A long awaited feature has finally landed in Orca’s beta. We now support grade 2 braille.

If you never heard of contracted braille, or grade 2 braille, just think of the sort of shorthand tricks that teenagers use today when they text message each other, “you are great” turns into “u r gr8”. In contracted braille it would be “y >e grt”.

Unlike text messaging, grade 2 braille did not come about because of text input laziness, it came to be generations ago for reducing space and increasing reading speeds. Of course today, in the age of refreshable braille displays, the space concern is less important. Nonetheless, horizontal scrolling is reduced when using a 40 cell braille display, making the Orca experience that much smoother.

Translating a written language in to grade 2 braille correctly is a challenging problem. There are many rules that go into the process of translating a language in to it’s contracted form. Luckily we had a shared library from John Boyer called liblouis. John has been extremely helpful in helping us roll this release out using his library. And has been accommodating to are nutty release schedule.

A special thanks also to Mike for dealing with my braille ignorance, and to Will, who patiently reviewed my shoddy patch (I promise to do more pylint runs in the future).

And to all you users, abusers, and testers out there. We need your input on this stuff. Thanks in advance for that. If there are a non-English braille readers out there I would especially like to get in touch so we could iron out any localization kinks.


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  1. Zack says:

    People were using “contracted english” e.g. “u r gr8” etc. since before SMS existed; the earliest I saw things like that was in the mid 90s on IRC, but I’m sure it happened before that, as I’m young.

    Since everyone had dialup access those days, people in large chatrooms either used “contracted english” or had lots of lag, period. Long story short, I think it’s not laziness 🙂

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