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Why is Contracted Braille important to the signage industry?

February 7, 2012
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First, a short history of the 3 types of Braille. The tactile reading and writing system was invented by Louis Braille to aid people who are blind or sight-impaired.  In its most basic form, each character in a standard alphabet is replaced with a raised character containing a combination of up to 6 dots.  There are also some combinations to indicate punctuation and special characters.  This is called Grade 1 Braille.

As you could imagine, the texts written with this style of Braille are very bulky and a quicker, shorter version of Braille was created to solve the problem.  Contracted Braille, formerly Grade 2 Braille, uses the same six dot patterns, but incorporates many short forms and signs that indicate contractions within the text.  When writing with these short forms much of Contracted Braille is context-dependant, which gives the readers and writers control over the text without the bulk of printing each character.

Grade 3 Braille contains many more abbreviations and uses vowel omission to control the length of the text.  It has not been standardized and varies between individuals.

Now – why is Contracted Braille important?  When deciding on standardized rules in the American Disability Act (ADA), Contracted Braille was chosen to be used on all signage.  These signs include tactile characters and pictograms adhered to the face of the sign with domed Braille underneath. The standards are followed when creating accessible signage in large offices, hotels and other buildings.  EMC is fully capable of creating signs in a variety of styles and colours, and more importantly, we have the ability to meet  the ADA standards for Contracted/Grade 2 Braille and raised tactile lettering.

One last interesting fact?  The original Braille alphabet was created by a Frenchman and did not include a character for the letter “W” as it is not part of their basic alphabet. This was added later once the popularity of the Braille system led to its being used for the English language.

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