[accesscomp] Dan's tip

  • From: "Bob Acosta" <boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bob Acosta" <boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2012 08:19:21 -0700

    Robo Braille: enhancing the accessibility of documents

Submitted by cvangerven on Mon, 08/13/2012 - 11:13

Blog Date:

Monday, August 13, 2012

By Scott Davert

A link to this service is below.


For many reasons, people who are blind  or deaf-blind find it necessary to 
convert files from one format to another. For example, converting a 
graphical PDF file to an accessible format such as Microsoft Word (.doc or 
.docx), rich text format (.rtf), digital braille (.brf) or plain text 
(.txt). This is especially the case when textbook publishers send out books 
in PDF format. There are many software applications that can convert files 
from one format to another, but these must be installed in order to perform 
conversions for some of the above mentioned formats. That is, until a 
service called Robobraille came in to being.

Robobraille, (www.robobraille.org), is a Danish Web based service that will 
convert files from one format to another. Files can be converted from or to: 
uncontracted and contracted Braille, plain text, Microsoft Word,JPEG, PDF, 
and many more. There are also many languages supported such as Danish, 
French, German, Spanish, Arabic, and several others. You can even view the 
Web interface from the list of available buttons for the languages that are 
present on the home page.

The process of converting files is very straight forward. First choose the 
file you'd like to convert and upload it on the front page of the site much 
as you would upload a file on any Web site. The only issue with this is that 
once your file has successfully uploaded, the upload file portion of the web 
page remains there, so you have to arrow around to find out when your file 
has completed uploading. The service has a 32MB limit on file size, which 
could present some issues for those who need very large PDF documents 
converted. The complete list of input file types supported are : .doc, 
.docx, .pdf, .txt, .xml, .html, .htm, .rtf, .epub, .mobi, .tiff, .tif, .gif, 
.jpg, .bmp, .pcx, .dcx, .j2k, .jp2, .jpx, .djv and.asc

Once you have uploaded the file, you will be presented with a list of 
alternative types for the file such as a document, tagged PDF, audio, or an 
eBook. The next series of options are contextual. For example, if you're 
converting a PDF file to another document type, you will be presented with 
the various formats available. MP3 audio, eBook formats including  EPUB and 
MOBI,   document (10 different types to choose from), and various forms of 
digital Braille are all available with for PDF file.  If you choose to 
convert the file to an MP3, you will then have a choice as to the speed of 
the speech along with whether you'd like the text-to-speech engine to read 
in an American or British voice. These options vary slightly based on what 
you upload. For example, if you upload a Microsoft Word file for conversion, 
you get the additional option of DAISY format, even with both text and 

After choosing your desired format, you then need to enter an email address 
where Robobraille can email you the converted file as an attachment, or in 
the case of MP3 files, you will be provided with  a link to the file from 
their server. You can then download the file, and be on your way to enjoying 
the file format of your choice.

I have found that graphical PDF documents are quite accurately converted 
with the OCR tool Robobraile is using. The 5 documents I tested this 
conversion with had AN AVERAGE OF LESS THAN one error for each page. 
Turnaround time varies based on the size of the document. For example, a 3 
page document may take less than 2 minutes, while a 300 page document could 
take over an hour.

A few limitations:
As mentioned above, the files you upload must be less than 32MB. Also, 
protected documents cannot be converted. Finally, while one can convert to 
digital Braille, it is slightly misleading that the files are given the file 
extensions .txt.  It would be nice if Robobraille could include the BRF 
format as an input format so that those who create .brf files can have them 
converted to another format when needed. This would also be nice to see for 
some of the other proprietary formats such as Key Word.
Overall, this is a great service that can come in handy when no conversion 
software is available.  While they gladly accept donations, the service is 
free and worked with Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox when I tested 
it. Obviously, going through each type  of file you can upload and all of 
its options is beyond the scope of this article, but the above examples 
demonstrate how Robobraille can become yet another resource in the ever 
expanding assistive technology toolbox for users of adaptive technology.

Dan Thompson
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Robert Acosta, President
Helping Hands for the Blind
Email: boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx
Web Site: www.helpinghands4theblind.org

You can assist Helping Hands for the Blind by donating your used computers to 
us. If you have a blind friend in need of a computer, please mail us at the 
above address.

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