2001 Conference Proceedings

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Gaylen Kapperman
Jodi Sticken>
Department of Teacher Education
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115


The study of foreign languages by American students who are blind presents a major difficulty in the production of written work for sighted teachers who do not read braille. The following paragraphs describe a strategy for blind students to accomplish this task using the Braille Lite (B-Lite), a portable device in which synthetic speech and braille are combined.

The following description is limited to German, French, and Spanish, although this same strategy could be used with other languages which use the Latin alphabet and whose accented letters are represented in the ASCII character set.

Connecting the B-Lite to a printer

The B-Lite can be connected to most inkprint printers using a regular parallel cable. The printing commands are described in the printing section of the B-Lite Help File.

The Braille Lite can be connected to most braille embossers. In order for the special symbols included in the foreign language to be embossed properly, that language must be selected in the embosser. If a particular braille embosser does not have the capability of brailling languages other than English, the student will not be able to use this strategy to produce accurate copies which contain the special symbols.

Creating the proper file

Following are instructions for creating a file which will print an accurate version of a document written in German, French, or Spanish.

To input foreign languages using American English braille, the symbols are brailled in Grade I braille. Because computer braille code characters are used, braille contractions cannot be used. All inputted characters are comprised of the 26 letters of the alphabet plus the special accented letters and the punctuation marks in the computer code. Special symbols for accented letters and punctuation are used; consult Braille formats: Principles of print to braille transcription (1997) for guidance in carrying out these procedures.

Dot 6 cannot be used for the capitalization sign. For capital letters, braille u-chord followed by the letter that is to be printed in uppercase. To print an entire word or series of words in uppercase, braille two u-chords followed by the letters that are intended to be in uppercase. To end "continuous uppercase", immediately follow the last letter with q-chord.

To input any special characters found in the ASCII set, first press the alt command, dots 3-5-chord, followed by the ASCII number which has been assigned to the special character using computer braille code numbers. That sequence is followed by e-chord, after which the B-Lite will announce the character which has been inputted.

An example follows regarding how to braille the word, Fraulein (German for young lady), with an umlaut (2 dots) over the letter, a.

Press u-chord followed by the letter, f, causing the letter, f, to be capitalized. Braille the letter, r. Next, invoke the routine to input a special character (the a umlaut): Press dots 3-5-chord (alt) followed with the number, 132, in the lower portion of the cell. End the sequence with an e-chord; the B-Lite will announce, "a umlaut." Braille the remaining letters: u, l, e, i, and n; do not use the contraction for (in). When this file is sent to a printer, the word will be printed properly and anyone who can read German will be able to interpret it without difficulty.

When reading words letter by letter, the characters will be spoken and the word will also be displayed, including special symbols, in correct braille on the refreshable braille display. A dot 7 appears on the braille display to indicate uppercase letters if the eight-dot mode parameter is turned on in the Status Menu. Corrections of any special characters can be accomplished by placing the cursor over the special symbol, invoking the overwrite command (ow-chord), followed with the entire sequence to input the replacement symbol, beginning with dots 3-5-chord, followed by the new ASCII number, followed by e-chord.

Printing the foreign language file

To print the entire B-Lite file, turn on the inkprint printer and press t-chord followed by another t-chord. The printer should begin printing immediately. All of the other printing parameters, as described in the B-Lite help file, can be used. A braille copy of the file can be produced by connecting the B-Lite to a braille embosser and invoking the proper commands to print a braille file. If the special symbols were originally inputted into the file properly, they will be brailled correctly. Because the computer braille code symbols for the punctuation marks must be used, these will appear in the braille copy rather than the literary braille punctuation symbols. Thus, the student must read the computer braille code symbols for the punctuation marks. This is not difficult given that there are only seven such symbols. The special symbols and their ASCII values are listed separately for each of the three languages, German, French, and Spanish, in the following pages. U-chord can be used to print an uppercase letter except in the cases in which the uppercase letter is represented by an ASCII value. German ASCII Symbols Name ASCII a umlaut 132 uppercase A umlaut 142 o umlaut 148 uppercase O umlaut 153 u umlaut 129 uppercase U umlaut 154 French ASCII Symbols Name ASCII c cedilla 139 uppercase C cedilla 128 e acute 130 uppercase E acute 144 a grave 144 e grave 138 u grave 151 a circumflex 131 e circumflex 136 i circumflex 140 o circumflex 147 u circumflex 150 e dieresis 137 i dieresis 139 u dieresis 129 ae diphthong 145 uppercase AE diphthong 146 oe diphthong no ASCII value -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Top | Spanish ASCII Symbols Name ASCII a acute 160 e acute 130 i acute 161 o acute 162 u acute 163 n with tilde 164 uppercase N with tilde 165 u dieresis 154 Spanish has some punctuation marks which are not present in German or French. Use the following to print these symbols correctly. inverted question mark 168 inverted exclamation point 173 opening or closing conversation mark dots 3-6 (not an ASCII value) Use of the backspace to print symbols over other symbols

A second routine can be employed to produce some of the accented letters rather than using the ASCII values. To summarize, the letter is brailled, and then the backspace command is invoked, causing the printer to print a symbol over the previously printed symbol. Thus, a letter such as "a" can be printed, then the acute accent mark can be placed over it by the printer, by following these steps:


The reader should be cautioned that the B-Lite will not speak the foreign language properly using this strategy. Blazie Engineering produces language translators which can be installed in the device; only with the proper translator installed will the B-Lite speak the language correctly. If inappropriate pronunciation of the language by the B-Lite is distracting, then the speech can be turned off. The essence of this strategy is that it affords the student the means to write and edit a document in a foreign language, and to print it in inkprint as well as in braille. It is recommended that only reasonably accomplished B-Lite users are expected to employ the complex maneuvers required in this strategy. Novice users of the B-Lite will have difficulty using the device for the study of foreign languages.


Braille Authority of North America (1997). Braille formats: Principles of print to braille transcription. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. Braille Authority of North America (1987). Code for computer braille notation. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. Dixon, J. & Gray, C. (1998). Computer braille code made easy. Boston, MA: National Braille Press.

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