Braille Transcriptionist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotThe ability to read and write braille gives blind and visually impaired people a real chance at equality. But they need something to read.

Braille transcriptionists, also called braillists or braille transcribers, work to change written material into braille.

dotWhen the work is finished, the braille product is equal to the print product -- math equations, diagrams, maps, music and all.

A braille transcriptionist faces the challenge of producing tactile diagrams where there are visual diagrams in books. They must also constantly check for meaning, and decide how to best present a passage or a diagram.

dotThis career requires a lot of work on computers. Scanning text, using a braille software program and using a drafting software program are all day-to-day duties. Keen proofing skills are especially important to make sure that any scanned text has been properly transcribed into braille.

"Technology is constantly improving the speed at and method by which braille books can be produced," says braille transcriber Thea Merz.

"Programs allow both typing as well as braille input. But the proofing still needs to be done in braille, for which an accurate knowledge of braille and its rules is essential."

dotBraille transcriptionists work in offices, resource centers, schools or their homes. School boards, adult education literacy programs or any other service providers of people who are blind should be the first places for aspiring braille transcriptionists to seek work.

Most braille transcriptionists work average office hours. Those working at schools get summers off. Those working from home on a freelance basis can select their own hours, as long as they finish the work by the deadline.

dotBraille transcriptionists need to stay focused for hours on end while sitting in front of a computer. The job is not physically demanding, but typical injuries can occur that are associated with repetitive movements in hands, arms or shoulders.

dot"I would not advise a blind person to become a braille transcriptionist due to the need to visually discriminate print," says Susan Graham. She is a braille transcriber for a school board.

"Ironically, the most used parts of the body needed to transcribe braille are the eyes."

dotHowever, it is possible for a blind person to become a braille transcriber.

"We have had a deaf transcriber recently retire, and a blind person still works with us on contract, using a volunteer reader to help proof her work," says Merz.

"The only trouble was that the blind person could not see the sign language used by the deaf person, and the deaf person could not hear the blind person speak. They communicated through brailled notes to each other, but both were able to do their specific assigned tasks well."

At a Glance

Translate printed material into braille

  • You must constantly check for meaning
  • You need good proofreading skills
  • A high school diploma and up to two years of post-secondary education are necessary