5.1. The Basics
Any visually impaired person has the legal right, on request, to have any or all communications from a statutory body sent to them in braille.
Some statutory bodies may have their own in-house braille transcription facilities, while most currently use external service-providers for this purpose.
Where a statutory body opts to set up its own in-house brailling facilities, by acquiring a braille embosser and braille transcription software, it is imperative that adequate training is provided from the outset so that there is someone always available to provide the brailling service – regardless of who is on holiday or who has changed job, etc.
Where a statutory body has its own in-house brailling facility, all other departments in that organisation need to be aware of this facility, and offer it to visually impaired people.
5.2. Turnaround Time
It is sometimes stated that braille can a long time to produce. Where this does happen, it is only because the transcription service-provider has a backlog of other customers.
A braille transcript itself can be produced relatively quickly – about 10-15 minutes longer than producing a print document. The additional time results from the electronic document having to be edited in the braille transcription software as the page sizes and number of characters per page differ between braille and print.
If, for any reason such as slow service-provision, braille documents are delivered late to the service-user, reasonable accommodation must be made so that the service-user is in no way disadvantaged in relation to their sighted comparitor, as a result of the delayed communication.
5.3. Types of Braille
All people who request braille must have the option of Standard English Braille (SEB) or Standard Irish Braille, as opposed to Unified English Braille (UEB) or its Irish language equivalent. The preference is decided by the end-user and not the braille service-provider, no matter what the latter may tell you. SEB and UEB braille can easily be produced by changing the setting in the braille transcription software. It is a matter of simply checking and unchecking a box.
Generally, readers of UEB can read SEB, but the opposite is not the case. Moreover, SEB is far less cluttered, and has been the standard for many years. Therefore, many people find it preferable and by default easier to read.
5.4. Paper type and size, and formatting preferences
Specialised braille paper should be used for reasons of thickness and surface smoothness. For example, if the surface is too smooth, it is more difficult to read the braille.
To be on the safe side, we recommend that the default be braille on one side of a page only. This is because when the braille paper is not very heavy, the braille comes through on both sides and can it difficult to read comfortably.
The recommended default paper size is around 9.25 inches by 12 inches, or 23.5cm by 30.5cm, which may include tractor feed. That is an approximate as there are different sizes. Essentially without tractor feed it is approximately the same width as A-4 but slightly longer. The primary advantage of this size is that, unlike the larger (12 inches by 12 inches, 30cm by 30cm), it is very difficult to store and cannot be filed in standard folders, because of its enormous size; whereas, by contrast, the A4 type is ready-made for filing etc.
Generally speaking, the formatting of a document so that it is suitable for braille-reading, is done by the braille transcription software, and not by someone altering it in Word etc. beforehand.
The braille reader should find that:
- The brailled text should only ever be left indented – not centred, right indented, or justified.
- Single-line spacing is the recommended default preference.
- Indented Paragraphs should be indicated by two single spaces (i.e., unlike the print equivalent).
However, as with everything else, the preferences of an individual service-user are paramount, and these should be ascertained as a matter of protocol. Clearly, when the preferences of the service-user deviate from the default templates on the transcription software, they must be reasonably accommodated.
Where letters are sent to be transcribed into braille, it should be remembered to keep the address of the sender at the top of the letter. Too often, statutory bodies just send the letter-text by email to the braille transcription service, forgetting that it needs to be treated like a letter. The recipient may then have no idea from where the letter has originated.
This problem all-too-frequently occurs because by default, the letter on the computer doesn’t have an address because it is put onto headed paper (which has the address on it) when it is put into print. This headed-paper process does not happen when putting a letter into braille, so this needs to be compensated for by putting the addresses in the original letter file, or making sure that it is added before being turned into braille.
5.6. Forms and Surveys
Forms and surveys cannot be filled in in braille. A braille-reader may request the text of a form or survey in braille so that they can use it in tandem with another method of filling it in, and indeed, they may wish to give the sought information separately in braille, if they have access to a braille machine.
5.7. Promotion of Braille as an Option
All statutory bodies, at all appropriate points, should make it clear that the option of braille communication is available on request.