Accessibility to the traditional Ts’msyen language of Sm’algyax has been extended to a newly designed Braille alphabet, Prince Rupert-based app developer and Gitga’at nation member Brendan Eshom announced on July 9. .
Partnering with Harris Mowbray, an American linguist and amateur programmer from San Francisco who is now studying in Washington, the couple collaborated in the early months of 2021 on zoom to incorporate the braille characters developed by Mowbray into the word Sm’algyax ap designed. by Eshom.
“The development of a braille alphabet for sm’algya̱ x increases the number of people who can experience the knowledge and heritage of the North Coast of British Columbia – literally firsthand,” said Eshom.
“People with visual impairments who are fluent in Braille will be able to learn the language as easily as those who have access to printed reference materials. I congratulate Harris for his expertise and initiative, which has enabled an exciting intercultural collaboration. “
Following online conference discussions and consultations with the Sm’algya̱x Language Authority, the newly designed alphabet has been added to the smalgyaxword.ca website.
Braille is a writing system used by people who are blind or have limited vision. Publications using Braille render text as raised patterns that readers can interpret with their fingertips.
The Braille alphabet is already operational on the site and can be viewed by the public as a series of illustrations which correspond to the characters conventionally used to write the sm’algya̱x.
Mowbray is known for its coding and development of braille systems for other minority languages for the Chamorro and Carolinian dialects of the Mariana Islands, the Kashubian and Silesian languages of Poland, and others.
“Accessibility is vital for the preservation and dissemination of minority languages,” said Mowbray
Although he does not live with a visual impairment, his fascination with written communication and his technical acumen inspired him to learn and adapt the braille system for others.
“As I design and adapt Braille alphabets to the written vernacular, I am amazed at the unique ways in which communities preserve and transmit culture. The limits of vision shouldn’t be a hindrance for anyone who wants to share this experience, ”Mowbray said.
Eshom has been operating his Sm’algya̱x Word of the Day website, mobile app and SMS subscription service since 2019. To date, he has posted over 600 unique words and pronunciation videos.
The braille version of Sm’algya̱x is available at www.smalgyaxword.ca/resources/braille.
KJ Millar | Journalist
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