Note that an accompanying article discusses various drawbacks to the use of typeform indicators in braille transcriptions along with possible alternatives.
"The mission of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) [http://www.brailleauthority.org] is to assure literacy for tactile readers." In so doing "BANA considers the effects of its decisions on ... acceptability to readers."
BANA has recently published a three-part article [http://www.brailleauthority.org/article/evolution_of_braille-full.pdf] that describes certain deficiencies in its current braille codes and proposes adopting of a new braille system.
Code building is a more challenging task than it first appears; even simple "fixes" become complicated given the complexities of our current codes. The literary braille code was not designed to be "extensible” – that is, there are no clear and specific rules for building and changing symbols in a logical fashion. Right now, every proposed change to the braille code has to be considered individually in an ad hoc fashion. ...
The committee recommends that BANA adopt a system such as UEB or NUBS that was designed to be extendible, flexible, and consistent.
The purpose of the present paper is to evaluate UEB and NUBS typeform indicators with respect to BANA's criteria of acceptability and extensibility.
Although it is difficult to measure acceptability it appears plausible that the UEB typeform indicators would be less acceptable than the corresponding NUBS indicators because of the use of braille cells with unrelated meanings in other contexts and because they would be harder to remember. All the UEB start indicators terminate with braille cells used as punctuation marks and contractions in other contexts while all the NUBS start indicators terminate with braille cells only ever used as symbol prefixes. Also all of the transcriber-assigned UEB indicators incorporate the braille cell used elsewhere as a number sign.
As far as entensibility, both systems achieve extensibility via transcriber-assigned typeform indicators. UEB specifies five sets of typeform indicators that can be transcriber-assigned while NUBS provides for the construction of any number of sets of typeform indicators that can be transcriber-assigned.
In summary, it appears that the design of the NUBS typeform indicators achieves greater acceptability than the design of the UEB typeform indicators. However, both systems seem to meet BANA's extensibility criteria with respect to the particular issue of typeform indicators.
The UEB rules are based on The Rules of Unified English Braille, June 2010 (UEB Rulebook) which can be obtained from the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) Project Page. [http://www.iceb.org/ueb.html]
The NUBS rules based on the full NUBS [http://www.braille2000.com/brl2000/nubs2.htm] documentation.
Both UEB and NUBS provide for multiple typeform indicators that can be used to represent print styling. (Typeform is braille transcribing terminology for any aspect of the visual appearance of a portion of print text—font, size, color, style, etc.— that serves to distinguish that text from the default or normal text of a document.) However, the construction of the indicators are different. The NUBS indicators are likely more acceptable in that, unlike the UEB ones, they do not incorporate braille cells that have unrelated meanings in other contexts and they do have a mnemonic basis. The NUBS approach is also slightly more extensible in not limiting the number of transcriber-assigned typeform indicators.
|.2||.;||italic symbol indicator|
|.1||.^||italic word or sequence indicator|
|.7||..;||italic passage indicator|
The acceptability of a braille system depends on a number of factors. Two important factors are the ease of tactile reading, which is affected by the construction of the braille symbols, and the ease of remembering the meaning of the braille symbols, which is affected by their mnemonics.
The details of the construction of the typeform indicator symbols are given later. However, the basics of their construction can be seen in Table 1. Here it is obvious that the UEB typeform start indicators terminate in braille cells that have familiar uses in other contexts while the NUBS typeform start indicators terminate in prefix cells.
The use in UEB indicator construction of braille cells with familiar meanings in other contexts is of concern because of its potential negative impact on tactile reading. This is because the effort of interpreting braille cells with unexpected meanings can disrupt the smooth lateral hand motions so essential to fluent tactile reading.
Four of the braille cells used in the construction of the UEB typeform indicators have familiar meanings in both UEB and other contracted braille systems. The braille cell used to terminate the UEB symbol indicator, dots-23, is also the symbol for a semicolon. The braille cell used to terminate the word or sequence indicator, dot-2, is also the symbol for a comma. The braille cell used to terminate the passage indicator, dots-2356, is also the contraction for were. One of the braille cells incorporated in all of the UEB transcriber-assigned typeform indicators shown in Tables 3 and 4, namely dots-3456, is also the number sign.
UEB's re-use of braille cells for unrelated purposes not only has the potential to negatively impact the mechanics of tactile reading, it can also negatively impact the ease of remembering the purpose of that re-use. The NUBS typeform indicators, by contrast, incorporate simple mnemonics. The NUBS typeform symbol indicator terminates in the dots-56 cell which is also the standard "letter sign" used to indicate a symbol. The NUBS typeform word or sequence indicator terminates in the dots-45 cell which, being in the upper part of the second column, suggest a greater extent than does the dots-56 cell. The NUBS typeform passage indicator uses the familiar tactic of repeating the typeform designator.
In summary, the construction of the UEB typeform indicators, which is based on incorporating braille cells which are frequently encountered with different and well-known meanings, is likely to have a negative impact on the ease of both tactile and mental recognition. It is thus reasonable to conclude that the NUBS indicators, which don't share these flaws, are likely to be more acceptable.
BANA wants its braille codes or systems to be extensible so as to be able to accommodate future changes. Both UEB and NUBS provide an extensibility mechanism for typeforms based on the use of transcriber-assigned typeform indicators. NUBS is slightly more extensible than UEB in that it allows a transcriber to construct any number of additional typeform indicator sets consistent with its rules for symbol construction while UEB provides only five explicitly defined sets of typeform indicators which can be transcriber-assigned.
The basic approach to the construction of typeform indicators is the same in UEB and NUBS as described in the next section. Implementation differences are detailed the section after that.
Both braille systems provide sets of four indicators for specifying a given typeform as shown in Table 1 for the italic typeform indicators. Each set includes three start indicators to be used to indicate the typeform of a single character, of a single word or shorter sequence of characters, and of a passage, respectively. There is one terminator indicator to terminate the sequence and passage indicators. (The single character indicator doesn't need to be terminated because its scope is implicit. The word indicator is terminated automatically by the end of a word.)
All UEB typeform indicators consist of a prefix and a root. The NUBS start typeform indicators are simple prefixes while the NUBS typeform termination indicators consist of a prefix and a root.
Both the UEB and NUBS typeform indicators terminate in a single cell that designates the extent of the effect of the indicator. The interpretation of the UEB extent designators is context-sensitive in that these same cells are used as punctuation marks or contractions in other contexts while this is not the case for NUBS. The UEB extent designators are not based on mnemonics wheareas the NUBS extent designators are based on a simple mnemonic system.
All typeform indicators in UEB consist of two parts: a single- or multi-cell prefix that designates the typeform and a (necessarily single-cell) root that designates or determines its extent. All nine sets of typeform indicators use the same four root cells. Note that these root cells have unrelated meanings in other contexts. The extent designator for a symbol, dots-23, is also used as a semicolon; the extent designator for a word, dot-3, is also used as a comma; the extent designator for a passage dots-2356, is also the contraction for were.
Because these indicators terminate with a root cell, any number of UEB typeform indicators can be used in sequence—e.g. to indicate bold plus italics—without ambiguity. The UEB Rulebook recommends that in the case of a sequence of typeform start indicators requiring terminators that their respective terminators be nested, i.e., be in reverse order from their start indicators.
UEB provides four sets of explicit typeform indicators shown in Table 2 and five sets of user-assigned typeform indicators shown in Tables 3 and 4.
All typeform indicators in NUBS consist of two parts: a single- or multi-cell leading portion that designates the typeform and a final cell that designates its extent. Explicit typeform start indicators in NUBS are a multi-cell prefix. The braille symbol for a typeform passage start indicator repeats the typeform designator twice and terminates with the same extent designator as does the corresponding symbol indicator.
Even though these start indicators do not end with a root cell, they can be used in sequence without ambiguity because the cells used to designate the extents are not used in the typeform designators. This will also hold true for NUBS transcriber-defined typeform symbols as long as they are constructed in accord with this design.
Typeform terminators in NUBS use a prefix-root construction like the UEB ones. Here the prefix used to designate the typeform is the same as the typeform designator for the corresponding typeform start indicators and the root is the same as the UEB typeform terminator root, dot-3.
NUBS provides three sets of explicit typeform indicators shown in Table 2 and allows the transcriber to construct any number of additional typeform indicators consistent with the the NUBS system for braille symbols. Five possible NUBS transcriber-defined typeform indicators are shown in Tables 3 and 4.
All of the UEB and NUBS typeform indicators are shown in the tables in the next two sections.
Table 2 shows all of the explicit typeform indicators specified in UEB and in NUBS.
|.2||.;||italic symbol indicator|
|.1||.^||italic word or sequence indicator|
|.7||..;||italic passage indicator|
|^2||_;||boldface symbol indicator|
|^1||_^||boldface word or sequence indicator|
|^7||__;||boldface passage indicator|
|_2||@;||underlined symbol indicator|
|_1||@^||underlined word or sequence indicator|
|_7||@@;||underlined passage indicator|
|@2||N.A.||script symbol indicator|
|@1||N.A.||script word or sequence indicator|
|@7||N.A.||script passage indicator|
Both UEB and NUBS provides for transcriber-assigned typeform indicators. The five UEB indicators shown in the next two tables are specified on p. 91 of the UEB Rulebook. NUBS, by contrast, doesn't specify a fixed number of such indicators but allows the braille transcriber to construct new typeform indicators as needed. The NUBS indicators in the next two tables are thus suggestions based on the specific design of the explicit NUBS typeform indicators in accord with the NUBS rules for contructing new indicators.
|@#2||_@;||first transcriber-defined typeform symbol indicator|
|@#1||_@^||first transcriber-defined typeform word or sequence indicator|
|@#7||_@_@;||first transcriber-defined typeform passage indicator|
|@#'||_@'||first transcriber-defined typeform terminator|
|^#||_.||second transcriber-defined typeform designator|
|_#||.@||third transcriber-defined typeform designator|
|"#||@_||fourth transcriber-defined typeform designator|
|.#||._||fifth transcriber-defined typeform designator|
|N.A.||[transcriber constructed]||sixth, seventh, etc. transcriber-defined typeform designators|
UEB and NUBS both use the same basic approach to defining sets of four typeform indicators: three start indicators—to be used for symbols, words and sequences, and passages, respectively—and one terminator. The construction of the NUBS indicators is likely to be more acceptable to braille readers in that it avoids the use of braille cells with unrelated meanings in other contexts and employs better mnemonics. UEB and NUBS both provide for extensibility via transcriber-assigned typeform indicators.
First draft posted April 17, 2012.
Please send correctins and feedback to the author at info at dotlessbraille.org