Keying Techniques for Tactiles and Tables

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    Peggy McCann

    There seems to be a discrepancy between the Tactile Graphics Manual (2010) and Braille Formats 2016 regarding whether or not contractions and shortforms can be used in keys.

    Braille Formats indicates that shortform words and contractions cannot be used. [Section 8.1.c and Sample 11-16: Keyed Column and Row Headings (page 11-41) - specifically the entry for “White (excluding Latino origin)”]

    However, Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 indicates that contractions and shortforms are to be used [Sections 8.1.1; 8.1.4; 8.1.5; and the key on page 3-35 for the Southwest Asia map – specifically entries for “Afghanistan” and “Black Sea”]

    My inclination is to be consistent and avoid treating tactile keys and table keys differently. I'm thinking it makes sense to follow the guidelines in Braille Formats for both types of keys, since that is the more recently updated publication.

    However, I'm very interested to find out others' approach to this issue. Any help/guidance would be most appreciated.

    Thank you.

    Donald Winiecki

    You're correct Peggy, that there is some misalignment between the current versions of GSTG and BF. As you suggest, this arises in part from the fact that the current versions of these documents were published at different times.

    Because of the complexity of creating and reading maps that may cover several braille pages, the key MUST be intuitive to assist in remembering the key over multiple pages. Tables are not usually as complex as TGs, and have the option of being condensed, shortened, or abbreviating before opting to use a key. However, tactile graphics do not have the luxury of space that benefits the transcription of a table.

    Keys in TGs are limited to only 2 or 3 braille cells, and often use the first letters of a word, as in "bl" for Black Sea. To differentiate, if the transcriber was using the letter “o” for all of the ocean names, they may use "ao" for Atlantic Ocean, and the contraction "aro" for Arctic Ocean. Similarly, some transcribers try to use the letter “r” as the 2nd letter for all of the rivers on a map. Sometimes, but not always, this helps give the reader an additional clue.

    Now back to the crux of your question. If a transcriber chooses not to use any short forms (based on Braille Formats) that is acceptable, as long as they are not changing those specified in GSTG Appendix C. We have been advised that the forthcoming updates to Guidelines and Standards will not restrict the use of contraction.

    So, until the documents are synchronized, we recommend that your TGs containing maps and map keys must follow the International Organization for standard abbreviations and use of two-letter symbols as specified in GSTG Appendix C. This comes with the realization that in some cases the resulting key symbols will not contain a dot 3 and/or a dot 6 (GSTG section

    We are keen on ensuring that you have the information you require, so please let us know if this answers your question!

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