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Annotated Links

The Braille Authority of North America, formed in 1976, is the recognized "authority for approving and adopting changes in all existing braille codes" in the United States and Canada. It was formed with the support of a number of organizations including government agencies and blind advocacy groups who remain part of its board of directors. "The mission of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) is to assure literacy for tactile readers through the standardization of braille and/or tactile graphics. BANA's purpose is to promote and to facilitate the uses, teaching and production of braille. It publishes rules, interprets and renders opinions pertaining to braille in all existing and future codes."

BRL -- Braille through Remote Learning -- is a free "online instructional program that provides teachers, parents, social workers, and current/future braille transcribers with a series of three integrated online courses in braille and braille transcribing." This excellent site is sponsored by The Shodor Education Foundation and I've found it very useful.

Computer Applications Specialities Company is the developer of ED-IT PC and its follow-on, Braille 2000.

Computers to Help People, Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to "apply computer technology to the problems of people with disabilities." One of their main activities is the transcription of science and math books into braille using the Nemeth code. The Director of CHPI, John J. Boyer, has been of enormous inspiration to getting this site going and I am especially grateful for his kindness and generosity in answering my many questions about braille and accessibility issues.

Duxbury Systems, Inc. is the producer of the most-widely used full-featured braille transcribing system in the world: Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT). Duxbury was also the first commercially successful braille translator; the company officially started in 1975 although their work had begun earlier. Their website includes interesting information about the development of computer-based braille transcription systems as well as number of useful braille links. Duxbury is also now the home of MegaDots, still the most popular transcribing program for Nemeth.

Duxbury offers several free downloads including its SimBraille and Braille TrueType fonts and the Perky Duck program for simulated six-key typing on a standard keyboard.

"The Hadley School for the Blind offers more than 90 courses across four programs. Courses relevant to the needs of blind individuals, their families and professionals working in the blindness field are continually being developed and updated." All Hadley courses, including a variety of braille classes, are free and are taught one-on-one using distance learning. Blind persons, their family members, and most other persons with a legitimate reason for taking Hadley courses are eligible to enroll.

The only official certification for braille transcribers and braille proofreaders in the United States is through the Library of Congress. They are also currently involved in designing ways to certify teachers of blind children. "The Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress administers a program of courses leading to certification in braille transcribing and proofreading in cooperation with a network of volunteer groups throughout the United States."
See also BANA information about becoming a member of the group of approximately 23,000 LOC certified braillists in the United States.

MathML is the extension of the ideas behind HTML to display math using a source-render paradigm. The newest version of the specifications are a W3C Recommendation that "was released on 21 Feb 2001. A product of the W3C Math working group, MathML is a low-level specification for describing mathematics as a basis for machine to machine communication. It provides a much needed foundation for the inclusion of mathematical expressions in Web pages...."

MathType is the commercial upgrade to the Equation Editor bundled with Microsoft Word. This editor provides a graphical interface that makes it easy to enter equations. The latest version of MathType generates MathML as an output option and is probably the best commercial software currently available for that purpose. The standard price is ~$130; academic versions are cheaper.

MAVIS or Mathematics Accessible to Visually Impaired Students refers to methodology developed at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces for both forward and back transcription of Nemeth. LATeX output generated by Scientific Notebook can be imported into DBT and transcribed to Nemeth with a special filter. A facility for back transcribing student-produced Nemeth for review by sighted teachers is in progress.

"The mission of the National Braille Association, Inc. is to provide continuing education to those who prepare braille, and to provide braille materials to persons who are visually impaired."

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) "is the nation's largest and most influential membership organization of blind persons. With fifty thousand members, the NFB has affiliates in all fifty states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and over seven hundred local chapters. As a consumer and advocacy organization, the NFB is considered the leading force in the blindness field today." The NFB published the Braille Monitor which is available online and in a variety of other formats.

Links to Braille Monitor articles:

Pokadot "is a six-key direct keyboard input braille transcription program for sighted braille transcribers that has been approved by the National Braille Association." The Pokadot site maintains an up-to-date list of keyboards which accept (simulated) six-key entry. Pokadot can be downloaded for free from

The Science Access Project group at Oregon State University is doing research "to develop methods for making science, math, and engineering information accessible to people with print disabilities." They are focussed on difficult areas like graphs and have done creative work with a wide variety of new tactile displays. (Cf. TIGER commercial embosser based on their work.) Their approach is somewhat the inverse of Dotless Braille in that they hope that their new approaches to braille will eliminate the need for sighted persons to deal with dots by replacing braille dots with print-like characters and by trying to make braille and print more directly equivalent without the need for any intermediate process. Their six-dot and eight-dot DotsPlus extended character sets, which are "a set of tactile fonts that permits virtually any computer document written in a language based on the Roman alphabet to be printed in a form readable by a blind person", include small graphic symbols that require a special embosser. Inkprint representations of DotsPlus characters are intended to be directly recognizable by sighted persons.

ScientificNotebook is a computer application designed to support the study and application of mathematics in an academic setting. When used with MAVIS, LaTeX output generated by Scientific Notebook can be used as the basis for a Nemeth transcription.

This methodology—which is a current alternate to Duxbury's MegaDots with MegaMath but, like Megadots, is likely to be eventually superceded by a MathML approach—is now commercially available by combining Scientific Notebook with DBT. When "Scientific Notebook is used with the Duxbury braille output, it provides dramatic new power to visually impaired students and individuals." Note that this approach does not solve the general problem of transcribing technical texts because the user has to enter the mathematics into Scientific Notebook with this purpose in mind. The standard price is ~$200; academic versions are cheaper.

TSVBI Susan Osterhaus, a teacher of secondary mathematics at the Texas School for the Blind and Visual Impaired, maintains a superb Internet resource called "Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students". This page is without a doubt THE best resource for Nemeth material. There is lots of information right on the site as well as downloads, descriptions of various resources, and links. You can also request printed materials. There is way too much information to describe in this short paragraph. Check it out!

ICEB and UEBC. The International Council on English Braille is attempting to unify the various braille codes used in English-speaking countries. "It is important to understand that UEBC is not presently an official transcription code in any jurisdiction, but remains a research project. Besides the inherently very difficult nature of the design work, there is opposition from persons who do not accept the feasibility or desirability of unification, or who wish the unification to take some other form, all of which must be properly considered. For these reasons, it is not possible to estimate an acceptance date for UEBC, though at least a few years seems likely. If and when a complete UEBC is accepted by the ICEB, it will still be up to the various national authorities to adopt UEBC for official use in their respective jurisdictions." See also a recent article on the UEBC by Professor Nemeth.

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This page was last updated July 09, 2007.

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