Blind or visually impaired people who read braille can use the following specialized equipment:
- Braille display technology which provides access to the information on a computer screen in braille.
- Braille printers that provide hardcopy information from computer devices.
- Electronic braille notetakers that provide a powerful alternative to mechanical notetakers such as the Perkins Brailler or slate and stylus.
These devices operate by raising and lowering different combinations
electronically to produce in braille what appears on a portion of the
They show up to 80 characters from the screen and are refreshable, that
is, they change continuously as the user moves around on the screen. The
braille display sits on the user's desk, often underneath the computer
keyboard. The advantage of the braille display in comparison to synthetic
speech is in its direct access to information,
the ability to check format, spacing and spelling, and the fact that it is
quiet. The cost of braille displays is in the $3,500 to $15,000 price
range, depending on number of characters displayed.
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After being sent information to be brailled from computer devices, braille printers do the actual embossing of braille onto paper. They are the braille counterpart to ink printers but they differ in that they use solenoids to control embossing pins, they typically print on heavy weight paper and require more pages than print, and they are much slower and noisier. Interpoint printers emboss braille on both sides of the page. The price of a braille printer is directly related to the volume of braille production required—between $1,800 and $5,000 for smaller volume production and between $10,000 and $80,000 for larger volume production.
The first step in converting a computer file into a braille document is
to choose the type of braille. Computer braille is a one-to-one
representation of what appears on the screen, grade 1 braille consists of
letters, numbers and punctuation marks, and grade 2 braille includes
contractions of common combinations of letters and words.
To print grade 2 braille requires the use of a braille translation program
which takes the computer text file, inserts the proper contractions, and
formats the document
properly for the braille page. The cost of braille translation programs is
between $200 and $500, depending on the sophistication of the program.
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To view a short video about braille transcribing software and braille embossers choose one of the following links.
- Video on braille transcribing software and braille embossers in Windows
- Video on braille transcribing software and braille embossers in Real Player format
Electronic Braille Notetakers
Electronic braille notetakers are small, portable devices with braille
entering information. They use a speech synthesizer or braille display for
output. The user enters the information on the braille keyboard and has
the option of
transferring it to a larger computer with more memory, reviewing it using
the built in speech synthesizer or braille display, or printing it on a braille
or inkprint printer. The cost of a basic electronic braille notetaker is
between $1000 and $3,000 with the option of products containing more
sophisticated features that can cost up to $15,000.
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To view a short video about accessible PDAs choose one of the following links.
For more information on braille technology, including copies of evaluations of braille displays, braille printers, and electronic braille notetakers, contact AFB TECH at (304) 523-8651; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.