Accessible Media

 

Tiger Embosser used at FITAFITA provides Braille embossing, large print document redesign, OCR and other file conversion services.    Although we do our best to produce quality results and exceed user expectations, the accuracy of the documents produced depends greatly on the quality of the material submitted.  FITA does not take responsibility for any consequences resulting from the use of information and documentation provided  through these file conversion services.

A Braille embosser is a printer, necessarily an impact printer, that renders text as tactile Braille cells. Using Braille translation software, a document can be embossed with relative ease, making Braille production much more efficient and cost-effective.  FITA produces tactile and Braille output for use by individuals and organisations who request this service.  The most demanding part of the work lies very often in the conversion of text and visual content into meaningul Braille and tactile information that observes predetermined layout guidelines.  For complex content, this task borders on book publishing in terms of the skills required.

FITA’s Braille embossing equipment can also produce ink based output in tandem with Braille and tactile output, on the same paper.  Braille embossers usually need special Braille paper which is thicker and more expensive than normal paper. Some high-end embossers are capable of printing on normal paper.  Braille embossing can be either one-sided or two-sided if no tactile content is included. Duplex embossing requires lining up the dots so they do not overlap (called “interpoint” because the points on the other side are placed in between the points on the first side).

The process of converting a printed text to braille is called transcribing. Anyone interested in braille transcribing must appreciate  that braille transcriptions must be essentially error-free. A high level of accuracy is necessary because braille uses the same cells for different purposes in different contexts. Erros can therfore cause major difficulties in interpretation.

For very small jobs, FITA uses the coupled process of transcribing and embossing. A trained braillist coverts the original print by mentally transcribing to braille, and then producing the braille using six-key braille keyboard to operate either a Perkins-style single-copy embosser or a more complex production-oriented machine. These methods of producing braille by hand, character-by-character, are laborious and very time-consuming.

Most braille is now transcribed to an electronic file in which the braille cells are coded numerically, generally using Braille ASCII. Such transcription may be carried out either directly by a braillist or by means of a computer application such as Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT), MegaDots, or Braille 2000.  Transcribing email or simple literary text that has been created in electronic form with braille transcription in mind is now fairly routine using a braille transcribing application. Some braille notetakers even have built-in software that provides realtime forward and backwards translation, generally using the standard contracted literary braille code. When a braille display is attached to a computer and interfaced with appropriate software, the braille reader may even have realtime transcription of accessible material on the Internet. This does not mean that all ASCII text, in particular mathematics, will be automatically converted to meaningful braille. In fact most of the work involved in Braille transcription and large print is related to document design and not simply the process of embossing Braille.  Despite the availability of computer applications for braille translation as described in the previous section, considerable human involvement is still required for most braille transcriptions. Much of the complexity is a result of the tremendous increase in the variety of print formats that have been made possible by computer typesetting.

Thermoform used to be one of the most common methods of producing tactile maps. This process is also known as vacuum forming. Thermoform maps or plans are created from a process where a sheet of plastic is heated and vacuumed on top of a model or master. The master can be made from many substances, although certain materials are more durable than others. Since this process involves creating a mold it is somewhat time consuming and not worth using for low volume production.

Zoom maps are a recently developed tactile map. These maps are designed specifically for those who can read braille and have had no previous interaction with tactile maps. The term zoom is comparable to a zoom-able visual raster internet map. A country is divided into regions on the first map then the next zoomed map will have a breakdown of the regions and so forth until a city level is reached. These successive maps rely on a dependable texture as the map zoom progresses. This produces a familiarity as the user zooms and learns from the proceeding map. This is achieved in many instances with line orientation, area and consistent shape. The Braille text on the map is usually placed next to a rectangular textured legend for area identification.

The service standards and formats/layouts adopted by FITA are based on policies established between FITA and the Education Directorate.  However, output may be also be adapted to accomodate the relevant users’ needs.  FITA can also assist with the production of Braille content on different materials, including metal and plastics.  Indicative costs are published here.