2010 Conference: World Braille Usage Refreshed by Mary Schnackenberg and Dr Judith Dixon

This paper was presented at the 2010 conference of the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities. You can read the full paper below, download the Word version, flip through the slides or listen to an audio recording of the presentation.

Download this presentation

Word version of full paper

Audio recording of Mary Schnackenberg’s presentation (MP3, 31.4 MB)

Authors’ bios

Mary Schnackenberg giving her presentatio on the World Braille Usage project
Mary Schnackenberg is currently President of the International Council on English Braille. She used to work for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, managing their library and accessible format production services. Following a reorganisation of the Foundation’s senior management team in 2008, Mary set up her own company and she now provides consultancy services in the general area of disability and accessible information. Mary was one of the inaugural recipients of the Round Table’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Mary’s joint author, Dr Judith M. Dixon, is the Secretary of the International Council on English Braille and the current Chair of the Braille Authority of North America. Judy has worked for the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress since 1980 and was involved in writing the second edition of World Braille Usage. Judy is currently the Consumer Relations Officer at NLS.

Abstract

Outline of presentation:

  • Some history of World Braille Usage
  • The scope of the 2nd edition published in 1990
  • Gathering electronic versions of the 2nd edition
  • The involvement of the Library of Congress, the World Blind Union and UNESCO
  • Establishing the database to capture survey data
  • Writing the survey questions
  • Deciding who to survey
  • Issuing the survey and obtaining responses
  • Some examples of responses

Slides

Slide 1

World Braille Usage Refreshed
by Mary Schnackenberg, President
and Dr. Judith M. Dixon, Secretary
International Council on English Braille (ICEB)

Logo: ICEB International Council on English Braille
Logo: Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Slide 2

Think Globally, Act Locally

  • Audience
  • History
  • Data collection

Slide 3

Audience

World Braille Usage lists the braille codes used to represent the world’s various languages.

  • Transcribers
  • Braille producers
  • Braille readers

Slide 4

History

  • First published by UNESCO in 1953
  • Revised in 1990 by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.
  • Second edition:
    • 124 print pages
    • 97 languages

Slide 5

Data Collection

  • In 1984 questionnaires were sent out to 590 organizations
  • 85 countries listed
  • 3,000 print copies distributed

Slide 6

Goals of Third Edition

  • New countries
  • Hundreds of languages

Slide 7

Opportunities of Third Edition

To hold the “master” of World Braille Usage online:

  • Outputs in hard-copy print or paper braille
  • Displayable on electronic braille devices
  • Contains updated braille International Phonetic Alphabet

Slide 8

Who Are We Surveying?

Goal is to establish at the outset which organization in each country is the “braille authority” for that country or for each language spoken in that country.

Slide 9

Exclusions and Inclusions

Same policy of inclusions and exclusions for the next edition.

Exclusions:

  • Codes for mathematics and science
  • Braille shorthand systems
  • Details about formats of braille

Slide 10

The Survey Questions

  • Survey not written yet
  • Follow-up process will be in place
  • Surveys in languages other than English will be provided, if necessary

Slide 11

Data Entry of the Survey Responses and Publication

  • Difficult to estimate how long it will take
  • Goal is to complete World Braille Usage by next General Assembly of ICEB

[end of slides]

Full paper: World Braille Usage Refreshed

Think Globally, Act Locally

The theme for this year’s Round Table Conference is exemplified in the World Braille Usage revision project. To see how this is so, let’s first look at the audience for this publication, some history of World Braille Usage, the process of data gathering and how far through are we, and when do we expect the next edition to be released.

The Audience for the Current Edition of World Braille Usage

World Braille Usage lists the braille codes used to represent the world’s various languages. Transcribers turn to it whenever they encounter printed materials in languages other than their own for guidance about the braille codes to be used.

For example, in New Zealand, a few years ago, a university student decided to learn Arabic. One of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s volunteer transcribers spoke and read Arabic. We knew that print Arabic was written and read from right to left. But what about Arabic in braille? World Braille Usage provided the answers.

Some History of World Braille Usage

First published by UNESCO in 1953, World Braille Usage was revised in 1990 by the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

That second edition of 124 print pages scoped braille codes used for some 97 languages. In 1984 questionnaires were sent out to some 590 organisations. A quick count shows some 85 countries are listed in the 1990 Table of Contents. Clearly the second edition has been useful because NLS reports some three thousand print copies have been distributed.

So why do we need a new edition? The fall of the Berlin Wall has created a raft of new countries and there are hundreds of languages spoken and read in the world of 2010.

Moreover, blind consumers are seeking to learn multiple languages, especially those living in Europe, and some are becoming their own transcribers. To satisfy this extended usage, there is a need for World Braille Usage to be made available in braille as well as print. In brailling World Braille Usage, there is also a need for raised representations of the symbols that appear in print.

At the Paris Conference in January 2009, held to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Louis Braille, a resolution was passed calling on the World Blind Union to facilitate a new edition, so a need had been clearly expressed.

In the Introduction to the 1984 questionnaire, the intention was stated to publish the second edition in the United Nations six official languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish? The second edition was published only in English.

In 2010 we have the internet and email, non-existent in 1984 when the questionnaires were sent out. Today we have the opportunity to hold the “master” of World Braille Usage online, providing outputs in hard copy print, or paper braille, or for display on electronic braille devices. Moreover, with the DAISY standard now addressing braille, we have the opportunity to attempt to put into practice the concept of the single source file master which should drive all the various outputs.

And one more technical point: the 1953 and 1990 editions relied on the 1936 edition of the braille International Phonetic Alphabet. In 2008 the updated International Phonetic Alphabet for braille was launched, actually at the General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille. So we will be able to take advantage of that up-to-date standard for phonetic representations in braille.

The Involvement of the Library of Congress and the International Council on English Braille

For some years, NLS has had a plan to create a new edition of World Braille Usage. In 2009, spurred on by the Paris resolution, the Executive of the International Council on English Braille resolved to work with NLS to help achieve the goal of a new edition. NLS has agreed to fund its production and has assigned some staff time to the work.

Who Are We Surveying?

In November 1984, questionnaires about braille codes were sent to some 590 organisations and there were responses from 85 countries around the world. The goal was to be inclusive of everyone and anyone who might have some knowledge of braille in their country.

In 2010, the goal is to establish at the outset which organisation in each country is the “braille authority” for that country or for each language spoken in that country. In 2006 the United Nations had 192 members.[1]The World Blind Union has about 177 country members.[2]

A call for participating braille authorities will be sent in June 2010. NLS has set up a web page to capture responses to the call for participation which should take less than five minutes to complete. The web address is http://www.nlstalkingbooks.org/wbu

We will invite organisations to register their interest in providing data for the revised edition of World Braille Usage, establishing their credentials to give us their data. As part of setting up the web page, the technically tricky issue of unicode has already been resolved so we will be able to capture data in a wide variety of the world’s languages and scripts.

ICEB and NLS will use their strong links with the World Braille Council, the World Blind Union and the many organisations of and for the blind around the world to ensure a comprehensive, credible list of participants is included in the hard work to follow, the actual survey itself.

Exclusions and Inclusions

It is likely that the same policies of inclusions and exclusions will prevail for the next edition as for the current edition.

For example, codes for mathematics and science and braille shorthand systems are out of scope. So also will be omitted details about formats of braille. World Braille Usage is about literary braille codes.

Each language entry will refer to the relevant code book or code books. The online version will include links to web-based code books such as the Unified English Braille Rulebook which will be launched in June 2010 and will be located on the ICEB website.

Writing the Survey Questions

The survey for the second edition, including Instructions for completing it and directions about where to send it, is just 697 words, eight questions with sub-questions.

We have not as yet written the survey. When we do so, we will need to take into account any changes in terminology that may have occurred over the past 26 years. Every effort will be made to adopt a language style that is as comprehensible as possible. We need the survey to be completed after all and on time.

The 1984 questionnaire asked for the survey to be returned within two months. We will consider whether a higher return rate might be achieved if a shorter timeline is given. A follow-up process will be in place for surveys that are not returned. If necessary, surveys in languages other than English will be provided.

Data Entry of the Survey Responses and Publication

At this stage it is difficult to estimate just how long it will take to code the data collected from the responses. One estimate is that it will take some five hundred hours.

Fortunately today’s indexing tools will make it possible to easily produce drafts for proofreading. Then the desktop publishing experts at NLS will take over the print edition.

The goal is to complete World Braille Usage in time for the next General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille, scheduled for April or May in 2012 in South Africa.

The Local Global Theme

So you can see that there is a global reach for this project with a local involvement in each country to complete the survey questions. This very paper was compiled in Auckland and Washington D.C.

Because of the genuine benefits from World Braille Usage to the current audience of transcribers and the new audience of blind users, we are confident that there will be a good response to the survey. We look forward to the launch in South Africa in about two years’ time.


[1] http://www.un.org/en/members/ accessed 16 May 2010.

[2] http://www.www.worldblindunion.org accessed 16 May 2010.

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2 Comments on “2010 Conference: World Braille Usage Refreshed by Mary Schnackenberg and Dr Judith Dixon”

  1. Dang HaiLiang says:

    World Braille Usage (the 2nd edition published in 1990) Page18
    China
    Language:Mandarin
    ^^^^^^
    Finals
    dot(26) o,c
    should be:
    dot(26) o,e

  2. Moira Clunie says:

    Thanks for this comment. I have passed it on to the paper’s authors.


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