A Basic Code and Two Accessory Codes

Three codes govern in Quebec the transcription into Braille of didactic material for blind students: Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille and  Code pour la notation informatique en braille. These codes have been produced and adopted in the last fifteen years thanks to the educational authorities of the Government.

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A Basic Code and Two Accessory Codes

ABSTRACT

Three codes govern in Quebec the transcription into Braille of didactic material for blind students: Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille and Code pour la notation informatique en braille. These codes have been produced and adopted in the last fifteen years thanks to the educational authorities of the Government.

RÉSUMÉ

Au Québec, trois codes gouvernent la transcription en braille du matériel didactique destiné aux personnes aveugles aux études: Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille et Code pour la notation informatique en braille. Ces codes ont été produits et adoptés au cours des quinze dernières années grâce à l’implication des instances éducatives du Gouvernement.

Towards Normalization

During the last fifteen years, Quebec has been vigorously involved with Braille, particularly towards its normalization. It has produced and adopted three codes: Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille and Code pour la notation informatique en braille. These codes govern the Braille transcription of didactic material for blind students. They are briefly described here.

In the early 1980’s, the Quebec ministry of Education (MEQ) began to finance the production of Braille textbooks. The scope and especially the complexity of such a production brought into focus the pressing need for normalization.

Spurred, on the one hand, by problems occurring during the transcription of science and mathematics textbooks and on the other hand by the work on scientific codification done in the United States, the MEQ took the initiative in 1981 and began the translation and adaptation of The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation. The new version, titled Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, was published in 1983 and has been in application ever since for transcriptions and in the educational field. A revised edition of this Code will soon be available in Quebec.

In 1985, the Government began to subvention research projects towards Braille normalization. The work accomplished has led to the publication of the first volume of the Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille in 1989, and of a new revised edition in 1996.

In the United States, work on a Braille coding system for the transcription of computer sciences material started in 1972. After preliminary work, the Code for Computer Braille Notation was published in 1987. Quebec followed through and published in 1991 a French adaptation and translation of this work under the title : Code pour la notation informatique en braille.

A New Approach

We have been recently witnessing a diversification of the codes used by the Braille system to convey ever more precise and specialized information, despite the fact that this system only has 63 characters to communicate by touch an infinity of visual symbols. Clearly then, each character must convey multiple meanings. Before linking a specific meaning to each Braille character, it is necessary to differentiate the Braille system from its various fields of application. To objectivize the description of the characters, the Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille suggests describing them in terms of the various dots that constitute them. In this early stage the character is neutral. For this neutrality to end, it must be placed into a particular context. It is therefore essential to understand that a character’s meaning is indissociable from the nature of the code within which it is used. Consequently, the Braille character acquires its different meanings when it is used in a certain language or in a certain field.

Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille

In the French language, the Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille acts as a basic or primary code. By primary code we mean the transcription code which gives the rules for the global format of the work as well as the definitions for the symbols[1]. Around this basic code, other codes, termed accessory codes, can gravitate and intervene locally to convey a specific reality that cannot be described by the basic code¹.

To build a reference tool – to codify the use of Braille beyond the fundamental elements of the system, – to handle new tendencies in printed material layout, – to crystallize certain working methods able to bring, in the long run, solutions to often encountered problems by users and transcribers, all these constitute both the goal and the novelty of this approach.

First, the Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille embraces the methods adopted by the Code of Braille Textbooks Formats and Techniques. But it also innovates: placed in the specific context of the French language, it takes into account both the abbreviations particular to this language and the symbols and typographical norms which govern the processing of French language texts, the AFNOR conventions among others.

The work is structured in 10 chapters and 10 appendices. It presents the characters and symbols of the Braille system and their general uses. It describes the specific norms of symbols for dots and emphasis. It details the conventions for the transcription of boxed text, tables, as well as volume formats, page numbering, title categories and the treatment of preliminary pages.

By the methodology of its presentation – the description of printed versus Braille practice – it constitutes a reference tool not only for the transcriber but also for the Braille reader who must produce printed material. The Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille can thus be used as a pedagogic instrument to train in the differentiation and distinction between Braille practices and printed conventions².

Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth³

This code was the result of the work accomplished by Abraham Nemeth who developed a system to express the new mathematical and scientific knowledge of the post-war period. Among the elements that characterize it we can note a new way to express numbers and the creation of a system of indicators and modifiers. Indicators specify the meaning of the symbols and characters with which they are associated (indicators of alphabets, of position, of direction, of shape, etc). Modifiers are generally used to create new symbols. Indicators and modifiers are therefore used as meaning multipliers for single or grouped characters. They thus enable us to express the mathematical ideas, represented in printed form by an almost limitless array of characters, of which we can taylor the components.

The contents of the Nemeth code is structured around 25 thematic rules (Alphabets, Fractions, Exponents and Indices, Radicals, Shapes, etc.). The main body of the work is preceded by an exposition of the basic principles and is followed by two appendices and an index.

Code pour la notation informatique en braille

The computer sciences code has been conceived in the same spirit as the Nemeth code. This juxtaposition of specialized codes was the American response to the modern challenges of Braille.

Once more, the complexity of the field is confronted with the limits of the 63 combinations of points of the Braille system. Therefore, in order to transcribe the 128 characters of the ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), which is in general use for the conception and implementation of computer equipment adapted for Braille in North America, we must multiply the meanings associated with the Braille characters. The computer sciences code, as in the Nemeth code, uses a specific system of indicators. The work is divided in 16 parts which are preceded by a foreword, an introduction, and followed by two appendices (symbols lists). The Quebec adaptation adds a special introduction to the American version and a section which covers diacritical marks used in French.

Conclusion

The normalization of Braille is guided by a quest for an ever growing quality of information and knowledge. It is in this light that the codes should be viewed and applied. Quebec is committed to this goal and has even made its first inroads towards tactile graphics.

Nicole Trudeau Ph.D
Université du Québec à Montréal

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Références

(1) [Le code premier est] « le code de transcription qui fournit les règles pour le format général de l’ouvrage, (…), ainsi que la définition des symboles » [Le code accessoire] « intervient (…) ponctuellement dans le cours d’une transcription pour exprimer une réalité particulière que le code premier ne peut rendre adéquatement ». / INSTITUT NAZARETH ET LOUIS BRAILLE (dir.) Code pour la notation informatique en braille, (translation of Code for Computer Braille Notation, adapted by Pierre Ferland), Longueuil, 1991, p. 7.

(2) «(…) Par sa méthodologie de présentation – description de la pratique en imprimé versus description de la pratique en braille – il constitue non seulement un outil de référence pour le transcripteur, mais aussi un outil de référence pour la personne à la fois lectrice de braille et productrice de documents en imprimé. Le Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille peut donc servir de guide pédagogique pour apprendre a distinguer et à départager les pratiques du braille de celles de l’imprimé». / TRUDEAU, N. Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille, Gouvernement du Québec, 1996, p. 1.

(3) Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec, Notation mathématique et scientifique en code braille Nemeth, translation and adaptation of The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 revision, 1983.

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Texte dont les coordonnées de publication n’ont pas été retracées.

Sur des sujets apparentés :

Un code de base et deux codes accessoires en français.

Code de transcription de l’imprimé en braille lancement à Paris le 1er octobre 1991.

 

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