Braille Assistive Technology
There are many assistive technology devices and software programs designed especially for the needs of Braille users. Those who prefer Braille to read from printed materials may also prefer to keyboard on a refreshable Braille display instead of a standard keyboard. These special keyboards are called "refreshable Braille display" and commonly feature 40 cell or 80 cell layouts. The 8-dot cells for each Braille character change (refresh) as they alter position within the 8 raised dots on this keyboard. These devices are used with a screen reader program when reading web pages or electronic file documents. Sometimes Braille users will use a notetaker with a short display of 40 or 20 cells or a combination of shortcut buttons to create a small, portable device.
Other products include software that will translate a document created in Braille that can be converted to a document format such as WORD, used when a document will be shared between Braille users and non-Braille users. If a person has an electronic file of a document that is in a format such as WORD, software (such as a Duxbury Translater program) can translate the WORD file into a special format for Braille users. When the translation is done, the new format document in Braille can be sent to a Braille printer (embosser) with output in the familar physical page with raised dots.
Note: To view larger photos on this page, see this matching photo collection.
|This Alva Braille Terminal is a refreshable Braille display hooked into a laptop keyboard for use by a computer user who keyboards in Braille.||A JAWS user with a Braille display connected to a laptop PC prefers the Braille keyboard of cells|
Refreshable Braille displays and portable Braille controllers may also take a different form for those who learn to use a keypad with shortcuts. These smaller devices are often used as notetakers and for mobile devices such as use with a GPS system or cellphone. You will recognize them by the series of large keys or buttons that sometimes also have a short Braille keyboard. Some of these devices are used with bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly with a PDA or phone.
Notetakers are common portable devices that often resemble compact keyboards. They may have a standard "QWERTY" layout for those who prefer touch typing or a Braille keyboard. The Pac Mate by Freedom Scientific and the BrailleNote by HumanWare are two popular notetakers with PDA functions. Some notetakers are made to intergrate with a specific screen reader program such as JAWS. Many of these portable devices are made to connect with a desktop or laptop computer system. The terms "pocket PC" and PDA are often used to denote mobile and portable devices.
|This PAC Mate notetaker has a standard QWERTY keyboard and a Braille disply, along with bluetooth to connect to a GPS system.||This person is navigating outdoors by using a Humanware GPS system with compact keyboard for those who are blind.|
Traditionally Braille is produced through a manual device similar to old-fashioned typewriters called the Perkins Brailler. It can also be produced using a handheld stencil called Braille slate and a stylus. When a computer is connected with a special hardware device to produce Braille documents, it is usually called a Brailler embosser, Braille writer or Braille printer. Some of these can print double-sided and some can print text as well as emboss the same page in Braille.
|This restaurant menu is alternative format for customers with vision impairments, printed in both Braille and large-print.||This Braille printer uses long sheet-feed stacks of paper to print out Braille transcripts of documents sent by a computer.|
The most helpful braille "assitive technology" is not high-tech at all: labeling on equipment and signs make a world of difference to a Braille user. Think of trying to tell is the restroom door you are at is for men or the women. In an elevator, the call button and the command buttons are all expected to have Braille labelling.
For more information about assistive technology for Braille users, see the photo collection Braille Assistive Technology and this document on our website:
For links to other web sites and vendors of these products, see below:
Freedom Scientific (products such as Focus, Pac Mate, JAWS, etc.)
HumanWare (products such as Maestro, Trekker, BrailleNote, VictorReader, etc.
Alva (refreshable Braille displays) as featured by Optelec
Braille printers/embossers such as the Juliet Pro