Braille Patterns

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For the meaning of braille dot patterns, see English braille.
Braille Patterns
Range U+2800..U+28FF
(256 code points)
Plane BMP
Scripts Common
Assigned 256 code points
Unused 0 reserved code points
Unicode version history
3.0 256 (+256)
Note: [1]

In Unicode, braille is represented in a block called Braille Patterns (U+2800..U+28FF). The block contains all 256 possible patterns of an 8-dot braille cell, thereby including the complete 6-dot cell range.[2]

Symbols, not letters[edit]

In Unicode the braille characters are not defined into any script.[2] That is, the patterns are available as symbols, without connection to an alphabetic letter or a number. This is because the same symbol can be used in multiple scripts, e.g. as a Latin character, a Vietnamese character, a Chinese character and a digit. For example: although U+2813 braille pattern dots-125 represents the letter "H" in basic braille, its Unicode definition makes no reference to "H", and it is just as valid representing Korean ᄐ t-, or Japanese ri.

For this reason – a dot-pattern is not a letter – Unicode declares that, strictly speaking, braille patterns are 'symbols', not 'letters'. The General Property is "So" (Symbol, other), not "Lo" (Letter, other). Beyond that declaration, however, braille is treated as a script in multiple places. E.g., the character property "Script" for the 256 braille code points is ISO 15924 "Brai", for braille. This way, searching users and programs are led to the right place.

Identifying, naming and ordering[edit]

Braille dot numbering
Hexidecimal value of braille dots

The coding is in accordance with ISO/TR 11548-1 Communication aids for blind persons.[2] Unicode uses the standard dot-numbering 1 to 8. Historically only the 6-dot cell was used in braille. The lower two dots were added later, which explains the irregular numbering 1-2-3-7 in the left column and 4-5-6-8 in the right column. Where dots 7 and 8 are not raised, there is no distinction between 6-dot and 8-dot definitions.

The Unicode name of a specific pattern mentions the raised dots: U+2813 braille pattern dots-125 has dots 1, 2 and 5 raised. By exception, the zero dot raised pattern is named U+2800 braille pattern blank.[3]

In the 8-dot cell each dot individually can be raised or not. That creates 28=256 different patterns. By mapping each of the eight dots to a bit in a byte (in a low endian order), and by defining "0"/"1" for not raised/raised per bit, every specific pattern generates an identifying binary number. So the pattern with dots 1-2-5 raised would yield (00010011)2, equivalent to (13)16 or (19)10.

The mapping can also be computed by adding together the hexadecimal values, seen at right, of the dots raised. So the pattern with dots 1-2-5 raised would yield 116+216+1016 = 1316. Whether computed directly in hexadecimal, or indirectly via binary, the result is added to 280016, the offset for the Braille Patterns Unicode block.

Unicode: Braille Pattern encoding examples
Braille symbol
Unicode character U+2813 U+28C7 U+28FF
Name BRAILLE PATTERN DOTS-125 BRAILLE PATTERN DOTS-12378 BRAILLE PATTERN DOTS-12345678
Dot numbers available 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Dot raised=1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Binary value
(by reversing order)
0 0 0 1 0 0 1 12 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 12 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 12
Hex value of dots 10+2+116 80+40+4+2+116 80+40+20+10+8+4+2+116
Total hexadecimal value 1316 C716 FF16
Into block,
offset U+280016
280016+1316=U+2813 280016+C716=U+28C7 280016+FF16=U+28FF

There is no regular mapping to the braille ASCII numbering.

Colloquial names[edit]

The Unicode names of braille dot patterns are not the same as what many English speakers would use colloquially. In particular, Unicode names use the word dots in the plural even when only one dot is listed: thus Unicode says braille pattern dots-5 when most English users of braille would simply say "braille dot 5" or just "dot 5".

Some English users of braille additionally use the word "and" when listing only two dots. Thus braille pattern dots-45 would be spoken as "braille dots 4 and 5". The word "and" is not always used when listing many dots however.

Chart[edit]

Braille was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

When using punching, the filled (black) dots are to be punched.

The Unicode block for braille is U+2800 ... U+28FF:

Braille Patterns[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+280x
U+281x
U+282x
U+283x
(end of cell-6 pattern)
U+284x
U+285x
U+286x
U+287x
U+288x
U+289x
U+28Ax
U+28Bx
U+28Cx
U+28Dx
U+28Ex
U+28Fx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0

Font differences[edit]

When showing braille graphically in printed instruction manuals, it can be useful to indicate the dots that are not punched, especially if a single braille cell of only one or two punched dots is shown out of context: in this case it might otherwise be difficult to judge the vertical alignment of the dots and tell the difference between, say, dots 2 and 4 versus dots 3 and 5.

The current Unicode charts, and some fonts, use empty circles to indicate dots that are not punched. This does not always render very clearly: if the circle outlines are printed heavily then it can be difficult to tell at a glance whether the dot is filled in or not. The braille package for LaTeX (and several printed publications such as the printed manual for the new international braille music code) show unpunched dots as very small dots (much smaller than the filled-in dots) rather than circles, and this tends to print better.

Some braille fonts do not indicate unpunched dots at all. Additionally, some Linux braille fonts use small squares instead of small circles to indicate dots.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Unicode character database". The Unicode Standard. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Unicode Chapter 15, section 15.10
  3. ^ Unicode chart U+2800, braille patterns