Disability is today no reason to hesitate in performing any function. A number of people with disabilities today are living a full life, working and being part of a productive society. But that is not all. Technology has helped them to do jobs that were considered out of their ambit or take on adventures that their disability had made impossible.
One such example is the braille shorthand machine. Based on the braille language, the machine allows blind people to take dictation in the standard braille language. So, a blind person can now not only read and write competently, but also take down a fast narration. This gives them the access to greater employment opportunities.
This universally accepted language was devised for blind people. With the help of six raised dots, it can help them to read and write. This brilliant and important invention by the Frenchman Louis Braille opened up the window of higher learning to people who had almost no means of achieving this before him.
Braille has, of course, developed far beyond its initial simpler (but brilliant) system. Some braille systems have been extended to 8-dot code, making it compliant with the Unicode standard. It often includes a wider range of symbols and graphics. Today we even have screen reader software with refreshable braille displays that has made reading much easier.
But braille continues to be the primary medium for instruction. It is also how a blind person can write and later read their own words. This is why the braille shorthand machine is so brilliant. It helps them to write and then read on the go.
Like all languages, Braille is a robust language that has undergone many changes and modifications. Although originally derived from latin, as a universal language it is also required to accommodate the different languages of the world.
Also known as Bharatiya Braille, the Bharati Braille is the braille script for Indian languages. It has regional variations, such as Bengali braille, Gujarati braille and Kannada braille. It uses a 6-dot cell and is largely based on the English braille.
The braille shorthand machine
The machine has six keys, one for each dot of the braille system and a space bar. The shorthand is transferred on a role of paper which is inserted into the machine. With the help of the machine, a blind person can take down records, dates, minutes of a meeting, rapid dictation and even a telephone call. The typed information can be read by anyone — blind or sighted people. When trained properly a visually impaired stenographer is just as efficient as a sighted one.
How to select a braille shorthand machine?
Since the machine will be acting almost as an assistant, there are certain factors that one must ascertain before investing in one. These are:
Ease of use:
The shorthand machine will ultimately be used as a regular tool. So, it must be easy to use. These are simple design elements that make the machine more user-friendly. For instance, adjustable key stoppers for indentation. Ideally you must ask for a sample piece and have it tested by a user to see how it fares in actual usage.
This is an important feature in a shorthand machine. Keep in mind that this has to be a portable machine and the user will probably have to lug it around. So, the machine should be lightweight and compact enough to be carried. Many makers use aluminium, since it is both tough and light.
While usability is always a factor, the design plays a crucial role. Features like unidirectional movement, paper forwarding mechanism — all these play a role in how the machine is designed, how easy it is to use and its printing mechanism. We’ve already discussed the ease of using the machine; the printed papers must be of an equally high quality.
Like any machine, the braille shorthand machine must meet the laid down quality standards, such as those laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
The braille gave the visually impaired the freedom of the written word. The braille shorthand machine gives them the tool to use even more efficiently at the workplace. With the ability to take down a fast dictation, their capabilities are no less than a sighted person.