Electronic notetakers are small, portable devices for storing information with the use of braille or typewriter keyboards. The stored information may be accessed through a built-in speech synthesizer, a braille display, or both. In the past, similar devices that were less powerful and less versatile were referred to as braille notetakers, which were used for storing names and telephone numbers, keeping track of appointments, and taking notes. In addition to these functions, the latest electronic notetakers provide advanced word processing, web browsing, and other functions. At one time, these devices were referred to as "accessible PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) because they allowed users to perform most of the functions of a standard PDA. Since smartphones and tablets (like the iPad) have become so prevalent, most people in the general public no longer use PDAs, so we have returned to the term electronic notetaker even though the device allows the user to do so much more than just take notes.
Electronic notetakers allow you to get rid of a lot of scraps of paper or cassette tapes you have used for trying to keep track of information. No electronic notetaker with a screen has been developed for people with low vision, so a person with low vision should consider an electronic notetaker with speech output. Someone who knows braille will probably be more comfortable using a device with braille output. For your convenience, electronic notetakers with braille and speech output are listed separately here from electronic notetakers with speech output only.
Current electronic notetakers are based on Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system, a version of Windows specifically designed for handheld computers. They generally include a simple word processor, calendar, address list, and e-mail functions. Data entered into an electronic notetaker may be transferred to a larger computer with more memory, reviewed using the built-in speech synthesizer or braille display, or printed on a braille or ink print printer. A basic electronic notetaker without a braille display costs between $2,000 and $3,000. An electronic notetaker with a braille display is typically double the price.
There are a number of questions to ask when purchasing electronic notetakers, including the following:
- How does the electronic notetaker connect to your system?
- Does it have expandable memory?
- Is add-on software available for it?
- Do you require multi-language support?
- Do you need one-handed mode?
First 40-character braille display with patented ATC technology. Powerful notetaker on which one can also store hundreds of books and allows for automatic scrolling of the Bookworm mode. Also offers wireless Bluetooth connectivity for use with computers and mobile devices and braille keyboard allows for the entry of text directly from Active Braille.
Plain and portable braille display equipped with 40 braille cells. Also available with 64, 80 and 84 braille elements. Its flexible design made it possible to create various versions that cover a wide range of possible applications. The 40-braille-elements version is ideal to be used with a laptop computer and the 64-braille-element version fits a standard computer keyboard. All versions have a flat design and can be comfortably placed in front of a computer keyboard or laptop.
Braille Plus 18 Second Generation
Notetaker that combines a high-quality braille keyboard and refreshable braille display with an advanced mobile platform and specialized accessible software to create the world's first Android smartphone designed for blind students and professionals.
Braille Sense U2
Notetaker that allows user to create and read documents in any of five languages and use multiple bilingual dictionaries, highlight points with advanced font and style options; provide complete and up-to-date access email with IMAP access and open EML files directly from the File Manager, and secure valuable information with file encryption. Also offers fraction calculation and Nemeth Braille code entry into a fully functional scientific calculator. Unique built-in LCD allows sighted teachers and parents to view a student’s progress while using Braille Sense U2. Provides clear and powerful stereo audio listening experience with easily accessible audio buttons and 11 equalizer settings and control of FM Radio, DAISY Player and Media Player with designated media buttons located on the front of the unit. Available in 18-cell and 32-cell versions and a QWERTY-style keyboard.
Braille to Go (B2G)
A 20-cell, 8-dot braille lightweight (20.3 ounces) notetaker that offers a respectable array of connectivity features. Based on the Android 4.2 (Jellybean), the B2G can be used alone or connected to an iOS or Android phone. Hardware features include 802.11g Wi-Fi networking. Bluetooth, USB host, and micro-USB ports, a 5-MP camera for OCR, an SD card slot, stereo microphone, and stereo speakers. NBP estimates that the 5400nMh battery should last one to two days under normal use. A slot provides support for GSM or CDMA wireless radio (not yet available and sold separately).
Notetaker that allows user to enter braille on the touch screen, guided by HumanWare's patent-pending TouchBraille calibration system, which intelligently determines where one’s fingers are on screen, and which dot combinations are being made with them. The BrailleNote Touch is 10 inches wide, with braille cells in front, and a 7-inch touchscreen behind the cells. To the left and right of the 7-inch screen are additional touch-sensitive areas available for braille input. If you would rather enter braille with traditional keys, put the notetaker in the included Smart Case, which is topped by buttons that activate the touch surface, when used to enter braille. Like HumanWare's other braille devices, the BrailleNote Touch uses a version of the KeySoft operating environment. Though familiar, the new KeySoft has been rewritten to support the advanced features of the new device. The device features two USB ports, an SD card slot, and HDMI port. Also features an 8 MP camera, a pair of stereo speakers, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a GPS receiver, and an accelerometer. It is also Google Play certified, which means its specifications match those of standard Google-approved tablets.
Braillino with Bluetooth
Braille PDA that can be connected to off-the-shelf mobile phones and organizers to provide access to functions such as text messaging and e-mail. May be used with a docking station.
Canute Electronic Braille Reader
Multi-line device that the developers hope can become a "Kindle for blind people." The Mk8 prototype, available for hands-on demos at CSUN, is about the size of a desktop scanner, and features eight lines of 32 braille cells each equivalent to 256 cells per page, at a cost estimated by Bristol Braille of $3 per cell. The Canute isn't a braille display, but a reading-oriented device to which you add BRF files via USB. The multi-line design makes the device an interesting option for viewing tabular information such as a calendar, or computer code.
Full mobile portable computer running on Windows 10 together with Jaws for Windows. It contains a docking station, integrated with Freedom Scientific’s Focus 14 Braille display. This docking station contains the Perkin’s style keyboard and all the navigation options found on the Focus 14.
A 32-cell, 8-dot Android-based unit that sports 3 GB of RAM, 64 GB flash memory, AT&T LTE, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and a mini-HDMI port. Weighs in at 1.5 pounds and measures 9.25 x 5.9 x 0.75 inches. Uses the Android 5.1 (Lollipop) operating system and includes a suite of productivity and entertainment apps created or provided by Neo Access.
Orbit Reader 20
A 20-cell, 8-dot display and simple notetaker, whose low price is possible due to its unique refreshable cell technology and slimmed-down feature set. Includes Bluetooth support, an SD card slot, and a USB port, but no Wi-Fi. Weighs less than 1 pound, and battery life is listed in the specs as one day of use.
Portable braille notetaker offered with either 18 or 40 refreshable braille cells. Both models feature braille input courtesy of an 8-dot braille keyboard, speech output, and a suite of apps such as a word processor, spreadsheet viewer, and more. The 40-cell version features a QWERTY keyboard that the user can swap in and out with the braille keyboard, even when the device is switched on.