when in a word like "went."
In the sample sentence “I like his family.” shown below, you’ll see the short form for his. This symbol, the software knows when it should stand for his, a question mark, or even an opening quote mark.
If you take "was," you get a closing quote as well, and the context knows this. The software knows how to do this, and it works well.
Below: Please find resources to learn more about braille and the software that is used to develop it. As always, please contact me with questions.