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Table Designator


This is the technical description of a DBT Translation table. If you want more general information about languages and template choices, please see the list of templates.

Initially, the language table for braille translation is determined by the selected template, and may be changed using the Document / Translation Tables menu. Using those menus does not require use of the table designator. However, to switch to a different translation table partway through a file, one must enter a DBT code and the designator for the table to switch to. For switching secondary languages within a base language table, see the [lng~X] command. For switching from one base language to another, see the [lnb~...] command.

Functional Summary

The Arabic tables support print-to-braille translation of Arabic-language literary text in contracted or uncontracted Arabic braille according to Arabic Braille rules as they were prior to a major revision that took place in 2002. English text may also be processed as a sub-language, and converted to contracted or uncontracted English braille (following British conventions). The American Computer Braille Code (CBC) is also supported.

Normally, the text is first prepared on Microsoft Word (possibly Arabic version, but any version can be used as long as the Arabic is prepared in a Unicode font [e.g. the default "Times Roman"]) and imported to DBT prior to translation.

Special Requirements and Limitations

True braille-to-print translation is supported only within any embedded English text, not in the Arabic text. This means that it is not generally useful to translate an Arabic braille file to print. It also means that the "translated line" will typically contain gibberish when viewing the braille file. You may prefer to turn off the "translated line" under the View menu, or even under Global/Default if you wish it to be off by default.

Arabic characters may not be shown normally on the "print file" view of DBT, and in any case the normal (right-to-left) directionality of Arabic text is not supported in that view. This is the main reason that Microsoft Word should normally be used for entering, editing and viewing the print text and the DBT print view is used only as an intermediary step enroute to the braille.

Secondary Languages Supported

English text may be entered as a secondary language, and converted to contracted or uncontracted English braille. That is, the grade switches affect the translation of the English text as well as the Arabic text. In English literary text, British conventions are generally followed, to the extent that they sometimes differ slightly from American ones.

In addition, it is possible to switch to any of the available translation tables listed in DBT. (See the [lnb~...] code below.)

Technical Braille Codes Supported

Computer Braille Code (CBC), as defined by the Braille Authority of North America, is supported.

The Arabic mathematics braille code is supported through table switching when using the math DBT style (this is external to this translation table, and is subject to change).

Supported DBT Translation Codes

[/] may be embedded within letter-groups that would normally be contracted, to prevent the contraction.

[ab] is equivalent to [g2]





















[cz] switches to "direct braille," wherein braille is directly represented using the North American ASCII-braille code. (This is sometimes called "no-translate" or "computer grade 0")

[g1] switches to "grade 1" (uncontracted) braille. This affects the Arabic text, and also any embedded English text.

[g2] switches to "grade 2" (contracted) braille. This is the normal mode, and to any embedded English text as well as the Arabic text.

[in] is equivalent to [g1]


[lnb~...] (for switching to another base [primary] language table)

[lng~en] switches to English language.

[lng~ar] or [lng] switches to Arabic language.

[tx] resumes normal translation, ending "direct braille."



Other translation codes will generally be ignored, or may cause unpredictable translation results.

Characters Supported

The table is designed to work with the following groups of characters:

All ASCII printable characters

Letters and vowel marks used in Arabic

Accented letters and punctuation marks typical of French, German, Italian, and Spanish

British pound sign ()

The above is a general guide only (see "General Notes" section at the beginning of this document).

References, History and Credits

The rules for contracted Arabic were originally specified by the former Middle East Committee for the Welfare of the Blind (now under the auspices of the Department of Education) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Working from that specification, Duxbury Systems developed an automated braille translation system for Arabic, believed to be the first anywhere, which was installed at MECWB in 1982. That original form of the system, designed for DBT as it ran on minicomputers of the early 1980s, was used with only minor updates until the late 1990s. The present tables have been updated to work with the much more advanced Windows version of DBT, to incorporate facilities for embedded English as well as Arabic, and quite possibly to reflect feedback from more recent users.

The rules for contracted literary English generally follow British practice, but embedded "computer braille", if used, follows the American code -- a combination that is common in many places, e.g. Australia and South Africa.

According the 2013 UNESCO document World Braille Usage, the pre-2002 Arabic code is preferred in Bahrain, Iran, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

(Documentation reviewed April 2010)