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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

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Production of Braille Textbooks

There are 21 state adoption states and 29 open territory states. The acquisition of textbooks varies throughout the United States, but bids are usually sent to the publishers through local district boards or state boards of education. The following is the process through which these textbooks are produced with braille:

Braille Transcription with Publishers' Files

  1. Braille producers receive print copies of textbooks, publishers disks of textbooks, Commissioner's Report on Errors, and reams of editorial/errata sheets.

  2. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, offers the certification course for Braille transcribing. It is considered the required standard for Braille transcribers in the U.S. There are several levels of certification. The first level of certification is for learning the standard code. This takes approximately 1 year to complete. After that a transcriber works for a minimum of six months on simple projects such as novels and pleasure reading. The transcriber then takes on simple textbooks, with assistance from experienced transcribers. The transcriber can then continue on to the next levels of certification, either math and science or music. These certifications usually take a minimum of a year to achieve.

  3. With producing textbooks, the Braille transcriber usually receives the print copy that is in need of corrections. The Braille transcription is begun and sometimes finished before the printing that the reader will receive is actually complete.

  4. Braille producers review publishers' disks for usability. If there are problems with the disks, they would contact the publisher and/or the state entity managing textbooks.

  5. The transcribing agency works with the graphics companies that have been contracted by the publishers to get the best type of files possible. The graphic company then sends sample files to the transcribing agency for evaluation. The state entity sends "file specification checklists" to the publishers, but it is often the case that these are not passed to the graphic companies. Often, the transcribing agencies receive files with words misspelled or missing from the file completely. Each heading, caption, word and punctuation mark that is in print needs to be included in the file sent to the transcriber. In the case of a foreign language textbook, the accented letters shown need to be in the files.

  6. Braille producers work with the publishers and/or the state agency until usable/good copies of electronic files are received. Sometimes this is a multi-step process involving education of publishers and negotiation with publishers.

  7. Braille production staff (formatting specialists) review textbooks and make formatting decisions about how the books are structured. The print textbooks are highly visual. The more colors, boxes, maps and artwork in the print—the longer it takes to format a book for the Braille user.

  8. Textbooks are assigned to transcribers for brailling and graphics are given to tactile graphics specialists. In some cases, the transcriber and graphics specialist are one and the same person.

  9. Transcriber/graphics specialists prepare the Braille versions of textbooks by using the publishers' disks.

  10. The electronic file is imported into the Braille translation software a chapter at a time. The translation software will not easily import unusually large files. These have to be broken into smaller, more manageable files.

  11. A title page, author's page, transcriber's note page, special symbols page, and other preliminary pages are prepared as needed.

  12. The transcriber inserts formatting commands line by line, to set up the file according to various Braille codes (Nemeth/math & science, chemistry, music, textbook, and computer).

  13. Picture descriptions are written and included as needed. This involves the transcriber having to determine exactly what the reader needs to know so the correct wording of a transcriber's note is used. Tactile graphics are preferred above raised line drawings and computer generated graphics.

  14. Each volume is reviewed and prepared for the first proofreading.

  15. The first proofread version of the file is printed on a Braille printer and graphics are reproduced on a Thermoform machine and/or Braille graphics printer. The graphics are inserted in the appropriate position within the Braille volume. The draft copy of the volume is ready for the first proofreading.

  16. Proofreader and copyholder read each volume of the textbook. A "page and line" report is completed listing the errors in each volume. The report is returned with the volume to the transcriber/graphics specialist for corrections.

  17. Transcriber/graphics specialists correct errors and return the Braille volumes to the proofreader for a second review. This process continues between the transcriber and proofreader until the volume is finalized.

  18. Proofreader reviews the volume for a final time and informs transcriber that the textbook is ready for production.

  19. The transcriber sends the finished file and graphics to the reproduction facility.

Copying, Binding and Shipment of Braille Textbooks

  1. A Braille technician retrieves the electronic files for the Braille volumes, Braille labels, print title pages, print transcriber note pages and spine labels. They are then brailled.

  2. After a quality control check for correctness and completeness, a Braille technician electronically queues the book to be embossed on one of several Braille embossers. The Braille labels are brailled. The print title page and transcriber note pages are printed on a specially designed printer.

  3. The embossed volumes are removed from the Braille output bin and checked for production inequities such as fading dots, extra dots, proper alignment and correct page count per volume.

  4. Braille specialists "burst" the book cutting the Braille paper into 11x11 « sheets. They add the property page and check for continuity and completeness of each volume.

  5. A production worksheet is checked for graphics requirements. If the book contains graphics, a Braille specialist retrieves the appropriate graphic master from the graphics library. He/she thermoforms the necessary graphics and returns the masters to the graphics library.

  6. A Braille Specialist collates the embossed book, thermoform graphics pages, print title pages print transcriber note pages and book covers. The book is then bound on a GBC spiral binding machine. A clear Braille label is then affixed to the cover of the book.

  7. A second certified Braille specialist inspects each volume and packs the textbooks for shipment.

  8. The textbooks are then sent to requesting school districts and the state agency/state contact is notified that the volumes have been sent.

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