The Louis Braille Bulletin Volume 5

The Louis Braille Bulletin
No 5
June 2009
Compiled and distributed by
The South African Library for
the Blind
in collaboration with
Braille SA

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers

I trust that the winter chill has not affected the sense of touch and that you are staying warm and reading your favourite book.
As I write this issue of the Louis Braille Bulletin I reflect with pride on all the historical events that are taking place during this year as we commemorate the bicentenary birth of Louis Braille.
Despite celebrations, one hear statements about the end of braille due to the increase in the use of technology.
When hearing these remarks we may feel indignant, perhaps ready to debate the point fiercely or shrug it off as an unfounded remark, which of course it is, because no print reader has put aside a hard copy, nor pen and paper due to greater accessthrough the use of technology. Why should braille be different?
Considering the history of braille we become aware that Louis Braille, a bright student, listened to lessons in class and was able to write print letters, though he knew that these methods of learning would be impractical in the long run. On the other hand he knew that despite the practicality of the braille system braille by itself would be less effective and would require other technologies to enable braille readers to communicate effectively with print readers. Louis Braille worked tirelessly, often under trying circumstances with others to design practical ways of communication with print readers, such as the first dot matrix printer, known as the raphigraphe, or needle point embosser, until the invention of the typewriter, the most practical and sophisticated technology for communicating with print readers.
At that time braille was not abandoned in favour of communicating with print readers by way of the raised print letter; nor was it abandoned in favour of using the human voice to read text; or scribes writing texts for the blind. On the contrary, at the time these methods were found most unsatisfactory, as scribes were often semi-literate and the blind person had little or no control over basic communication such as writing letters and the like. What is clear is that braille existed alongside other technologies and methods of providing access to information and triumphed despite fierce resistance.

for this reason, braille is literacy and independent living. To the student who is blind braille is the layout and spelling of words and the submission of quality work to lecturers. To the person in rural areas, a well loved story as the wind howls through the candle lit homes of informal settlements, to the fortunate few, an electronic braille or print file read on a refreshable braille display. Alongside other technologies, such as computers and daisy, braille remains a dynamic living script — nothing short of a power house.

In the fifth issue of the Louis Braille Bulletin we interview one of the seasoned braille transcribers of the SA Library for the Blind; a braille proof reader from Braille Services, provide interesting facts about Louis Braille, inform on Louis Braille Bicentenary celebrations and answer braille queries.

We trust you will find the fifth issue of {{italic[}}The Louis Braille Bulletin{{]italic}} interesting and informative.

Direct queries to:
Pasha Alden (National Braille Consultant)
South African Library for the Blind
P O Box 115
Tel.: 046 622 7226

We are pleased to inform readers that we received 76 entries among these essays in the languages of Afrikaans English, TshiVenda, and SeSwati, IsiXhosa. The essays will now be adjudicated. We thank all those who submitted entries and wish them best of luck and look forward to reading the essays!

Dale Meiring — part of a legacy of Access
Pasha Alden Talks to Dale Meiring braille transcriber of the SA Library for the Blind
How did you become a braille transcriber?

At the age of ten years on a family holiday I spent a night with a cousin who at the time was learning braille and although she gave it up, I was intrigued and it must have made a lasting impression on me, because over 20 years later, living on a remote farm in the Alexandria district, with two young children and time on my hands, I made enquiries at the SA Library for the Blind, collected my Perkins brailler and so began my long association with braille.
For how long have you transcribed books into braille?
I have been a braille transcriber since 1978, so I have been transcribing into braille for 31 years.
What was most difficult about braille?
It is hard for me to pinpoint what was the most difficult thing about braille. Perhaps the idea of only using 6 keys and the fact that everything, from maths symbols to contractions could be configured out of six dots.
I found I had to become very disciplined, not to mention being a perfectionist in the days of transcribing on the Perkins brailler.
What was your favourite book to transcribe?
It is a tall order to point out my favourite book, though I think it was World Sporting records. I enjoyed transcribing that title as it was challenging and it contained many tables.
What is the best thing about braille?
For me there is the satisfaction of knowing I’m involved in something worthwhile. On a personal level, I really enjoy the mornings that I set aside for braille when I can shut the world out and continue brailling while tolerating no interruptions regardless of what happens around me.
You received an award for braille transcription an the bicentenary birth year of Louis Braille. What does this mean to you?
There has always been a sense of satisfaction in doing braille, though surprisingly, I have had minimal contact with persons who are blind so the speech made by Judge Yacoob at the award ceremony brought home to me what braille means to persons who are blind. To hear the view of judge Yacoob about braille transcribers was moving for me. The award was a complete surprise and means a great deal to me. The recognition of course is a bonus.

Louis Braille: an indellible memory
On the 11th May the bicentenary birth of Louis Braille was commemorated as friends and colleagues within the braille fraternity attended the unveiling of the new name of the building formerly known to all as Braille Services; from here on to be known as Louis Braille House.
Guests received a memento, one of 200 bottles of wine labelled in braille which read “Louis Braille 200, and each bottle was numbered from one to two-hundred.

Wellington Pike — A legacy of enduring quality
Pasha Alden talks to Wellington Pike, proofrader at Braille services
How did you become involved in braille proofreading?
A former pupil of the Efata School for the Blind, I was contacted by Mandla Khwela and referred by him as a possible candidate for the post at Braille Services as he left for KwaZulu Natal, to take up missionary work.
What was difficult for you about braille?
I learnt braille at school and it was never difficult for me. However, a difficulty was becoming accustomed to “proofreading” as it is different to merely reading braille as a reader as you find errors while maintaining speed by way of anticipation.
How do you view the developments in braille?
I think that older readers find the changes challenging, especially those who have used braille for a long time. Our challenge is now to familiarise these readers with the braille changes.
On the other hand it is good that braille resembles print more faithfully.
What do you consider to be a highlight of your thirty year career?
There were many, such as meeting Nelson Mandela to hand over the braille copy of A long Walk to Freedom, accompanying Willem Boshoff, sculptor of the braille alphabet, to the US. Lastly, but not least, I was privileged to be instrumental in the publication of a braille magazine titled Braille Trumpet and since its publication in 1998 work as part of the editorial team alongside Johannes Dube and Patricia Mceka.
A braille proof reader for thirty years, what does it mean to you to receive your thirty year service award in the Louis Braille bicentenary year?
The contribution that Louis Braille made was significant and I shared in that by means of access to braille books from the SA Library for the blind. It means a great deal to have overcome challenges and to be involved with supplying quality braille and making an enduring contribution.

Q.: When transcribing an Afrikaans text may I contract in in the word fine?
A.: Five or fewer foreign words occurring in an Afrikaans text may be contracted in accordance with the spirit of Afrikaans, E.G. find contracted, fine in contracted pool oo contracted.
Q.: How do I braille a crossword puzzle?
A.: A transcriber’s note is inserted to indicate the symbols used in the crossword puzzle. To indicate a filled block dots use 123456;
To indicate an unoccupied block use dots 346;

Braille producers and Educators are advised that the braille translation tables can be obtained from the National Braille Consultancy.
Be advised that the translation tables will only work if you have installed Duxbury 10.6 or later versions
For further information contact:
Pasha Alden (National Braille Consultant)The South African Library for the BlindP O Box 115GRAHAMSTOWN6140Tel.: 046 622 7226E-mail:

Louis Braille
Did you know
– That the braille system was developed before the 16th birthday of Louis Braille? • That the palm leaves on the uniform of Louis Braille symbolised learning?
– Louis Braille is buried in the Pantheon in Paris, but on requests of residents of his home town his hands remained in Coupvray?

Stakeholder organisations are advised that the next meeting of Braille SA will take place in Worcester on 27 and 28 October.
we urge school principals and heads of stakeholder organisations to send braille experts.
For further information contact:
Ms Susan van Wyk (Secretary Braille SA)
Tel.: 011 839 1793