Going dotty

Back when the very nice Ubuntu font was initially being developed I did some testing of it using the fontforge application and some looking through the Unicode specification for blocks of characters that should be implemented. There is all sorts of character sets tucked away in the Unicode standard including Klingon and Braille. Sadly the Klingon wishlist has been parked with a status of wontfix but Braille is an interesting one. I was expecting a block of characters in alphabetical order somewhere, but it isn’t quite like that. The specification has all the dot patterns but quite how you type “this is in braille” and get “⠞⠓⠊⠎⠀⠊⠎⠀⠊⠝⠀⠃⠗⠁⠊⠇⠇⠑” is not defined in Unicode as there are a number of different mapping tables you can use to go from letters to dot patterns. So it would be great if the Ubuntu font had those glyphs, however they would be of limited practical use to most people who are interested in Braille. At this point I should clarify that I do know that Braille patterns on screen or printed flat on paper are as much use as a chocolate teapot, they have to be embossed to be read by the fingers. I am taking a broad interpretation of “people who are interested in Braille” and I am including in that someone who wants to make a simple sign that can be read in Braille perhaps using a bit of sheet metal and a centre punch and teachers wanting to get a class to make labels for their coat pegs with their names in Braille, that kind of thing. So for these use-cases and not for typesetting a book in Braille I have made as my first fontforge project a little font which has Braille dot patterns as the characters. This means you can type something in LibreOffice Writer (or word processor of your choosing) and change the font to see it in Braille. You can print it out and stick things on the dots, (if you want to do the centre punch thing do bear in mind that you need to punch through the back of the paper over the dots or you will make a sign that is mirrored and incomprehensible). So here it is, Libertus Braille, a Free font for simple educational uses of Braille.

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