Does it really matter what a braille document “looks” like? The short answer is: Yes, it matters a lot. High-quality braille documents are important for a good experience, the safety and privacy of their information, and your business’s culture.
Yet the question continues to surface when discussing accessibility: “Does quality braille really matter?”
For many organizations, visual communication is the primary way employees and customers interact. For example, when ordering at a restaurant, people tend to read a menu before placing their order. When someone can’t read standard print, they can’t order.
Sure, employees could read the menu options aloud, but how many of us, sighted or not, would want that? Restaurants are noisy, so it can be challenging to hear someone speaking. Also, if someone reads menu options aloud, it’s likely to draw unwanted attention. Plus there’s a good chance you don’t want to hold up the table or line by hearing every menu option read to you.
In this scenario, the lack of quality braille provides a dreadful customer experience.
Related: Things We Wish Restaurants Knew About Serving Guests With Blindness
Reading information aloud may be an option, albeit a poor one, in a restaurant. But, in many settings, it’s often not acceptable or appropriate. The experience of having private financial, health, or legal information shared within earshot of others provides a negative experience for your customer and, often, violates privacy laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Braille documents must be available and held to the same high-quality standards as their original text counterparts.
Braille production is an interesting process. For many sighted people, all braille looks the same. It appears to them as random dots on a page. However, for the braille reader, those seemingly random dots provide valuable information.
Not only that, your information in alternate formats like braille, large print, and audio creates a customer experience. That experience can be good or terrible. Alternate format documents are a reflection of your company, so the formatting in braille, or other accessible formats, is just as important as the formatting in your regular materials.
When braille is created, it’s not a translation but rather a transcription. Braille is simply a different way to “print” (emboss) content. The English alphabet has an English braille equivalent. The Spanish alphabet has a Spanish braille equivalent, and so on. Therefore, someone who reads only English braille won’t understand Spanish braille.
Just like the difference in braille from language to language, there is also a difference in how one transcribes and formats braille. In other words, all braille is not created equal.
A difference exists between properly formatted braille and poorly formatted braille.
When an article is authored, care is taken to insert the correct punctuation. Attention to sentence structure is important to eliminate run-on or incomplete sentences. Each detail adds to the reader’s ability to navigate the document and understand the content.
Braille formatting is no different. However, since your organization likely doesn’t have a braille reader, you have no way to know if the braille you receive is properly formatted.
Having a trusted document accessibility partner is critical to delivering your message to every customer.
We’ve seen it all in our nearly 30 years of experience.
Unfortunately, many braille companies simply take the text in a document and “dump” it into an embosser. In many cases, they not only omit punctuation but also omit spaces between words. All of the characters are there, but is it readable? Consider the formatting in the two paragraphs below. The content is the same, but which is more readable?
Braille consists of patterns of raised dots arranged in cells of up to six dots in a 3-by-2 configuration. Each cell’s dot arrangement represents a letter, number, or punctuation mark. Also, many commonly used words and letter combinations have their own contracted single-cell pattern. For example, the statement, “You can do it!” uses just one character for each word.
brailleconsistsof patterns of raiseddotsarranged in cells of up to six dots ina3-by-2 configuration.each cell’sdotarrangement representsaletter numberorpunctuation mark also many commonlyusedwords andlettercombinations have their own contracted singlecell pattern.for example,the statement,You can do it!uses just one character for each word.
Notice above, the difference between the two paragraphs. In the properly formatted paragraph, you see all of the punctuation. Capital letters appear at the beginning of each sentence. Dashes and quotation marks occur where appropriate.
In the poorly formatted paragraph, all of the letters are there but the content is very difficult to follow because of the missing spaces, capital letters, and punctuation.
This is how these two paragraphs look in braille. Would you know the difference?
These examples may seem crazy but there are well-known document accessibility companies producing terrible braille.
For example, Braille Works produced documents for a well-known agency. They decided to engage another braille company. We received a call from the agency asking what we did to change the braille documents because they were receiving complaints. Apparently, their new document accessibility partner didn’t properly format the braille. We explained to them that we didn’t produce those documents. The agency realized it was the other braille company that produced terrible braille and quickly decided to enlist our services again.
Remember, document accessibility is important because it allows you to reach all of your customers and, at the same time, meet the legal requirements for equal access to your information.
Quality braille documents empower people to reclaim their independence.
That’s why quality braille matters.
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