Developing and updating the Arabic Braille font project, sponsored by Mada Center, is mainly based on the Liblouis software library by making modifications to the Arabic language tables in it, to be more compatible with the requirements of modern technology. We will try to clarify what this library is and why it is important.
What is Liblouis?
Liblouis software library is a free and open-source tool, that provides converting, reverse converting, and braille formats for many languages, and it consists of a group of libraries designed for use in many applications and devices, whether free or commercial. This package was written in C programming language so that it does not require a specific environment, and thus, can be easily used within applications written in high-level languages such as Java and Python.
Liblouis is responsible for the following:
- When you connect the electronic braille display to a computer and start reading the content of a document on a braille display, then surely there is an expert who converts regular texts into similar braille dots to be displayed on the braille display. This operation is considered a direct translation to braille (forward translation). This type of translation is also used with printers, where plain text is converted into similar braille dots and sent to the printer to be printed on paper.
- When using an electronic notepad/diary device such as Braille-Sense or Braille-Note to write a document, there is a client who converts the braille dots that are written on the Perkins buttons into text characters similar to what is written. This process is called backward-translation.
- When a textbook contains mathematics, the numbers, texts, and headings are arranged in an orderly manner that makes it easier to read. The title will be in the middle of the line, and the table of contents is displayed in a specific way, or part of the text is printed with abbreviations, and so on. This is called a braille formatter.
So, Liblouis is a free tool that includes a translator, reverse translator, and braille moderator, named after Louis Braille – the French founder of this method. Liblouis supports dozens of languages with 8-dot computer braille and 6-dot verbatim braille, as well as simple braille and braille with abbreviations, or what is known as braille grade 1 and 2, and it also supports math symbols, Nemeth signs, and others.
Liblouis contains features to support screen readers, which led to its use by the most prominent of these programs, such as NVDA or JAWS or Narrator on Windows, Orca program on Linux, and BrailleBack on Android and others. Liblouis is also used in some paid braille converters such as the Tiger Package from the ViewPlus printer and the Easy Convertor from Dolfin company, in addition to being used by the giant Bookshare library to convert books to braille. Liblouis is also present on many electronic braille agendas and modern braille printers such as Index 5G printers it is also used by other conversion programs such as the Braille Blaster. This means that if you are using any of these aforementioned services, you are definitely using Liblouis.;
Apart from the Liblouis programming side, it is possible to add new braille tables for new languages or to modify existing ones in order to improve the quality of braille produced by the library. This is due to the library’s reliance on a dictionary-like method for adding and representing braille grammar for each language, and it includes a set of testing and verification tools that help ensure that the table works as it should.
Due to the lack of support for the Arabic language in the library, and the beginning of the spread of inexpensive braille devices and technologies, this project came to lay the first building block on the way to improving Arabic support as much as possible, a process that does not require great skill as much as it needs patience, good knowledge of braille, and access to the User Guide for Creating Braille Tables on the Liblouis Library. This project seeks to improve the literal braille table, add mathematics symbol support to it, add support for Arabic abbreviations to the library, and create an 8-dot computer Arabic braille table that serves braille displays for display and entry.