2003 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 


DOTSPLUS BRAILLE TUTORIAL, SIMPLIFYING COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SIGHTED AND BLIND PEOPLE

Presenter
John A. Gardner
Department of Physics
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-6507
Email: John.Gardner@orst.edu

Introduction

DotsPlus Braille[1] is an extension of grade 1 (noncontracted) Braille developed in the Oregon State University Science Access Project[2]. Virtually every character used on computers can be represented by a unique DotsPlus tactile symbol. DotsPlus was a concept but there was no technology capable of creating the tactile characters until the commercial introduction of the Tiger embosser[3 by ViewPlus Technologies, Inc. in 2000]

A number of computer screen fonts have been developed so that a computer user needs only to choose the right screen font, set the point size correctly, and then print to a Tiger embosser. All text is automatically converted to DotsPlus Braille with the correct spacing and positioning.

Since all letters in the English language are represented in Dotsplus Braille by the standard Braille dot pattern, a one-page tutorial is sufficient to define all keyboard symbols. Braille readers have found most other DotsPlus symbols (most of which are tactile graphics shaped either like the print symbol or the standard Braille symbol) very intuitive. It literally takes only a few minutes for a Braille reader to learn these symbols and generally a few days to become a fluent DotsPlus reader. The first assertion will be testable in the session where this page will be available for all blind readers. Pages are overprinted in ink with the screen image so that the sheet is readable by all.

Usefulness of DotsPlus Braille

DotsPlus Braille is useful for any communication between a computer user (who does not need to no any Braille) and a blind Braille reader. DotsPlus Braille is presently being used by a number of college faculty members to provide direct written information to blind students without the need for translation by Braille specialists.

DotsPlus Braille can be used for any text but is particularly useful for more complex literature that does not translate easily into standard literary Braille. It is also useful for many types of graphically-presented information created in computer applications such as Excel and Visio where translation of text to official Braille is often extremely tedious. By selecting fonts properly, such graphics can easily be created, and in many cases existing graphics can be re-created very easily to be usable by a blind DotsPlus Braille reader.

Mathematics and science have been the areas in which DotsPlus Braille has found its major use, generally by students who must read relatively complex math and science or by students who find it difficult to learn or use math Braille codes. Scientific MS Word documents can be created or converted relatively easily to a form printable as DotsPlus Braille. One needs to set the regular and symbol fonts to Tiger equivalents in the math equations, something that is quite straightforward with the MathType[4] equation editor, the professional version of the standard Word math editor. Conversion and creation will be demonstrated during this tutorial.

DotsPlus Braille and the Internet

Sighted internet users often find it useful to print out information that they need when not at their computer. Such things as schedules for travel, programs for events, and maps are commonly needed at places where the computer is not being used. Without access to a Tiger, blind internet users cannot easily create such documents in usable tactile hard copy without assistance by Braille specialists. A blind user with access to a Tiger embosser can create such hard copy documents by using a Tiger Cascading Style Sheet and printing to Tiger. The style sheet formats the screen for Tiger fonts and retains the formatting in well-authored web documents. Some web graphics are usable without editing by sighted assistants today when printed on Tiger. New graphics presentation methods, eg Scalable Vector Graphics[5] should provide excellently-accessible graphics in future years.

DotsPlus Braille in non-English Languages

No DotsPlus Braille representations have been yet developed for languages not based on the Roman alphabet, but DotsPlus Braille has been extended to permit one to print text in most western languages. The form of the DotsPlus symbols is determined by the screen font. A brief discussion of foreign words in English context will be presented in this tutorial. DotsPlus Braille can greatly simplify the teaching of foreign languages to English-speaking blind students. The author is happy to discuss DotsPlus Braille for specific use in other languages if requested.

Summary

DotsPlus Braille is a set of tactile graphic and braille dot patterns. Each letter, number, punctuation mark, Greek letter, and almost any other character that is used in modern literature has a unique DotsPlus pattern. Blind braille readers can learn simple DotsPlus Braille quickly and easily, since it is intuitively related to grade 1 (noncontracted) literary braille. Most advanced symbols are tactile graphic symbols with the shape of the print character and are learned when encountered by blind readers just as the corresponding print symbols are learned by sighted readers.

DotsPlus text in documents can be created by any computer user who chooses the appropriate Tiger screen font at the recommended point size and then prints the document on Tiger (or sends to a person who can print it on a Tiger). Tiger converts the characters to DotsPlus Braille characters.

DotsPlus Braille is particularly useful for complex literature that is not easily represented in literary braille or in situations where replacing text by braille is tedious or cumbersome.

Acknowledgements

Research supporting development of DotsPlus Braille was funded in part by the National Science Foundation as part of a number of grants dating back to 1991. DotsPlus is a registered trademark of Oregon State University and licensed to ViewPlus Technologies, Inc. Tiger is manufactured by ViewPlus Technologies, Inc. Word is a product of the Microsoft Corporation. MathType is a product of Design Science, Inc.

References

  1. DotsPlus Braille http://dots.physics.orst.edu/dotsplus.html 
  2. Science Access Project http://dots.physics.orst.edu/ 
  3. Tiger Embosser http://www.viewplustech.com/ 
  4. MathType Editor http://www.dessci.com/ 
  5. Scalable Vector Graphics http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/Overview.htm8 

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.