Yesterday, THL visited the National Braille Press in Boston to learn about publishing books in braille in preparation for a book we’re planning about Eşref Armağan, a blind painter from Turkey. We got a tour of the facility, viewed the production of braille books, and met all the wonderful people of NBP!
A little about braille…
Braille is a system of six raised dots created by Louis Braille in 1821. This tactile learning system is essential for children with profound or total loss of sight so they can learn to read and write. There are about 5500 braille readers nationwide, which is around 9% of the blind population. Nearly 300 children per grade in America are braille literate.
National Braille Press promotes and supports literacy for blind children as a non-profit publisher. Literacy in braille for visually impaired individuals has been associated with more years of school, higher incomes and employment rates, and higher levels of reading in adulthood.
Here is a glimpse of the fascinating process of producing books in braille that we observed yesterday. There are five major steps: transcription, proofreading, embossing, pressing and finishing.
First, the book must be transcribed into braille through a special software on a computer and then reviewed by the transcription staff.
The braille is printed and a proofreader checks the braille for errors, whether typos or machine-related. The proofreaders often compare the document to an audio version of the original print document, and they double check by reading the text back to the transcriber.
Once the braille is proofread and corrected, a master copy is made for the printing press. It is cast on a zinc plate by a Plate Embossing Device which stamps Braille impressions in the metal. This master is used for the production of many page copies of Braille.
The zinc plates are used to produce braille copies in high volume on the Heidelberg sheet-fed press modified for braille production.
The braille is collated onto pages or folded by hand, and then bound into a book. Voila!
Learn more about the National Braille Press on their website at npb.org!