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, or a tablet computer with a screen magnification app. Someone who knows braille will probably be more comfortable using a device with braille output. For your convenience, electronic notetakers with speech output only are listed separately here from electronic notetakers with braille and speech output.

Current electronic notetakers are based on a variety of operating systems. They generally include a simple word processor, calendar, address list, web browser 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 less than $2,000. Electronic notetakers with a braille display can range from $2,000 to $6,000.

There are a number of questions to ask when purchasing an electronic notetaker, including the following:

  • How does the electronic notetaker connect to your current computer 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?

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+ Mobile Manager
Small, Linux-based electronic notetaker with a 30-gigabyte hard drive and wireless capability. Includes an address book, calendar, word processor, MP3/DAISY player, voice recorder, journal, web browser and e-mail. Available with a docking station. Also features a braille keyboard.

VoiceNote Apex
Electronic notetaker with speech output for keeping track of appointments, creating grocery or to-do lists, printing or embossing letters, notes or recipes, surfing the web, listening to audio books, and exchanging information and documents with other computer users. Runs with the user-friendly KeySoft suite of applications. Features a long battery life and superior connectivity. Can access email and the Internet with built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Can store electronic books using one of the multiple storage options, including 8 GB of internal memory and support for high-capacity SDHC cards or USB thumb drives. Available with a computer-style keyboard (QT model) or the 8-dot braille keyboard (BT model).