controlling the format of our braille

From: John Miller (
Date: Thu Aug 08 1996 - 08:27:37 PDT

Every Tuesday I attend a vocoder echo canceler implementation meeting. What we
do mostly in this meeting is code walk through. Someone brings assembly code and
we read through it for correctness, clarity, and complexity reduction. Everyone
gets a copy of the code and we step through it line by line.

I know for a fact that I am slower taking in a new piece of code than my sighted
team members. Sometimes I get a copy of the code a couple of hours ahead
to review it ahead of time but mostly I am lucky to have a hard copy braille
version in hand at the start of the meeting.

First of all, I believe that hard copy braille is superior to any other format
for this kind of work. If you have had success with speech or refreshable
braille I would like to hear your experience but I can pretty much tell that my
over all comprehention and flexability of jumping around in the code are better
than when reading with refreshable braille or speech and particularly so for
work done in committee.

This brings me to my dream source code braille translator. Any technical
specification goes through a similar process so I guess my dream translator
would handle either source code or technical specifications. The print code has
a running header and running footer. To preserve space my dream translator would
put all this information at the beginning of the braille document and then have
only a running header of the file name. The ideal braille output would be on
paper the same size as the print, that means 8.5 by 11 inches. It would be one
braille line for one print line. Because of the size of braille characters
some kind of compromise is necessary. The print is 60 lines per page and 72
characters per line. The braille is 25 lines per page and 32 characters per
line. Embossing the braille on adjacent facing pages gives 64 characters per
line and sideways something like 40. Using 32 characters per line and the
Duxbury computer braille translator my output runs 7 braille pages per print
page or 7 print lines per braille page. Remember to represent a string of print
characters in the computer braille code it may take more braille characters
than print characters. This is because there are only 64 6 dot braille
characters so capitalization and high ASCII codes can take multiple braille
characters. I read computer programs in refreshable braille using 8 dot
computer ASCII. The code has one braille character for one print character. This
has some advantages for hard copy braille but I have not tried it so I just
don't know.

The line number field for the line of the source file is 5 spaces long. It can
contain line number 1 through 9999. Because one print page may take several
braille pages it would be helpful for the running header to include the print
line numbers contained on each braille page. Also because a braille page
displays a small portion of a print page, the dream translator would create a
contents page for print line number and braille page number of key labels
and the start of functions.

Source code may come to us in print requiring scanning or in computer files. The
computer files may have embeded line numbers or a print driver may add the line
numbers when the file is sent to the printer. The problem is to develop a
system that creates hard copy braille from print or computer files that has the
same ease of access as print. Finding the best solution requires rethinking the
mechanics of braille formatting. CBC formatting translates 1 print line
into multiple stacked braille lines. A better solution may be to preserve print
format and braille the left half of a print page to the left facing braille page
and the right half of the print page to the right facing braille page. An
automatic contents of line number and braille page number for functions and
labels would help. Last of all, marking functions with symbols such as a row
of dots would allow tactile highlighting. When all is said and done, the
solution should put the reader in charge of the braille layout so that the
reader is in control of the information.
John Miller, President
Science and Engineering Division
of the National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (619) 658-2689

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