Braille is a raised script based on a cell of six dots in which different combinations of dots are used for each letter of the alphabet, for punctuation and for symbols representing whole words or groups of letters – 63 symbols in total. The 63 symbols are used to transcribe all literature, music notation, mathematics, sciences and computer text in braille. Braille is the primary medium by which the blind person can learn to read and write and become fully literate. It is the most important medium for learning and reading.
WHERE DID BRAILLE START?
Louise Braille the inventor of Braille was born in Coupvray near Paris, France on 4 January 1809. At the age of three while playing in his father’s workshop he hurt his eye with one of the tools. The wound got infected and soon spread to the other eye, becoming blind shortly afterwards. Staying at his old school for 2 more years made learning difficult, as he could not remember everything just by listening to the teacher. At the age of ten Louis received a scholarship to attend the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris.
By this time Louis was getting impatient. He had to have books. In 1821 a former soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school. Charles showed his invention called “night writing” which was a code of 12 raised dots which allowed the soldiers to share top secret information in the battlefield without to speak. Unfortunately the code was to difficult for the soldiers, but not for Louis!
Louis trimmed the 12 dots into 6 dots. By the time he was 15 he had worked out a system and published the first ever braille book in 1829.
In 1837 he added braille symbols for mathematics and music. Braille was taught at his school only after his death at the age of 43 in 1852. In 1868 braille began to spread world wide when a group of British men, now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, took up this cause.
SA BRAILLE SYSTEM – ALPHABET AND NUMBERS
The first Afrikaans Braille system was designed and introduced at the School for the Blind in 1923. Mr Victor Hugo Vaughan the deputy principal of the school did the scientific standardization of the Afrikaans Braille system. The completed Afrikaans contracted Braille system was used to print an article in the Braille magazine “Die Nuwe Pionier” in 1934 for the first time.
Our viewpoint is that all school learners that cannot read ordinary text should be taught braille. For the adult who lost his/her sight at a later stage in life and decides to learn braille we recommend using the book “Six Dots” or “Ses Punte” that is produced in Braille, audio sound and text print formats.
In 1986 the ” SA Braille Komitee” was founded in Worcester by Connie Aucamp, Dr. William Rowland and Christo de Klerk. In 1996 the SA Braille Committee changed its name to Braille SA. The main objective of Braille SA was to promote braille in SA. The tasks of Braille SA included the maintenance of good quality braille systems.
A great deal of work over many years by dedicated experts around the world developed the Unified English Braille Code (UEBC). In 2004 the South African braille authority, Braille SA, voted in favour of adoption of the Unified Braille Code. This braille code is the international standard for English speaking countries.
In May 2012 the South Africa Braille Authority (SABA) was established and they are constantly working on all the Braille codes for the different languages in SA.
BRAILLE PRODUCTION (MATHS, SCIENCE, MUSIC, TACTILE GRAPHICS)
At this stage Pioneer Printers is the only production unit in South Africa specializing in transcribing mathematics, science and music braille codes. Our other specialized fields that we cater for, is producing computer braille literature and tactile graphics e.g. mathematic and scientific diagrams, maps, various sketches, etc.
Braille production consists of the following processes:
Braille transcribing: It takes a few months of intensive in-house training to be able to become a qualified maths braille transcriber that can produce braille mathematics independently. It takes about two years to train a music braille transcriber.
Braille proofreading: Braille proofreading consist out of a team of two people, a blind person reading the braille and a sighted person following the original text, checking and making sure that the braille book coincides with the textbook and that the quality of the braille is of a high standard. Most literature such as text books and examination papers are proofread twice by two different proofreading teams.
Braille embossing: We use Express 150 and Braille Place braille embossers to print braille text. For the printing of diagrams/sketches/maps we make use of Tiger View Plus and Elite embossers. The Express prints at 150 characters per minute and the BraillePlace 300 characters per minute. These embossers are imported and the purchasing costs varies from $16 000 to $45 000 per embosser.
Binding and finishing of books: All our books are bound with spiral twinwire, two board covers printed with text and braille labels.
Packaging and distribution: All the books are packed in boxes or in sealed plastic bags ready for distribution.
BRAILLE PRODUCTION MATERIAL THAT WE USE
We print braille text on Camelot Cartridge 135gsm fanfold paper. Diagrams/sketches/maps are printed on Camelot Cartridge 165gsm paper. Our braille books are bound with Twinwire 22 loop elements and 400gsm board covers.
Our braille magazine is called ” Die Pionier” and is a bilingual (Afrikaans and English) magazine compiled at the Pioneer Printers from various magazines, newspapers and newsletters of the school and the Institute for the Blind. This Braille magazine was first published in 1904 and then it was called “De Pionier”. “Die Pionier” is published bimonthly and the production is done by the Pioneer Printers while the production cost is funded by Kaleidoscope SA (Institute for the Blind).
Digital audio sound recordings are done in our high quality soundproof studios. Audio sound recordings are a secondary medium to braille for the blind person that can read braille, but it acts as a very important assistive medium for the blind and partially sighted who cannot read braille. Our narrators are volunteers whose voices are auditioned by a panel of blind people and when they approve of the voice the volunteer becomes a regular narrator. We produce creational and educational books, magazines, newspapers in audio sound format and duplicate them onto MP3 CD’s for visually impaired people.
WHERE DID WE START WITH AUDIO RECORDINGS
The first experiments with audio recordings on vinyl records were made in 1956. In 1959 the first audio book was recorded and it was called “Oupa Landman se viool”. Later during that year audio production on open reel started and soon after that the open reels were exchanged for audio tapes or cassettes. In 2009 we started recording digitally and duplicating onto MP3 CD’s.
PRODUCTION PROCESSES AND EQUIPMENT
Digital audio recordings are made with “Studio Recorder” software by our 2 sound controllers in our high quality recording studios. During the recording in wave file they also do the editing of the master. The recorded master wave file is then converted into MP3 tracks by the duplicaters before they duplicate the necessary number of CD copies. A label with the necessary information of the audio book is printed on the CD and then it is packed into a CD box with an address card on it, ready for distribution.
SELECTING AND APPROVING NARRATORS
Preferably we make use of volunteers coming from the Worcester region to read books at our studios in Worcester. The narrators undergo a voice test where they read a prepared and unprepared part from a book and or magazine. The recorded voice goes anonymously to a panel of blind people who evaluates the voice and then approves the voice or not. Only when approved the volunteer narrators are trained and become a regular reader reading several hour periods during the week. It takes a narrator about a full eight hour day to read the ” Huisgenoot” or the ” Sarie” .
AUDIO MAGAZINE SERVICE
We have a weekly and monthly audio magazine and newspaper service where we record various magazines and newspapers onto MP3 cd and distribute it to visually impaired subscribers in South Africa and other parts of the world. This is a service financed by Kaleidoscope SA (Institute for the Blind). We started recording the Huisgenoot in 1962 and the Sarie in 1983 with the permission of the publishers. The following magazines and newspapers are recorded weekly or monthly:
- Woord vir vandag
- Sunday Times
- Worcester Standard
- NG Kerk tydskrifte – Kerkbode, Lig
- Gereformeerde Kerk tydskrifte – Kerkblad, Vroueblad, Slingervel
- Newsletters of the Pioneer School and Kaleidoscope SA (Institute for the Blind)
WHEN WE STARTED LARGE PRINT
In 1964 Mr Kosie Gericke initiated large print. At first it was done with typesetting and cameras. Later years an ordinary photocopy machine was used to make enlargements up to A3 size, but the quality of these enlargements never really complied to the specific needs of the partially sighted learners.
In 2010 we have also started to convert the text file of braille transcribed setwork books to Arial type font size 18, printed on white A4 size paper. It is a very costly exercise to provide specific large print books to each partially sighted person with its unique needs such as type font, font size, colour paper, ink colour, etc.
From 1980 up to 2004 the Pioneer Printers also did some commercial printing and specialized in printing church calendars and a variety of stationery. The commercial printing section was sold to BMP Printers who is still located in the same building as Pioneer Printers.
Boomroc Productions now on board with Pioneer Printers
As of 1 June 2016, Boomroc Productions is now a new Department at Pioneer Printers. Where Pioneer Printers mainly focuses on the production of literature for the visually impaired in Braille, large print and audio format, it is now also able to offer the following services at affordable prices, thereby also supporting the provision of literature to visually impaired persons in SA.
- Professional Music Production Studio
- Mixing, Editing and Mastering of Audio
- Writing of Audio Masters
- Single Song and Album Productions – Solo-Artists, Musicians, Bands, Choirs, etc.
- Voice and Instrument Recording / Programming – Drums, Guitars, Keys, etc.
- Vocal Note Fixing / Tuning
- CD, DVD and Cover Design
- Duplication and Printing of CD’s, DVD’s and Album Covers
- Various packaging options available
- CD and DVD Glass Mastering options available
- Transferring of old LP’s, Cassettes and videos to CD, DVD, Hard Drive, Memory Stick, etc