Braille continues to be the tactile reading and writing system of choice for blind and partially sighted people all over the world.

It remains fresh, relevant and revolutionary today, nearly two hundred years after Louis Braille first demonstrated its practical potential.

The emergence of electronic Braille

When thinking of Braille, you may conjure up mental images of permanent dots embossed on a solid surface like those dots present on such physical items as medicine packaging, signage or perhaps vast collections of Braille books – my school copy of the Oxford Children’s Encyclopaedia comprised 59 braille volumes, each twice the length and breadth of the 10 print volumes in the set! Thankfully, electronic Braille devices are much more manageable and beginning to offer affordable braille access to a wealth of materials which might have otherwise remained beyond the reach of braille readers.

Braille on the go

So-called Braille note-takers have existed for decades, usually coming equipped with a line of refreshable braille dots capable of displaying a single line of text and an electronic braille keyboard based on the design pioneered by Perkins Brailler machines for half a century. So, what’s new? A new generation of braille note-takers including the Orbit Reader 20 and Braille Me, are being sold for a fraction of the price such devices once commanded. These innovations have even inspired the creation of smaller refreshable Braille devices such as the Dot Watch Braille smart watch. Braille note-takers and displays are also becoming increasingly interoperable with mainstream tech, enabling seamless braille support for virtually any modern smartphone, tablet or computer.

Braille in Schools, libraries and universities

Innovations in single-line braille note-takers and displays have also accelerated development of larger, multi-line electronic braille devices, such as the Canute 360 Braille e-reader developed by Bristol Braille Technology. This device displays braille by page and can provide access to a whole library of material, a breakthrough which could transform the braille production process by significantly reducing braille translation and distribution costs.

A snapshot

These examples offer a small snapshot of recent exciting developments in modern braille technology. The Vital Tech website has information on the latest Refreshable Braille Displays.

Braille for the modern age

Here’s a video demonstration of what the Orbit Reader 20 and Canute 360 can do: