Braille Monitor                                                    April 2008

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BANA Publishes New Braille Rules

by Judith Dickson

From the Editor: Judy Dickson is one of the most knowledgeable Braille users in the country today. She is consumer relations officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. She has written and spoken extensively in the area of Braille, is the creator and manager for NLS's Web-Braille service, and has been a lifelong reader of Braille and a tireless advocate for Braille literacy. She is also in her second year as chair of the Braille Authority of North America. Here is her report on recent BANA actions:

In October 2007 the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) released "Braille Codes Update 2007.” This Update includes official changes to three BANA publications: “Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation,” “English Braille, American Edition,” and “Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription.” The effective date for these code changes is January 1, 2008.

As the vast array of print characters, styles, and formats continues to evolve, so must the Braille code intended to represent this constantly shifting array of print. It is indeed a challenge for BANA to keep the medium of Braille precise enough to reflect accurately the myriad of print symbols and complex print formats, while remaining flexible enough to maintain readability for the Braille user. Many of the changes in this Update are small but have been adopted in an effort to make Braille codes more consistent with print and more usable for both Braille readers and Braille transcribers.

The changes to the Nemeth Code include a keystroke indicator added to the list of shape indicators, a subsection added on calculator and computer keystrokes, several examples in the codebook added or fixed, and a section added on the Brailling of stem-and-leaf plots. Most of these corrections and changes were approved by the BANA Board many years ago and are simply being incorporated into the official code with the publication of this Update.

A few of the changes to the literary Braille code are likely to be noticed in the near future in popular Braille books and magazines. These include:

Apostrophe Rule: an inserted apostrophe is no longer required in plural abbreviations, numbers, or letters where none existed in print. For example, if “1930s” is written without an apostrophe in print, it will now be written that way in Braille as well. This change in the apostrophe rule will give Braille readers more accurate information about print practices.

New Symbols: A few new symbols have been added to the literary code:

Dot 4, a: at sign
Dot 4, c: cents
Dot 4, e: Euro
Dot 4, y: Yen
Dot 4, and: ampersand
Dots 45, c: copyright symbol
Dots 45, r: registered trademark
Dots 45, t: trademark
Dots 456, 1456: crosshatch
Dots 456, 34: slash

Since the symbols no. and lb. both represent a print crosshatch and are easily misunderstood as representing the print no. and lb., they have been replaced by a new symbol representing the crosshatch, whatever its meaning. This gives Braille readers the same information that print readers have. While a common meaning of the crosshatch is number, it also has a variety of other meanings: number, pound, and even sharp, as in the programming language C#. A symbol not associated with the word number is more easily associated with other meanings.

The new symbol for the slash is meant to be used whenever a slash appears in print that is not a fraction line. In the past transcribers were required to change slashes that occurred in dates to hyphens. The new rule says to use slashes whenever they occur in print. This revised rule for the transcription of dates provides a step in the direction of giving Braille readers more information about print practice.
The symbol dots 456, 34 was selected to represent the print slash symbol because it is already widely used with letters in textbooks and is used in the Nemeth code, British Braille, and Unified English Braille. By preceding dots 34 with dots 456, the slash will no longer be confused with the Braille st sign.

Following print in the use of the slash or fraction line gives the Braille reader the same information the print reader has. When a fraction is written as a fraction (numerator above denominator) in print, it is also written as a fraction in Braille (using dots 34). When, in print, a fraction or similar construction is written using a slash and all numbers on the same level, the use of the Braille slash (dots 456, 34) reflects that expression. The transcriber no longer needs to know whether two numbers are related to each other as parts of a date or a fraction or have some other relationship. The new rule is simple, easy for a computer to follow, and unambiguous for the Braille reader, regardless of the treatment of fractions. Some agencies and transcribing groups may wish to preserve traditional ways of transcribing fractions in certain publications, so the rule also allows for this.

Changes in the formats section of the Update include:

Alphabetic Page Numbers: Sometimes page numbers are shown as words on a page with the numeric page number. Most often used with math, foreign language, and lower grade materials, they reinforce the spelled-out version of the numeric number. The new rule puts the alphabetic number in the note position (cell-7) with leading dots 36. This will help the younger reader find the number quickly.

Boxed and Screened Material: The current guidelines for boxes within boxes does not give a true indication of the position of these materials on the print page. Changing the top and bottom boxing lines to the full cell indicates to the reader that everything following the full cell is related until he or she reaches the next full cell. The opening and closing boxing lines indicate the internal boxes. The graphic nature of textbooks and the print placement of text are often indicative of its importance or its relationship to other materials. This new arrangement for boxes within boxes will better indicate the relationships.

Wide Tables: The linear format for displaying tables that was used years ago has been reinstated. It saves space and retains the connection of one piece of information to the next piece. The listed table is a new method of Brailling tables and is useful for large tables with multiple row and column headings. The repetition of the headings makes it easy for the student to follow the information and not have to back up to check individual headings. It is clear and easy to understand.

To stay up-to-date on the activities of the Braille Authority of North America, subscribe to BANA-Announce, a one-way list to facilitate the dissemination of official BANA information: summaries of meetings and other BANA activities; new publications; announcements about code changes; and general information to promote Braille, its use, and production. To join this listserv, send a blank email message to <bana-announce-subscribe@brailleauthority.org> and follow the directions in the confirmation email that will be sent automatically in response to a subscription request.

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