In Industry News, Translation/Localization

January is National Braille Literacy Awareness Month in honor of Louis Braille, who developed Braille. Louis Braille was born in January of 1809 and this year marks the 210th anniversary of his birth. In honor of Braille Literacy Awareness Month, this blog offers some insight into the terminology of Braille and the process of creating documents in Braille.

Braille Terminology

Braille Codes: Braille, or “Braille Code,” is a system of raised dots originally developed to allow the visually impaired to read by touch. Since its development, different sets of symbols have been developed for other languages, such as Spanish, as well as other genres, such as math or music.

Cell: In most written languages, a word is made up of letters or characters. In Braille, words are made up of “cells.” A cell consists of raised dots arranged in two parallel rows each having three dots. For example:


In this example, the large dots would be embossed or pressed on paper, allowing the reader to feel the placement of the dots and thereby read the letters. The small dots are called “shadow dots,” and are displayed only as place holders to demonstrate placement within a full cell.

Uncontracted Braille: Uncontracted braille is a direct, letter-for-letter representation of English. Each cell represents a separate letter, number, or punctuation mark. This type of braille was formerly called “Grade 1.” Young children typically learn uncontracted Braille first.

Contracted Braille: Contracted Braille is the most common type used. It is a sort of “shorthand” braille that uses contractions or shortcuts. For example, the letter “C,” alone, means “can” and the letters “td” means “today.” This type of braille was formerly called “Grade 2,” and is sometimes referred to as the “Literary Braille Code.”

Nemeth Code: Nemeth Code is a Braille Code for mathematical and scientific text. It includes the numbers, fractions, shapes, punctuation, operators (+,-, x, ÷, etc.), fractions, comparison signs (e.g., ≤ or ≠), and other symbols used in mathematical equations. It also includes special shorthand for shapes (e.g., triangle, square, rhombus, etc.), functions, and even Greek and Latin letters frequently used in scientific and mathematical discourse.

Music Code: The Music Code is the Braille Code for music notes and symbols. It includes cells for the various musical notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B), the types of notes (e.g., eighth, quarter, half, and whole notes), rests, and other symbols needed to read sheet music.

Braille Transcription: The process of transforming English text into pressed or embossed Braille is most commonly referred to as “transcription,” as opposed to “translation.” Specially trained transcriptionists convert documents into contracted or uncontracted Braille, much like a translator translates from one language to another.

Braille Printing: Braille “printing” is a generic term for creating Braille documents. Braille can be embossed onto or pressed into paper.

Embossed Braille: Embossing is one of the most common methods to print Braille. Embossed Braille is generated by Braille printers called “embossers.”

Pressed Braille: Braille can also be transferred to paper using a press. In this method, a plate is made for each page of text and then large presses are used to press the raised dots into the paper. Creating the plate can be very costly, but once created, it can be used over and over again (though any changes to the text require a whole new plate). Pressed Braille is used less frequently today due to the advent of modern, high-speed embossers.

Now that we’ve learned the ABCs of Braille, our next blog will delve into the modern usage of Braille, including the most common ways Braille is used today and a review of state and federal laws that mandate offering Braille documents.

Did you know Vocalink Global offers Braille transcription and printing services? Connect with Us today for more information!

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