The Technical Braille Center

	by John J. Boyer


	From the Editor: For individual Braille users perhaps the 

most exciting part of the recent advent of relatively low-cost 

Braille translation software and Braille embossers has been the 

ready access we now have to literary Braille. If the text is in a 

computer file or can be put into a file, obtaining a clear 

Braille version is now pretty straightforward.
	The same cannot be said for musical notation or scientific 

or mathematic texts. If one needs access to graphs or technical 

drawings, the same sort of roadblocks appear. A new resource is 

now available to those facing such problems. Computers Helping 

People, Inc. (CHPI) is a small company in Madison, Wisconsin, 

dedicated to solving such problems with care, speed, and 

efficiency. John Boyer started the company; this is what he says 

about it:


	The Technical Braille Center produces books in Braille, 

large print, and special electronic forms for scientists, 

engineers, and mathematicians who are blind, dyslexic, or 

paralyzed. It also provides books for students preparing for 

careers in the technical professions, who urgently need the 

equivalent of the printed materials their peers use. We also 

produce Braille music.
	We emphasize fast turnaround times--constantly improving our 

technology to reduce costs--and human preparers knowledgeable in 

mathematics, science, and music.
	Our center capitalizes on new technology for the translation 

of mathematics into various media. It is run by the person who 

developed the technology (a deaf-blind computer scientist). It 

taps into the skills and idealism of the students and staff of 

Madison's many institutions of higher education. It is part of a 

private, nonprofit corporation. Since it is not a unit of any 

government agency or educational institution, it can offer its 

services to everyone. It began operation in the spring of 1997 

and has now produced several textbooks.
	The books are prepared by a small group of specially trained 

editors who are themselves familiar with mathematical and musical 

notation and are trained in the production of tactile graphics, 

which enable blind readers to study graphs, charts, and diagrams.
	The software used to translate books works well when 

transcribing plain text, but it often produces errors and 

inconsistencies when the pages have unusual formats containing 

diagrams, graphs, or equations. This limitation is what makes 

Brailling technical texts so difficult. The content must be 

painstakingly edited by those familiar with the mathematical and 

musical notation used. This editing process accounts for 90 

percent of the time (and cost) required to produce the finished 

product. The pages are produced using an interpoint Braille 

	For each text the activities are as follows:
	1) Agencies and individuals place orders by contacting CHPI 

by mail, fax, e-mail, phone, or dropping by the East Johnson 

Street office. Small jobs can be paid for at the conclusion of 

the work. For jobs over several hundred dollars we require that 

the person making the order sign a transcription contract and pay 

half the estimated price in advance. The estimate is made by 

counting the number of print pages to be transcribed, determining 

the number of Braille pages that will result from each print page 

and counting the number of graphics which must be produced in 

tactile form. This process is complex, particularly since our 

costs change as we develop the technology. For these reasons we 

generally ask the customer to send us the book so that we can 

make an accurate estimate.
	2) The books must be electronically scanned, which puts the 

entire text into a word-processing file. In music translation 

some musical notation is too complex to be scanned using the 

procedure described above. In these cases a skilled musician 

plays the piece directly into the computer using a MIDI keyboard, 

which works much like a piano.
	3) The text parts of the file are carefully edited and 

formatted. Musical parts are edited with software that shows the 

music in the usual graphical form on the screen. Verbal and 

numeric information on graphics is edited and placed in 

appropriate positions on the page.
	4) The file is run through the translation program and 

turned into actual Braille. The program was developed by CHPI in 

partnership with Braille Planet, Inc. (formerly Raised-Dot 

Computing, Inc.), another Madison nonprofit.
	5) The Braille text is proofread by a skilled Braille 

reader, final corrections are made to the inkprint version, and 

it is then printed in Braille a final time.
	6) The graphical parts of figures are hand-drawn because the 

Braille embosser cannot produce graphics of sufficient quality. 

The original paper copies of figures are kept so that they can be 

used to produce additional copies of the book. The figures are 

transferred to plastic sheets which are bound with the paper 

sheets containing the text and music.
	7) The completed Braille volumes are shipped to the 

customer. The first few volumes can be shipped as soon as they 

are completed without waiting for the whole book to be finished.
	8) After a book is shipped, we keep the files on our 

computers so that we can provide copies to other people who need 

them. We also place information on them in the LOUIS database at 

the American Printing House for the Blind. You can find out what 

we have available by looking at our own book list.
	Contact John J. Boyer, Executive Director, Computers to Help 

People, Inc., 825 East Johnson Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703, 

phone: (608) 257-5917, fax: (608) 257-3480, or e-mail: 

<[8][email protected]>.