Mathematical braille codes
In the mainstream classroom the sighted teachers and peers don't know braille. Hence communication with the integrated braille pupil is difficult, especially when s/he is working on paper braille or with a braille note taker. A laptop with braille display offers more possibilities for interaction. But, most mathematical braille codes don't look like maths on the screen.
Conversion software could overcome this problem by converting linear mathematical braille code into visual maths, and vice versa. Several companies in different countries are working on this kind of software. Since there is no European standard for mathematical braille, the existing software packages can only be used locally. LaTeX is a universal mathematical linear language, used by sighted as well as blind academics, which can be converted into visual maths. But it is too complex and too lenghty to be used by younger braille users. Example of LaTeX:
Norway and the Netherlands have a nationally standardised mathematical braille code which can be entered with a laptop keyboard. In France, the globally standardised French mathematical braille code is in use, but mostly on paper braille. In Germany the Marburg code is being used. But, since braille pupils feel the need to write maths on their laptop, several home-made linear codes have arisen. Most of them are simplified versions of LaTeX. They prevail in mainstream education. In Estonia, a new code is developing, and will be implemented during 2012. In Belgium, a new code has been developed in 2012. In this case too, there was an urge to create a code which can be entered using a laptop keyboard. More and more pupils prefer to use their laptop for all subjects, instead of taking an extra braille notetaker for maths. Some braille notetakers work independently and can also well be used as braille displays for the laptop. (If you are interested in the different codes, don't hesitate to contact the partners in this project.)
Laptop with braille display. |
Braille note taker also usable as braille display in combination with laptop. |
To ensure unambiguous communication, the 'ideal' mathematical braille code should be:
1) transparent for teachers and peers.
The more lingual codes (such as LaTeX or simplified versions of it) are easier to decode on screen than the 'genuine' paper braille codes.
2) easy to learn, accessible and user friendly.
For those who become blind gradually, a code that can be used by braille users as well as severely visually impaired students sure is handy.
3) sufficient for the secondary and the higher educational level.
If not, users have to learn a new code when they start college or university.
4) compact.
Since the braille codes represent maths in a linear way, expressions will always be lenghtier than the visual maths. The codes have to describe the form and the content to prevent ambiguity in the interpretation. Spacing, key signs and brackets are used to do so. But they lengthen the linear representation even more. In an 8-dot braille code, some key signs can be integrated in dot 7 or 8.