Re: Braille rendering of Unicode [OT 50%]

From: Rick McGowan (
Date: Thu Aug 10 2000 - 14:10:33 EDT

Marco said:

> These are at most the building blocks for braille. A better parallel
> would be to consider these "presentation glyphs" for braille. (But I think
> that the main reason why these patterns are in Unicode is to encode runs of
> braille-looking characters in didactic texts for *sighted* people).

Just FYI... Let me elaborate.

I was involved in the UTC decision to encode the Braille pattern symbols, and in the end I argued strongly FOR the encoding.

In the early history of Unicode, Braille was considered somewhat naively as a mere presentation form, and this was shown later to be an incorrect view.

The main point upon which the UTC encoding decision turned was the understanding that conversion from English (or whatever) text to Braille is algorithmically easy. But a conversion from Braille back to some other system is "hard" because of escape sequences, locking shifts, and special usages. In effect, Braille must be understood as a writing system that stands on its own apart from others. The complexity of the escapes and multi-lingual usages make it possible to render "puns" and other forms of ambiguity in Braille that cannot be transcribed directly and unambiguously into another writing system such as the Latin script.

I.e., once you have Braille text, rendering in Latin or some other script can, at the extreme end, become a matter of _translation_ or _re-interpretation_ not one of mere _transcription_.

UTC does envision a usage like the one Steven Loomis pointed out:

> Presumably the unicode codepoints in braille would make a great
> format for these translations on their way to a printer.

Furthermore, this encoding makes it possible to treat Braille as a "first class" writing system in Unicode, and use it directly for the encoding of primary Braille texts. Braille is comparable to any other complex writing system.



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