passed at the International Braille Seminar organised by the "Swiss Braille Watchers" from 20th to 23rd February 1997 in the Course and Holiday Centre "Solsana" of the Swiss Federation of the Blind and Partially-Sighted CH-3792 Saanen near Gstaad

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Resolution concerning the standardisation and uniformity of literary braille

Description of the current situation:

The braille system is designed to be read and written by blind people. Traditional 6-dot braille affords the greatest legibility. Although there are situations for which a cell of 8 dots is suitable, 6-dot braille on paper will retain its fundamental character.

In the last few years literary braille has been greatly influenced by computer braille. This results in a reduction in quality and has led to the reform of literary braille in several languages without international co-ordination of the work. As a result, the norms for literary braille in various languages are divergent.

Our concerns:

This seminar requests of all relevant and competent authorities, organisations and institutions that they make efforts towards the greatest possible uniformity of literary braille. The most important criterion in the drawing up of norms should be the functionality for the user - above all good legibility. Those readers less experienced in braille must also be included among the users.

We understand that one norm cannot be valid for all languages. However, the seminar demands the greatest possible uniformity for the norms concerning those signs whose meaning is internationally standard, such as puntuation marks and the braille signs which have no direct inkprint equivalent.


Because the braille system is limited to only 63 dot combinations, a single braille sign must have several meanings according to context. This causes no problems for the user. However, it makes no sense to have differing braille signs for one and the same inkprint character in different languages. The full stop (period), the question mark (query), inverted commas (speech marks) and the capitalisation sign are particularly noticeable in this respect,

The uniformity of the above-mentioned signs facilitates the exchange of texts in differing languages and the computer-assisted production of multilingual texts. Thus, instead of negatively influencing the functionality of literary braille, the computer can become a useful tool.

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Recommendations on the production of braille documents

1. Basic principles:

  1. The document must have the same content in braille as in inkprint.
  2. The layout of the document in braille must be equivalent in form to that of the inkprint.
  3. The professional production of braille documents must be undertaken by qualified and specialist staff.
  4. The principles and elements used in the layout of a braille document should be uniform.
  5. The hardware used to print braille should be operated and serviced competently.

2. Requirements with respect to braille paper:

  1. The texture of the surface must allow a flowing movement of the fingers when reading.
  2. The paper should be stiff enough for the braille dots not to show too much wear and tear after being posted or read several times.
  3. To avoid injury the paper must not have any sharp edges.
  4. Attention must be paid to the correct storage of the paper to avoid deterioration (e.g. corrugation).
  5. Coloured braille paper may be used to increase attractiveness for partially-sighted people.

3. Paper format:

The paper format should be chosen to suit the intended use of the braille document. It should be as practical in handling as possible.

4. Binding:

  1. All the pages should be able to be opened fully and effortlessly.
  2. The legibility of the first and last characters on a line must not be decreased when they are near the binding.
  3. Several handy volumes are preferable to one great tome.
  4. All the bibliographic details necessary to identify a volume must be on the spine in braille and easily readable.
  5. A book mark (ribbon) should be incorporated in the binding of braille books.
  6. The cover of the document should afford optimal protection against damage (especially the flattening of the dots) and ensure that it stands well.

5. Individual elements used in layout:

  1. Titles should be presented in a way that makes them easy to recognise as such and to find when skimming over the page.
  2. As far as possible the current chapter should be indicated in the footer.
  3. Page numbering should be placed at the bottom of the page.
  4. Tables and graphics should not be simply omitted but be presented in a suitable manner in braille.
  5. The usefulness of tactile pictures is extremely questionable. They cannot be perceived as a whole by the reading finger but must be pieced together bit by bit. Where tactile pictures are, nevertheless, used their suitability should be tested by blind persons beforehand.
  6. The table of contents should be placed at the front of the book, notes at the back.

    The optimal use of the length of the lines should be ensured by the use of word division.

6. Quality control:

It is important that the braille text is corrected by qualified proof-readers. Blind people are especially suitable for this task.

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Resolution concerning the promotion of braille

We demand:

1.1. that teachers in schools and institutions for the blind and partially-sighted motivate their pupils to learn braille by way of a positive attitude to braille on their own part.

1.2. that the requirements of adventitiously blinded people be particularly taken into acount by, for instance, producing more literature in uncontracted braille.

2.1. that braille instruction be attractively presented to increase the pupil's desire to learn and that it take the pupil's learning rate into account to the extent that this is possible.

2.2. that - as far as possible - braille instruction be delivered by blind and partially-sighted teachers.

3. that talking books and address labels used to send them be additionally labelled in braille.

4. that correspondence between institutions of and for the blind and those persons who wish it be conducted in braille.

5. that "the effect on reading ability of differing dot spacing within the braille cell" be given as the subject of a longer piece of work or a dissertation to students studying to be teachers of the blind and partially-sighted either in special schools or in integrated settings.

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Resolution concerning financial support for the standardisation of the 8-dot computer braille code

(An explanation of terms used will be found below)


The exchange of data between the electronic braille devices of different producers is not possible at present. Work is being done on an open world-wide norm for the 8-dot computer braille code for various alphabets and writing systems. 4000 dollars must be found in order to enable a world-wide decision on the acceptance of the proposal to be made. The 8-dot computer code is not seen as a replacement for the 6-dot literary codes. A norm would facilitate the exchange of data, promote communication and increase the quality of living of blind and partially-sighted people.

Description of the current situation:

8-dot computer braille is used nowadays in the input, output and data storage of many computer peripherals and programs for blind and partially-sighted people: braille keyboards, braille displays, braille embossers. At present it is not possibe to read material written in a particular braille code (e.g. English contracted braille) on a braille output device which has a different allocation of ASCII values to braille dot combinations.

Since 1993 experts from European and non-European countries have been working in ISO TC-173, SC-4, intensively on the standardisation of the 8-dot computer braille code. It is in no way intended that this norm influence the usual 6-dot braille code ("literary braille"). On the contrary, it should serve to better distinguish the various codes from one another so that each system can be optimally used for the purpose it was intended for.

The starting point is the desire to maintain the openendendness of this standard with respect to all the languages of the world. The norm uniquely allocates 256 characters to 256 different dot combinations. It creates a uniform system for identifying the position of the dots in the 8-dot matrix. The norm is openended with respect to non-Latin alphabets and, within a single alphabet, to various writing systems (mathematical and music notation, contracted braille, ...). By means of the shift mark technique the norm can be extended to such code systems as Unicode.

The first proposed table is based on Eurobraille. Further tables are necessary and desirable.

Great efforts are needed to produce the draft norm ISO DIS 11548 because about 40 pages of table material must be input into the computer in order to be able to publish the result in both inkprint and braille. Each of the signs of the ISO norm must be represented by the appropriate inkprint character and a graphical representation of the braille dot pattern.

It would cost about 4000 dollars to have this work carried out in Austria or Germany.

Our concerns:

The participants at this seminar request of all organisations of and for the blind as well as public and private bodies that they promote the use of braille for the purpose of integrating blind and partially-sighted people and increasing their quality of life. A particularly important contribution to this is the financial support for the work of standardisation in the ISO and the CEN.


The problems encountered at present when using differing braille codes for exchanging digital data between various input and output devices can only be solved by means of a single standard. In this age of Internet, this function is becoming more and more important.

The creation of Eurobraille had the effect that, from 1986 onwards, firms involved in the production of aids for the blind unified their code tables without neglecting facilities for individual configurations. The intended measure of world-wide standardisation should lead to braille input and outpus devices that cope with various alphabets and braille codes better than they did previously and present the required writing system to the user automatically.

Explanation and definition of terms:

8-dot computer braille: The 256 screen characters are assigned to the 256 combinations that can be made of 8 dots.

ASCII: "American Standard Code for Information Interchange" - table of the first 128 signs of the screen character set.

CEN: "Comité Européen de Normalisation" - European Standardisation Committee.

DIS: "Draft International Standard" - A draft standard which becomes an official standard when voted for by the member countries of the ISO.

Eurobraille: An 8-dot computer braille system that was created by representatives of the organisations of and for the blind of the then member states of the European Community in 1986.

ISO: "International Standardisation Orginisation".

Literary braille: 6-dot braille, mostly in paper form.

SC: Subcommittee.

Shift Marks: Code signs that are used to change between code tables.

TC: Technical committee.

Unicode: A code in which more than 256 characters are defined.

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