NEWS FROM DAC

A NOVICE DECIPHERS BRAILLE

By Miriam Hertz

     A while back our Executive Director ask, “What do our DAC Brailed business cards really say?” We knew what they should say.  We also knew that Braille is composed of raised dots in a 6-cell format that can be read by some blind people.  But that’s pretty much all we knew.
     Maybe I, Miriam, could assist? After all, I had just finished reading Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants, about World War I. I now knew that code-breaking was the occupation (or perhaps preoccupation) of the famous (or infamous) “Room 40” in London.  I, too, would be code-breaking for the Allies (and keeping a Giant from Falling)!
     Using a card with an example of the Braille alphabet I started decoding.  Oddly, the first word of our Brailed business cards looked like “dabilby.” This is close to “disability” – but no cigar.  In general, the first three words were so close to “disability action center” but yet so far. Then I tried to decipher the business card from right to left, as if I were reading Hebrew. Nope. On a whim I even tried sounding some of the Braille as if, in fact, it were Hebrew. Again, no way. I turned the card upside down so that I was now trying to read backward starting from what I thought was the end (but was really the beginning). But still to no avail.  My only remaining option seemed to be to stand on my head while trying to read the business card.
     Eventually, it occurred to me that there must be a large number of possible combinations of dots each 6-dot Braille cell. In fact, in Braille-English translation keys I only found some of the dot combinations on the DAC business card. So, what are these assemblages of dots on the card that are neither Braille letters or numbers? Maybe they signify something else? Do these dots connote a phrase? a prefix? a punctuation mark? From a Wikipedia article and an online English-Braille translator I learned the dots that signify the prefix “dis,” coming at the start of the Brailed word “disability.” Revealed to me was the Braille symbol that replaces “it” in the word “disability” and “tio” in the word “action,” thereby shortening each word. I discovered the dots for the word “enter” that complete the word “center,” as well as the dots for “No.” and “-“ used in the rendering of DAC’s 1-800 phone number. Finally, I learned that the Braille symbol for a decimal point – which punctuates the DAC web address – is not a simple “.”
     Braille is a tactile writing and reading system used by people who are vision impaired. It is named after Louis Braille, the blind Frenchman who created Braille in 1824 as an improvement upon a tactile military code that General Napoleon’s soldiers used for night writing. Braille was at first a direct transcription from the French, but soon various abbreviations, contractions, and even representations of full phrases were developing. An expanded English system, called Grade-2 Braille, was complete by 1905. The Braille systems stand alone from each other and their unique languages just like ASL. The translation?

 

 


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