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Scottish Braille Press: The Health of Strangers

We’re absolutely delighted that Sandstone Press author Lesley Kelly’s Health of Strangers series has just been published in braille. Today on the Sandstone blog Lesley is talking to Jos Weale from Sight Scotland about the Scottish Braille Press and how books for visually impaired people are produced.

How many books does the Scottish Braille Press transcribe each year? How many of these are crime novels?

The number of books produced each year is highly dependent on availability of resource around our commercial contracts. It can vary from one a year to five in the last 12 months (with Lesley’s four ready to add to that). The increased capacity this year was largely a result of the pandemic, actually - we are often busy for months at a time producing exams for various exam boards so we used the time freed up this year to focus on making more books available.

Production of braille books forms part of the charitable side of the work we do at Sight Scotland. The cost for transcribing a book into braille is approximately £2,500 plus there is an additional cost for each book sold. As a result, we can only produce a limited number of books each year, however, we strongly believe that braille readers should have this material available to them for the same cost as the standard print version of the book. All books produced are unabridged as written by the author.

Because we are limited to the number of books we produce, we focus on building relationships with Scottish authors/publishers and try to focus on what people would enjoy. We are keen to have a wide range of books available; of the five produced in the last 12 months, four are crime novels and one is a children’s book.

Here is a link to the full list of available books:

How many people in Scotland use braille to read books?

There are approximately 283,000 people living with blindness in the UK, 1,380,000 people with mild sight loss and 477,000 with moderate sight loss. This is increasing every year, partly due to our aging population.

We have 1,445 people who receive braille from us on behalf of our clients, and our online braille bookshop is open to anyone.

There are many blind and partially sighted people who aren’t braille readers and instead use alternative formats such as large print or audio to access the written word and information.

There are also a variety of equipment options such as electronic magnifiers, screenreader software and audio books to suit a person’s personal preferences, level of vision, individual needs and requirements for reading.

What’s your most requested title?

Harry Potter!

Can you explain how the process of transcribing a book into braille works?

At the Scottish Braille Press we begin the transcription process by uploading the PDF file for the book into our Duxbury translation software. A braille transcriber then formats the text and makes any necessary amendments; and then formats each braille volume to around 100 pages.

We emboss a proof copy of each volume. One of our braille proofreading teams will then proofread these braille copies against the printed version of the book.

After the thorough proofreading process is complete, each volume then moves on to the embosser. This is where the book is printed in braille. The embosser will print double-sided on braille paper which is thicker than standard paper and specially designed for embossing. Finally, we send each newly-printed braille volume to the binding machine to be covered and bound.

Suzi Eskandari - braille proof reader at Scottish Braille Press

How big is a braille book compared to a standard paperback? How much room would the four books of The Health of Strangers series take up?

Braille dots take up a large amount of space on a page – therefore braille books are always much larger than standard books. The entire Health of Strangers is a total of 19 volumes which would require 23cm/9 inches of shelf space.

How is the Scottish Braille Press funded? What other essential services do you provide to braille readers? How can people support your work?

The Scottish Braille Press in Edinburgh is run by the charity Sight Scotland – Scotland’s largest visual impairment charity. It reinvests its profits to help fund Sight Scotland’s support for people with sight loss and visual impairment.

Sight Scotland’s services support blind and partially sighted people spanning all ages and stages of sight loss and visual impairment, including the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh and specialist learning services across Scotland, residential care for children and adults, support in the community, research funding into sight loss conditions and enterprise.

The Scottish Braille Press is a leading provider of accessible media for businesses and individuals and has been producing accessible formats for over 125 years.

Our transcription services include braille, large print and audio. It is extremely important for equality, inclusion and personal security that accessible formats are easily and readily available to people who require them.

The Scottish Braille Press provides supported employment – half of the employees of the Scottish Braille Press are disabled people, including people with visual impairment.

People who would like to support Sight Scotland’s services, as we set out to support even more people impacted by sight loss in Scotland can find our more about fundraising opportunities by visiting Alternatively, you can call 0131 446 3089 to speak to our friendly fundraising team.

If you would like to enquire about Scottish Braille Press services, please get in touch:

Thanks to Lesley and Jos for their time, and thank you to Scottish Braille Press for making Lesley's books accessible to more readers and for providing imagery for this blog post.

Lesley Kelly

Lesley Kelly