By Steven G.
Ask anyone involved in Braille production of the stringent demands of their industry, and they will tell of its rigorous standards and requirements. The demands placed on Braille transcribers, publishers and their equipment are enormous but seldom recognized. As with all businesses, there are always deadlines, and it is imperative that they be met.
While book and school textbook production make up the largest segment of Braille production, there are many other areas that require large production runs. The first step in Braille production is either creating the document from scratch, or converting and formatting it from standard text. This is done by skilled Braille transcribers with the help of commercially available Braille translation software programs. The two most widely known programs are available through Duxbury Systems and Braille 2000. While these programs are acknowledged as being superior and accurate in their translations, the work needs to be proofread before it is sent to the printer to eliminate any errors; errors will completely ruin the reading experience for the non-sighted reader.
It is important to emphasize that while there are many Braille translation software programs available, I have found that only Duxbury and Braille 2000 offer the accuracy of translation required in Braille production. Valuable time and materials are wasted by inaccurate translation, which is simply not acceptable in our industry. If you’re producing Braille, don’t cut corners here – go with a reputable and reliable translation software.
Once the input has been accurately translated and proofread, it is ready for printing. If you are printing a small document or a few pages for a family member, for example, this is done with a small printer. However, my experience is with production rated Braille printers. Due to the fact that many times we had a single document with a large number of pages and a large number of copies to be made, we used a Braillo Braille printer (more about them later). By definition, production Braille printing requires that the printer be run for long durations of time uninterrupted, only for reloading of paper.
The next critical component of quality Braille is the paper – this plays a great part in the readability of articles. The Braille paper cannot be too smooth or too rough in its finish, otherwise it effects the reading experience. It must be of sufficient weight and strong enough to hold to a firm and well-shaped dot. Lastly, it must be of sufficient quality that it does not emit excessive dust during the printing process, which will cause unnecessary maintenance or damage to the printer. Selecting the correct paper for use in a Braille printer is extremely important to the success or failure of the printing project.
There are many grades and types of paper used in the printing of Braille. In most high quality books and documents, 90-100lb weight is used. There are lighter weight options available for those not requiring the extra durability. Our Braillo 200 used continuous paper, which is the most common in Braille printers. There are also roll fed printers, while costing more initially, offer the cheapest operating costs. We had a sheet feeder embosser from Index, but we only used it to print our book covers.
Given the technical requirements of Braille, it is imperative that the individual cell dots be aligned and spaced perfectly to ensure quick and accurate reading. This helps to guarantee that Braille produced by all governing agencies throughout the world meet the same standards and criteria. A reader of Braille should be able to expect the same quality of printed material no matter where he or she resides or visits. Sadly, that’s not often the case.
This fact cannot be emphasized more strongly: the quality of the printer used guarantees the success or failure of the reading experience. A misplaced or improperly aligned Braille dot is the same as a misspelled word in print, and conveys the wrong meaning to the reader. It is significantly worse for the non-sighted reader, as he or she must “feel” back through several words or even a full sentence to identify the true meaning of the word in question.
The quality and performance rating of a Braille printer is paramount to the success of a printing program. In my experience, as mentioned earlier, we used Braillo Braille embossers, which are built in Norway and supplied by American Thermoform Corporation. As face as I’m concerned, the Braillo brand of Braille printers offers the best, most complete line of printers for the production Braille industry.
I hope my experiences provide some value for those in Braille production, or those considering getting into Braille production.
A Note From Braillo:
Thank you Steven for your comments on Braille production and how our embossers exceeded your expectations. Braillo not only manufacturers the most complete line of Braille printers, but the most reliable and technologically advanced Braille printers. Our printers are found in nearly every prominent Braille production facility in the world. We recently announced a 3 year warranty, which is unmatched in the industry.