Braille for the World: Duxbury Systems Supports Many Languages (2023)

[This is a 2023 update to an article originally published in 2013.]

Duxbury Systems, Inc. produces the DBT braille translation software, which is used around the world. Duxbury Systems is a family owned company located in Massachusetts USA. Founded in 1975, it has been in business for more than 40 years.

For years, Duxbury Systems added translators for new languages based on contacts, braille education initiatives, and business needs. Starting in 2007, Duxbury Systems increased its focus on languages. We are a company that strives to support braille in all parts of the world, not a company that is only interested in nations that have directly solicited our help.

In 2011, Duxbury Systems released its version 11.1 of DBT with improved handling of languages of the world. For India, we support all languages using the ten major script systems. Since people identify by language name rather than by script name, the Template menu in DBT lists 45 different languages of India. As long as you choose a related language, DBT actually supports over 300 languages of India. Please visit the Duxbury Systems website to see the current list of supported languages in India and elsewhere.

Braille Production in Different Languages

Some readers are familiar with Duxbury DBT, some readers may be familiar with other braille production software, and others may not be familiar at all with this sort of computer program.

A word processing program allows a computer user to type in text, correct it, and print it out. With additional pieces of software, that text has additional uses: it can be e-mailed, downloaded, uploaded to blogs, etc. The main point is that with a computer, a printer, proper cabling, and a power source, you can produce inkprint. Braille production software lets you import files from various file types, convert the text into braille, and then send the braille material to a braille embosser, to be produced in paper braille, or to an electronic braille display device. All of that comes together, as long as you have a computer, a braille embosser or braille display, the necessary cabling, a word processor, and braille production software, such as Duxbury DBT.

When one launches Duxbury DBT, that person is faced with a fairly blank screen. Using the Open File command or the New Document command gives the user a chance to specify which file to open or start working in a new document. During the process of opening a file or starting a new document, the user is asked to name a DBT Template. If the user has specified a default, pressing Enter accepts that default.

Otherwise, one can explore a long menu list of possible Templates. In general, there is one DBT pre-defined Template per language, so that picking a Template is just picking a language. At this point, the file is displayed from within Duxbury DBT. Pressing the command Control-T translates into braille, using the rules for braille for the specified language. The user has a chance to review the material in braille on the screen. A blind (or deaf-blind or visually impaired) user can use access technology to review the material. When it is time to produce the braille on paper, the user issues the Control-E Emboss command. Here is another set of instructions for getting started with DBT.

A key point to be made is that every copy of Duxbury DBT is the same. Each can produce braille for more than 180 languages. If a college in California (USA) buys a copy of Duxbury DBT, then they have access to all of these languages. Recently, Duxbury Systems got an e-mail of thanks from a blind Cambodian student who was attending an American college. She was delighted that her school could produce Khmer text for her in proper Khmer braille, thanks to the careful work that Joe Sullivan has done on Cambodian braille. There was no need to purchase or download a “Cambodian option”. All the instructions to produce the Cambodian braille are there for all users.


Duxbury Systems has worked with a number of volunteers around the world to localize the product. The localization allows all the prompts and user interface to be in a language other than English. We welcome contact from enthusiastic users who wish to help us offer the benefits of the software to those who do not speak English.

Real World Example: Uzbekistan

An NGO wants to set up a computerized braille production facility in Uzbekistan. For hardware they need a power source, a computer, an embosser, and all necessary cabling. An internet connection is useful to obtain materials, ask questions, and obtain software updates. For software, they need a braille translator. For the purposes of this article, we assume Duxbury DBT. They also need a Word processor, Microsoft Word or Open Office. Open Office has the advantage that it is available at no cost to most end-users.


During the early stages of our 2007-2011 effort to support more Asian languages, Duxbury Systems was contacted about the impending sale of a number of copies of DBT that was dependent on support for Dzongkha, the language of Bhutan. We received a PDF file of the braille chart, and started to work on it. Duxbury Systems worked closely with staff from the Ministry of Education in Bhutan. From our perspective, the most unusual part of the project was that we were required to sign a statement that we were not charging for the development, that Duxbury Systems would only be paid for the copies of the software at the standard price. We readily signed, since this was our intention from the beginning.

In 2009, we received a new PDF of a braille chart, requiring serious re-work on our part. One of the aspects that made the additional work satisfying is that it was clear that the new chart was created based on the extensive experience with the prior system. Duxbury Systems is proud to support the Bhutan Braille System, revised in 2009.

Laos and Tibet

In Laos and Tibet, NGO organizations had set up braille production. The local persons did use Duxbury DBT, and were disappointed at the results. The problem was incomplete information about the braille codes at Duxbury. Through e-mail, we instructed the local staff to e-mail us Microsoft Word or Open Office files of the source text, with an e-mail explaining what the wrong braille was, and what the correct braille should be. Duxbury would e-mail the corrected table, and we would try another round.

The exciting part of this is that the relationship is straightforward. The trail blazer who helps Duxbury to add a new language translation table does not need to begin by raising funds. Sometimes progress is slow in the beginning, but we always get good results in the end. The improvements are placed in the next version or service release produced by Duxbury Systems, letting all users have access to the new or newly improved language support.


Based on contact from Australia, Joe Sullivan of Duxbury Systems learned that persons in Vietnam were having difficulty producing braille. In 1993, William Jolley and Rhonda Pryor of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia sent Joe Sullivan Braille instructions and samples, as well as a list of contacts. As a result of this work, support for Vietnamese has been built into DBT for Windows since its earliest version. Contact with Vietnam has been on-going, including a trip to Vietnam by Joe Sullivan which was arranged by Larry Campbell of ICEVI.

New Braille System for West Africa

One of our staff members, David Holladay, has become disabled and receives nursing care at home. Many of his nurses are from West Africa. Of course David was curious about the languages of West Africa and their braille codes. DBT supports several of the most widely used West African languages, including Ewe, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. But for many other languages in West Africa which are not supported by DBT, David could find no mention of braille.

Inspired by his wonderful nursing care, David carefully studied charts of the inkprint characters used in the languages of West Africa. He realized he could create a single, logical braille code for hundreds of languages across Africa that was true in spirit and design to the African braille codes that Duxbury Systems already supports. He produced a new braille translator based on these ideas; a braille chart is available at:

Issues with Language Learning

Sometimes issues come up with learning a language that is different from using a language. Scholars need to learn languages that are no longer spoken. Duxbury DBT has translators for biblical languages and ancient Semitic languages. People in the scholarly community appreciate the work Duxbury has done to make their work accessible to the blind.

Sometimes a language may have an accent mark or punctuation which is not ordinarily shown in braille but needs to be shown for language learners. Please contact us so we can make arrangements to customize the Braille to meet the needs of a language learner.

More Magic: Braille into Print

Duxbury now supports almost all of its languages going from braille-to-print as well as print-to-braille. Why is this important? A blind student can enter braille into an electronic braille device using a braille keyboard. After the material is transferred to a computer, DBT can translate the braille file into inkprint. The inkprint can be brought into Microsoft Word or Open Office. Thus a blind student can write in braille and print out text in Korean (and many other languages).

The list of languages that are supported for braille-to-print is not quite as long as the list of those that are supported for print-to-braille. And there are limitations. For example, DBT can convert Mandarin braille into Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin), but cannot produce an inkprint file with Han characters (Chinese characters).

A Word about Mathematics Notation

The production of braille mathematics is a very technical subject. Duxbury Systems offers nine different mathematical translators:

You can specify that a particular math system be used with any of the translators. We are aware of many additional braille systems for math and science notation. We hope to eventually add to this list.

The methods of entering mathematics into a computer so that Duxbury DBT can understand it are well described on our website, so we will spare the reader from the details. Duxbury Systems is motivated to help improve braille production of mathematical texts.


Accessibility has always been important to Duxbury Systems. Two of the full-time staff are blind and need to access DBT and other products of Duxbury Systems. The fact that Duxbury DBT is accessible means that many blind persons have been employed as braille transcribers or in related professions in braille production. We are aware of a number of blind persons who have been employed for many years due to their ability to use Duxbury DBT.

The Emergency Test

At various times, we are challenged by someone who needs to be shown that Duxbury DBT works for a specific language right now. We find ourselves explaining to someone in Northern India how to produce Pakistani-style Urdu (as opposed to India-style Urdu). In a short time, we need to explain downloading the software, getting it working, cabling and configuring the software for the user's embosser, and then working with the specified language and testing the braille. And of course, this all needs to happen very quickly, since the dealer is naturally afraid of missing a sale.

Our solution has been to create a special web page for just such emergencies. If you visit you learn about all of these issues. We offer sample files in 100 languages to help someone see what they can do with Duxbury DBT.

We invite readers of this article to go to this page so they can run some tests for themselves, and see what Duxbury DBT can do. If you use our demo software, the braille will have one consonant sprinkled in the braille many times. With a fully licensed copy, the braille will be as perfect as our developers can make it. Contact us at if you have comments about your experience with Duxbury DBT.

A Final Word

Duxbury Systems is very sensitive to the needs of persons in regions of the world that need additional support and assistance to produce braille.

We offer this assistance in a number of ways:

We are here to serve braille needs here and in every corner of the world.