[Athen] Advice Sought for Student Learning Arabic

Gaeir Dietrich gdietrich at htctu.net
Tue May 13 11:30:06 PDT 2014

Someone asked about Arabic a few years ago (Angie? Theresa? I was thinking
it was one of you...).

I did some research at that time on OCR programs, TTS programs, and fonts
for Arabic.

The nice thing about Arabic (as opposed to some of the Asian languages) is
that you do not have to Anglicize the writing. You keep the Arabic letters.
You would use the Arabic translation table in Dux for the conversion. There
are two translation tables, apparently because, as was suggested, the rules
for Arabic have changed, and that I do not know about. You might check with
the instructor about that.

There is a foreign language transcription manual available from NBA:

There is also a textbook formatting guide now available:

The Library of Congress has a nice list of foreign language resources:

For the OCR and fonts, I would probably start by looking at Sakhr. They seem
to have the most complete solutions. (See links below.)

Arabic OCR:




Arabic TTS
Acapela Voices

Sakhr (has ORC and TTS)

Translator Software

Arabic keyboard

Online versions:

Good luck!!

Gaeir (rhymes with "fire") Dietrich
408-996-6047 or 408-996-4636

-----Original Message-----
From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On
Behalf Of Sean J Keegan
Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 11:04 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network
Subject: Re: [Athen] Advice Sought for Student Learning Arabic

Hi Asha,

We did production work for Chinese braille a few years ago and it was a very
educational experience (particularly around costs!). In short, we did the

1) We began by outsourcing the initial production work with contractor
(starting at $400 per print page - ugh!) so we could have some materials
ready at the start of the academic quarter for the student.

2) At the same time, we had an alt format staff member knowledgable in
braille and, separately, literate in Mandarin. Luckily, the student was
taking Mandarin, so our alt format staff member began learning the Chinese
braille format. This was not easy as there were a number of different
websites with conflicting information, but once we found accurate
information, the process began to go more smoothly.

3) When our internal production was running, we shifted the majority of
production from the contractor to in-house. We still did contract out some
work, but that content was not time-sensitive.

4) For braille production, we converted Chinese characters (hanzi) into
pinyin and did basic formatting in MS Word. With the pinyin in MS Word, we
then imported into Duxbury. We did some extra work to include the tones back
into the braille version of the document (there are four tones in Mandarin
Chinese used to clarify the word). Normally, the tones are omitted in
Chinese braille, but as the student was learning the language he preferred
to include these elements.

5) As several of the books we converted were both English and Chinese, we
did have to come up with basic formatting rules with the student. The
Chinese braille was in grade 1, whereas English parts of the textbook were
done in grade 2. We could not find a braille manual we could read regarding
how to format academic materials and so we used some BANA formatting. The
catch was that some of the formatting overlapped at times with the Chinese
braille characters, so we worked with the student to standardize the
formatting (e.g., line overruns, language changes, etc.).

Due to the differences in the language, there may or may not be some
overlap. In our experience, it was MUCH easier to have a transcriber
literate in the language and then for that person to learn the braille
equivalent. If you do not have access to a transcriber on staff that is
familiar with Arabic and/or braille, then outsourcing may be the best
option. Another consideration may be to hire a person as a contract staff
member - it could be much cheaper in the long run than trying out outsource
everything. While Duxbury does make the conversion process simpler, do not
expect Duxbury to get everything perfect. It does a good job, but we felt it
was necessary to have a person reviewing the content for accuracy.

Hope this helps.

Take care,

Sean Keegan
Associate Director, Assistive Technology Office of Accessible Education -
Stanford University

----- Original Message -----
From: "Asha Kinney" <akinney at hampshire.edu>
To: athen-list at u.washington.edu
Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 8:49:32 AM
Subject: [Athen] Advice Sought for Student Learning Arabic

Greetings Athen List:

We have a student with a visual impairment who reads in braille and will be
taking a course in Arabic this fall.

Has anyone ever dealt with a student learning another language which uses a
special character set and/or has its own unique braille code? Arabic,
Chinese, Greek, Japanese, etc??

I would appreciate any and all advice. This extremely motivated student has
volunteered learn the Arabic braille code over the summer but I am trying to
wrap my head around the translation process.

I'm also wondering what the most useful approach would actually be, and if
it's even braille-based at all. This student does have limited vision so we
could also make use of enlarged graphics, as well as tactile ones, etc.

Any other thoughts, stories, advice, or referrals welcome! Feel free to
reply off-list and I am happy to compile responses and share.


Asha Kinney
Assistant Director of IT - Instructional and Assistive Technology Hampshire
College Amherst, MA 01002 akinney at hampshire.edu

athen-list mailing list
athen-list at mailman13.u.washington.edu

athen-list mailing list
athen-list at mailman13.u.washington.edu

More information about the athen-list mailing list