Frequently Asked Questions

What is the point of Grade 3 Braille?

The point of Grade 3 Braille is to maximize the usage of the 63 available braille cells in order to get the greatest amount of information under the braille reader's fingers in the smallest amount of space. With such a finite set of symbols to choose from, doesn't it make sense to use as many combinations as possible? Some benefits are increased speed in reading and writing, smaller braille volumes, and the ability to fit more braille on small surfaces like labels or little 18-cell refreshable braille displays, which are becoming ubiquitous.

There is an old article in the Braille Monitor comparing grade 3 braille to other shorthand braille codes at this link: Grade 3 Braille Compared to Other Abbreviated Forms of Braille.

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Isn't Grade 3 Braille an Anachronism?

No. braille itself will be around as long as there are blind people. Blind people still have to know how to write and spell to be successful, so tactile writing is still relevant. The fact that reading by touch only allows the reader to obtain what can be covered by his fingertips creates a somewhat small window of information, thus, touch reading naturally lends itself to contracted forms.

Computing power has currently reached a level where data compression at mind-boggling rates is possible, making translation from print into contracted braille codes very easy and fast. There are braille embossers that can whip out hundreds of pages in 20 minutes and refreshable braille displays are becoming more and more obtainable. The popular misconception that technology is some threat to braille production is completely illogical.

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Who invented Grade 3 Braille?

The earliest code book seems to be Revised Braille for reading and writing, Grade Three by the National Institute for the Blind, London, England, published in 1908. L. W. Rodenberg wrote Alphabetical key to grade three in 1926 for the Illinois School for the blind, which was then revised under the title of Key to Grade Three. The Hadley School for the Blind offered a correspondence course in Grade 3 Braille for a number of years using a book titled Grade 3 Braille, A Home Study Course.

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Is Grade 3 Braille useful for young students?

Grade 3 Braille is meant to augment the capabilities of those already proficient in grade 2, therefore, it is not recommended for usage by students who are still developing their literacy skills. There are a few contractions in Grade 3 that carry meanings that the reader must identify from context, which may be difficult for children with emerging vocabularies or recently blinded adults just conquering braille. In the past, schools for the blind would usually offer to teach Grade 3 Braille in the high school years.

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Can a reader understand something in Grade 3 that another person has written?

Yes. If the writer follows the rules of the code properly, anyone else who knows Grade 3 should be able to read it. Grade 3 Braille is not a form of shorthand, in that it represents the original spellings of words, rather than phonetic symbols. For personal notes a writer may use his own system of abbreviations that another reader may not be familiar with, but that's why the term for it is "personal" notes. A reader of Grade 3 is perfectly capable of picking up a book in this code that they've never seen before and read it aloud without hesitation.

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How many contractions are there in Grade 3 Braille?

Hundreds. Every single combination of braille dots is utilized with each of the right-hand dot prefixes in a contraction, each is used as a stand-alone word, all lower signs are used as part-word contractions, there are additional initial and terminal contractions, and many short-form words. There are approximately 600. It may sound daunting, but it is a logical extension of Grade 2 Braille, and there are patterns useful for memorizing all of the new forms. But the real power of Grade 3 comes not from contractions, but from Sequencing, Outlining, and the extensibility of transcriber- or writer-assigned abbreviations.

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How much space does Grade 3 Braille actually save?

Grade 3 Braille generally takes up between 30-50% of the space that Grade 2 does, depending on the material. So it can save up to about 70%. A 3-volume book in grade 2 will sometimes come out in a single grade 3 braille volume.

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What software can be used to produce Grade 3 Braille?

The free program NFBTrans used to be able to produce a very limited form of Grade 3 Braille. There will be a fully functional translation program available on in the near future.

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