Q&A

Who does PEF benefit?

PEF delivers benefit for all who can make use of braille because it is easy to emboss with complete accuracy without knowledge of the origin of the contents, its subject or software used in production. For example, this enables distributed embossing near the reader and sharing across countries.

In what way is PEF a unique technology?

The ability to share embosser files across the internet is a unique technology which will significantly increase braille availability and therefore enhance the use of braille throughout the world.

In addition, the PEF format has proven to lower the threshold for braille software development, for example in the odt2braille project, by providing a simple way to communicate with embossers.

How does PEF increase braille affordability?

A unique property of PEF is that a document can be prepared for embossing independent of the equipment at, and location of, the embossing facilities. Since these stages of braille production require different equipment and skills, separating them result in more braille, faster and cheaper, and improves the affordability of braille technology.

In other words, the production of braille files may be carried out in a suitable place, and the embossing in another place suitable for that. The PEF format makes it possible for a single web service to serve several embossing facilities.

Is PEF easily accessed by blind people?

PEF-files can easily be accessed and used by blind people throughout the world:

  • PEF and the supporting software is Open Source and available to all users and computer platforms, for free.
  • Braille readers can keep and easily find a specific file in their possession using ad-hoc indexing of the embedded metadata in the PEF-files. For example, searching for titles by a specific author.
  • The use of Unicode characters enables unambiguous embossing regardless of where the embossing takes place. For example in a reader’s home, at a blind organization’s local office, or at the workplace.

Is PEF ready for mainstream use?

The PEF-format offers benefit to blind and partially sighted people today. Tools for validating, converting and embossing PEF-files are available on Google code, and support for PEF is integrated into several software products, such as Daisy Pipeline, odt2braille and RoboBraille.

In addition, PEF is used in daily production at TPB and SPSM in Sweden and NLB in Norway.

What about ASCII braille?

Braille users are sometimes confronted with braille text files (a.k.a. ASCII braille) that do not emboss correctly. Imagine that this happens to you. To correct this, you need several skills. First you need to understand the text. This, in turn, means that you need to know braille, the languages used and (sometimes) the topic of the text. Secondly, you need knowledge about plausible character encoding and braille table (character to braille pattern translation) combinations and how to adjust your software and/or embosser accordingly. Depending on the differences between your current setup and the required setup, this process could potentially involve hours of trial and error – if you are lucky enough to have all these skills, that is.

The reason for this is that many important aspects of ASCII braille are undefined. These aspects are interpreted differently depending on the embosser and/or software used.

  • ASCII braille depends on an alternate interpretation of regular ASCII characters, but provides no means of how to differentiate one interpretation from another.
  • Common characters like .?()+$% and # render different braille patterns depending on embosser and/or software locale. The reality is that one can’t send an ASCII braille file to an embosser without braille knowledge.
  • A stray ASCII braille file that has been taken out of context or transferred from one computer to another can be very difficult to make sense of, even for a skilled transcriber or braille user.