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How do I Become a Braille Translator?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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To become a Braille translator, it is necessary to have a familiarity with Braille and one or more other writing systems, to be able to translate freely back and forth. Braille translation is used for everything from producing textbooks accessible to members of the blind community to developing signage for blind people so they can interact with automatic teller machines and other devices. While machine translation of Braille is available, for some tasks, it is necessary to use a human translator.

As with translation between other writing systems and languages, Braille translation is about more than creating a one-to-one correspondence between two texts. The translator must also think about issues like syntax, what is being communicated, and how to convey concepts across barriers. One important aspect of the work involves describing visuals; a picture is meaningless to a blind reader and a person who wants to become a Braille translator needs to be adept at turning purely visual information like charts into a form accessible to blind people.

Someone who wants to become a Braille translator will need to go to a school where Braille is taught. Some schools specifically offer Braille translation classes, teaching people about how to translate smoothly between Braille and other writing systems. These classes can include training on devices used to produce Braille documents, as well as an opportunity to work with machine translators designed to do things like converting computer documents into Braille formats.

With training in Braille, a person who wants to become a Braille translator can go to work for a company that produces Braille materials. Usually, the translator starts out with small projects under supervision and gradually acquires more skills, eventually taking on bigger projects. Some people choose to specialize in particular topics, like translation of scientific research, informational pamphlets for blind patients, and interpretation of visual materials like charts and pictures. Others may work with a wide variety of printed materials.

Salary options for a person who wants to become a Braille translator vary. Freelancers can control the amount of work they get and set their own fees, but also do not enjoy very much job security, especially in the early stages of freelance work when they are not well known. People who work for others may make less, but they will have a steady supply of work and can get benefits through their employers. People with special skill sets may be able to command more for their services.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sunnySkys — On Sep 16, 2011

@Azuza - That's a good point, but not everyone has the discipline to work as a freelancer. But if you are disciplined enough, that sounds great!

I bet it would be very advantageous for someone to specialize in Braille and another skill. For example, if you have a specialty in Braille and scientific research it would probably enhance your credibility as a researcher. I think it would be easier to translate material you are familiar with than material that is foreign to you.

By Azuza — On Sep 16, 2011

This isn't exactly the same, but I have a friend who is fluent in American sign language and works as a freelance translator. She loves it!

She loves the flexibility of being a freelancer. She is pretty in demand (obviously she had to work hard to get that way) and she can set her own rates. She makes much more than she would make if she worked for a company or something.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if anyone is considering working as a Braille translator, consider freelancing. I think it's actually the only way to have any kind of job security. You can always get fired by a company, but if you work for yourself, you can't be fired.

As long as you build up a good reputation and get some steady clients, you will be fine!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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