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ASCII codes for Braille cells (Computer Braille codes)

  Computerized Braille printing is a reality, thanks to the advances made in Braille Embossing machines. Braille Embossers are similar to the printers attached to a computer. They are used for producing Braille documents directly from text typed into a computer using Word Processors, Text Editors or similar applications. Often a special utility is used to get the cells embossed since the Embossers do not exactly behave like normal printers. The purpose of the utility is to ensure that the correct Braille cells are embossed.

  The point to remember in this connection is that a Braille cell is a representation of not just the letters of the alphabet but combinations of letters as well, including all the punctuation marks. With only 63 cells, we observed that some cells will have to be interpreted based on the context, e.g., cells representing punctuation marks, also represent double letter combinations. A consequence of this is that one cannot send ASCII codes of the text to be embossed directly to the Embosser but map the text to appropriate cells and send codes to the Embosser consistent with the cells to be embossed.

  Take for example the sentence  "There are 63 Braille cells which have been grouped in to 7 categories, each category referred to as a line". When this text is represented in Braille, rules of contractions may also be applied resulting in fewer characters in the sentence. Now, there is no representation for a numeral in Braille. Hence 63 or 7 or even the comma in the sentence cannot be sent directly to the Embosser in the same manner as in regular printing because, the codes sent to a normal printer support 96 different letters or symbols while the codes sent to an Embosser can only indicate one of 63 cells.

  This issue is handled satisfactorily by defining a different set of ASCII codes to represent the Braille cells. This set has only 63 codes which can be displayed as cells and the computer has to send to the Embosser only these codes. The purpose of the utility will now become clear because the utility will convert the text in the document to be embossed into the embossing codes and send the same to the Embosser. The term ASCII Braille now appears meaningful. ASCII Braille refers to the mapping of the 63 Braille cells to ASCII codes conforming to the specifications for embossing. 

  The table below gives the mapping. The ASCII code for a cell is shown through the character indicated below each cell. The codes are in increasing order starting with 32 for the blank cell, 33 for the exclamation mark and ending with 95 for the underscore character. ASCII values actually go upto 126 for normal Roman letters. However, this braille cell mapping stops with 95. The codes from 96 to 122 may also be sent to Embossers but they merely repeat the cells A-Z since Braille does not distinguish between upper case and lower case consonants and vowels.

  It is observed that while the mapping has retained the standard ASCII codes for the letters of the alphabet, the embossing codes corresponding to special symbols or punctuation will emboss cells that will represent something different. For example, the exclamation mark (code 33 decimal) sent to an Embosser will print the cell (dots 2346) which represents the three letter combination "the". To get the exclamation mark printed in Braille, one has to send the ASCII code 54 (the numeral 6).

  Knowledge of ASCII Braille is required only for those who develop computer applications that will transcribe text from different applications (such as word processors, text editors etc.) into Braille.

Braille Fonts

  The mapping used in ASCII Braille is followed in creating Braille Fonts which are useful for proof reading the output to be sent to the Embosser. Software for Braille Transcription invariably use the Braille Fonts for on-line verification. A Free Braille Fonts is available from the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the U.K. The font is known as RNIB font and works well for applications running under Microsoft Windows. This font has been used in creating the picture shown above. The rectangle around each cell is not part of the cell and has been introduced (at IIT Madras) for improved readability.


ASCII Braille refers to the codes assigned for Braille cells to allow computers to work with Braille embossers. Normal English text cannot be directly sent to a Braille embosser since the text has to be transcribed into Braille first.

Braille transcription utilities are generally made available by the manufacturers of Embossers. Free transcription programs such as nfbtrans are also available 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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Spectacular view of Sun's rays as he emerges from the peaks of the Annapurna, Machpuchchare (Fish tail) range in the Himalayas. The text in Bharati Braille reads "shreyo bhuyaat sakalajanaanaam" which translates into "May all people be happy and prosperous.

Today is Apr. 24, 2017
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