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Braille Technology

Modern technology has made many useful tools for people who read and write braille. There are some devices that produce books in braille and others that let people read information on computers and from the Internet. Some devices are simple and inexpensive and others are very complicated. The devices below are used by many people who read braille to complete their schoolwork, take care of personal business, and do their jobs at work.

Slate and Stylus

piece of paper with slate and stylus The slate and stylus are inexpensive, portable tools used to write braille - just the way paper and pencil are used for writing print. Slates are made of two flat pieces of metal or plastic held together by a hinge at one end. The slate opens up to hold paper. The top part has rows of openings that are the same shape and size as a braille cell. The back part has rows of indentations in the size and shape of braille cells. The stylus is a pointed piece of metal with a plastic or wooden handle. The stylus is used to punch or emboss the braille dots onto the paper held in the slate. The indentations in the slate prevent the stylus from punching a hole in the paper when the dots are embossed. Slates and styluses come in many shapes and sizes.

Braille Displays

A braille display is a device that has a row of special "soft" cells made of plastic or metal pins. The pins are controlled by a computer and move up or down to display, in braille, the characters that appear on the computer screen. This type of braille is said to be "refreshable," because it changes as the user moves around on the screen. The braille display usually sits under the computer keyboard. woman using refreshable braille display at computer

Electronic Braille Notetakers

two girls reading, one with notetaker, and one with print book Electronic braille notetakers are portable devices with braille keyboards that braille readers can use to enter information. The text stored in these devices can be read with a built-in braille display or the device can read aloud with a synthesized voice. These devices are handy for taking notes in class, and often have built-in address books, calculators, and calendars, too!

Braille Printers (Embossers)

Braille printers are devices connected to a computer that do the actual embossing of braille onto thick (heavyweight) paper. They work like a regular computer printer does, in that the user can print out letters, reports, and other files from the computer. student using the braille printer


kid using brailler This student is using a Perkins braillewriter to complete his homework. The mechanical braillewriter works a little bit like a typewriter. It has six keys—one for each dot in a braille cell—a space bar, a backspace key, a carriage return, and a line feed key. The braillewriter uses heavyweight paper (just like the braille printer) but it doesn't need any electricity to work.

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