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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Braille Technology

Employees who are blind or visually impaired who read braille use a variety of accommodations to perform tasks efficiently and effectively in their work.

  • Braille displays, which reproduce information from a specific device in braille in real time.
  • Braille embossers, which produce hard copy braille using the computer and translation software.
  • Braille notetakers, which provide an alternative to mechanical devices like the Perkins Braille Writer.

Braille Displays

Also known as refreshable braille displays, these devices operate by raising and lowering pins electronically to produce in braille what appears on a portion of the computer, tablet, or phone screen. They have between 12 and 80 characters and are refreshable, that is, they change continuously as the user changes the focus of the cursor. The larger braille displays sit on the user's desk, often underneath or below the computer keyboard, but the smaller displays are portable and can be carried in a pocket or bag for quick access. The advantage of the braille display, in comparison to speech output only, is in its direct access to information, the ability to check format, spacing, and accuracy, especially when dealing with numbers and characters, such as those used in computer programming. Most braille displays have a braille keyboard for easy input, and some have storage capability for reading documents and taking notes when not connected to a device.

Braille Embossers

Braille embossers are the braille counterpart to ink printers. They typically emboss on heavy weight paper and require more pages than would the same document in print. Some braille embossers use their own built-in translation software, but others require specialized software to convert a file from print to braille. Most embossers can also produce tactile graphics, but again, the need for additional software varies. They are slower and noisier than an ink printer but are much faster than using a Perkins Braille Writer. Interpoint embossers produce documents with braille on both sides of the page, which saves paper and space if a document is to be stored for future use. The price of a braille embosser is directly related to the graphics quality (Dots Per Inch) and volume of braille produced in one minute.

Braille Notetakers

Braille notetakers are portable devices with braille or QWERTY keyboards or touch screens for entering and retrieving information, accessing apps, and calculating quickly and easily. They use speech and/or a refreshable braille display for output. The user has the option of transferring information to a computer with more memory, storing and reviewing it using the built-in speech synthesizer or braille display, or printing it on a braille or ink printer.

For more information on braille technology, including evaluations of braille displays, braille embossers, and braille notetakers, visit AccessWorld, AFB’s online technology resource.

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