West African Languages Flag of Nigeria

There is only one DBT template for West African Languages: West African Languages - Basic.

For the technical details about the DBT translator used by West African Languages: click here.

Uncontracted Braille

This language is usually produced in uncontracted braille, which means that words in the text are rendered in braille on a one-for-one basis: one braille character for each inkprint letter. Some inkprint punctuation may require more than one braille character. Indicating upper case, emphasis, or numbers also adds braille characters to the character count. However, the braille contains no abbreviations or contractions.

If you have questions about producing correct braille, please contact a member of the appropriate braille authority.

Proposed Braille System for Underserved West African Languages

Duxbury Systems introduces a braille translator that handles the underserved languages of West Africa (and across Africa). Duxbury Systems analyzed the characters used (orthography) in hundreds of African languages and worked out a single braille system that could be written out in two dozen simple rules. Duxbury added support for Arabic, extended Arabic (a separate Unicode range previously not supported by Duxbury), Ethiopic, N'ko, Tifinagh, and Vai scripts.

Here are the basic principles in a simple chart. Lines 1-6 are single braille cells for some letters with an underdot. For other letters needing an underdot, use dots 56 (see line 20 of the chart). Lines 7-16 are special characters often encountred. Lines 17-23 are for braille prefix characters to modify the next character. Notice that the modifiers only use the right portion of the braille cell (dots 4, 5, and 6).

Columns 3, 4, and 5 all have the same information, but displayed differently.

Line Character or Accent Braille Braille Dots USA-ASCII Unicode
1 a underdot dots 12356 (
2 e underdot dots 26 5
3 i underdot dots 35 9
4 o underdot dots 1256 \
5 u underdot dots 23456 )
6 s underdot dots 246 %
7 firm apostrophe - ʼ dot 3 '
8 script a - ɑ dots 123456 = U+0251
9 ae - æ dots 345 > U+00e6
10 ezh - ʒ dots 146 % U+0292
11 open e - ɛ dots 12456 ] U+025b
12 schwa - ə dots 2346 ! U+0259
13 eng - ŋ dots 346 + U+014b
14 open o - ɔ dots 246 [ U+0254
15 glottal stop - ʔ dots 16 * U+0294
16 rev glottal stop - ʕ dots 16 * U+0295
17 accent acute dot 4 @
18 accent grave dot 5 "
19 accent macron dots 45 ^
20 underdot dots 56 ;
21 combo vowel dots 456 _
22 altered letter #1 dot 4 @
23 altered letter #2 dots 456 _

Clarifications and Exceptions:

Braille for underdot is also used for underbar and stroke (and the dotless i and oe).

The dots 45 for macron is used for other accents above the letter which is not accent acute or accent grave.

The letter u can have a double accent acute. I solved this with two dot 4's in a row.

The dot 4 is used for both an accent acute and an altered letter. Only three consonants have accent acute: c, n, and p. All other uses with a consonant are altered letters. The dot 4 y is an altered y, not accent acute y. In this instance, the y is an honorary consonant.


Duxbury Systems already has braille translators for Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and Éwé. Those specific braille translators are still the ones to use for those languages. In fact, the chart above has many conflicts with those braille codes. This chart is meant as a starting point for a regional braille code for other West African languages, many of which are used by small populations.

Original Research: Rhonda L. Hartell ed. 1993, "The Alphabets of Africa", Dakar: UNESCO and Summer Institute of Linguistics. Symbols Inventory: (combining the data into a single chart) by Lee Pearce and Don Osborn 2/2003. Adapted for braille: by David Holladay 9/2022. This project is described in detail in a web page devoted to this project.