Fact Sheet on Braille Writers, Printers and Software
There are many situations in school, the workplace, and business in which long braille documents or multiple copies are needed for students, employees, or customers who are blind. However, manual braille writing aids (the slate and stylus) are not efficient tools for creating long documents or multiple copies. For those purposes, it is much more efficient to use a mechanical or electronic device such as a braille writer (the braille equivalent of a typewriter), braille copier, or braille printer (with the necessary software). For example, a student writing a long term paper in braille is likely to find it much easier to use a manual or electric braille writer, or a computer running braille software and attached to a braille printer. A teacher who wants to make course materials available to students in braille will find this is done most efficiently using a braille printer or copier. A braille printer is the most efficient tool for making braille copies of office memos or restaurant menus.
This ABLEDATA Fact Sheet describes braille writers, copiers, and printers, and the software used to run braille printers. It also includes a brief introduction to braille, a list of manufacturers and selected distributors, a selective list of articles and publications for further reading, and information on organizations that are concerned with braille literacy.
For information on manual braille writing aids (the braille equivalent of pens
and pencils) and braille labelers, the reader should consult ABLEDATA's Fact
Sheet on Manual Braille Writing Aids and Labelers, available on our web site,
Note: This Fact Sheet mentions several specific products in order to illustrate general types. Reference to specific products does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement of any product by ABLEDATA or the U.S. Department of Education.
A Brief Introduction to Braille
The braille system enables people who are blind to read using the sense of touch. Embossed dots represent letters, punctuation marks, numbers, musical notation, computer code, and scientific symbols. The fundamental unit of braille is the braille cell, composed of six dots, two columns across and three rows down. Dots in the six-dot cell are numbered from 1 to 6, as shown in Figure 1 below. Letters are represented by cells in which certain dots are embossed and the others left blank. For example, "a" is represented by a cell in which only dot 1 is embossed, "b" is represented by a cell with dots 1 and 2 embossed, "c" by a cell with dots 1 and 4 embossed, and so on.
Figure 1 showing the location of dots 1 through 6.
There are two "grades" of braille, Grade 1 and Grade 2. In Grade 1 braille, words are formed from letters in the usual alphabetic way. For example, the word "braille" would be written (embossed) as follows:
Figure 2: The word "braille" in Grade 1 braille.
In North America, braille is usually written with abbreviations and contractions. This is known as Grade 2 braille, in contrast to Grade 1 braille, which has no contractions. An example of a Grade 2 abbreviation is the one for "braille," which is "brl."
Figure 3: "brl" in braille.
Contractions are used for letters that often appear together in English, such as "th," "er," and "ing."
Figure 4: "ing" in Grade 1 and Grade 2 braille.
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) establishes standards for braille usage in the United States and Canada. This organization sets rules for the use of braille contractions and for formatting documents and publications. Currently BANA has approved five braille codes-
- Literary braille, used for most ordinary documents
- Math braille, also called the Nemeth code, used for math and science
- Chemistry braille
- Computer programming braille
- Music braille.
In addition, BANA has established formatting rules for columns and tables.
Advantages of Braille
Braille is a primary medium of reading and writing for people who are blind or have low vision. Many blind and visually impaired individuals find that they can access information more quickly and perform tasks that involve reading or writing more efficiently using braille than by listening to a personal reader, dictating to a personal secretary (otherwise known as an amanuensis), or using alternative technologies such as audio recordings, talking computers, or other electronic devices. Experienced users of braille are often able to read or take notes in braille much more quickly than they can using other methods.
In the workplace and at school, knowing braille makes it possible for blind people to read and take notes independently, and it increases the amount of written material that is accessible to them. For example, braille can be used to write notes for a business presentation or a speech. Studies have found that the employment rate for blind people who know braille is higher than for those who don't (Ryles, 1996).
In daily life, there are many situations in which braille offers the best choice for independent action. For example, in restaurants blind people can make selections from braille menus without the assistance of a waiter or another diner.
After several decades during which the use of braille declined among blind people in the United States, many have realized that newer technologies cannot fully replace braille, and there has been renewed interest in braille literacy. Since the early 1990s, more than half the states have passed braille literacy laws requiring that braille instruction be provided to all students who can benefit from it, including those who are currently able to read print but whose eyesight is medically expected to deteriorate with time. Many of these braille literacy laws also require publishers to make all textbooks sold in the state available in electronic formats that can be printed as braille.
For guidance on creating braille documents for blind customers, students, and employees, see the section on braille in "A Guide to Making Documents Accessible to People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired," by Jennifer Sutton, which discusses the use of braille translation software and how to emboss, bind, and label braille documents. It is listed below under the heading "Other Publications on Braille Production and Printers."
Braille writers are the braille equivalent of typewriters. Unlike typewriters, they are still going strong despite the advent of the personal computer. Many individuals who do a significant amount of writing in braille prefer to use a braille writer.
Figure 5: The Perkins Brailler an example of a manual braille writer.
One noticeable difference between a braille writer and a typewriter is that a braille writer may have as few as seven keys, one for each dot of a six-dot braille cell plus a space key. Like typewriters, braille writers come in manual and electric versions. In a manual braille writer, dots are embossed on the paper mechanically as a direct result of the typist's pressure on the keys, while in an electric model the keys require only light pressure to send an electrical signal that causes the machine to emboss a dot. Some people prefer the lighter touch allowed by an electric braille writer, while others prefer the solid feeling of a mechanical key and find that it is too easy to press the wrong key on an electric keyboard.
Most braille writers use 8.5 by 11 inch braille paper, which is fed into the machine one sheet at a time. Braille paper comes in heavy and lightweight grades, both of which are heavier than ordinary ink print paper since braille paper must be sturdy enough to retain raised dots as many readers move their fingers over them. The heavier grade of paper is recommended for use with a braille writer.
Braille writers generally have a paper guide that can be moved into position to hold smaller paper sizes in place, including note-size paper or index cards. Some models are designed for extra-wide paper (e.g., 11 ½ by 11 inch). Other special models include the following:
- Large cell braille writers, which are designed to produce jumbo braille for individuals who have trouble distinguishing the dots of ordinary braille.
- One-handed braille writers, with keys arranged to make one-handed operation possible, including models for left-handed and right-handed use.
- Models with longer keys for use by individuals with limited dexterity. It is also possible to buy extension keys to convert a standard model.
Some electric braille writers have editing functions and the capacity to store
electronic file versions of documents that have been written on them. These
features may be quite welcome to blind students who are asked to rewrite their
papers, and to others who go through several drafts in writing. An example is
the Mountbatten Brailler Pro, which can also be used as a braille printer when
it is connected to a computer.
(For an explanation of braille printers, see the "Braille Printers" section below.)
Choosing a Braille Writer
As with a slate and stylus, a non-reader of braille would not want a braille writer, because its operation requires knowledge of braille. For braille users, the advantage of a braille writer is that it may be easier to write large documents on one rather than writing entirely by hand. Some considerations for choosing a model include-
- Those able to use only one hand will be interested in one-hand models.
- Those with limited dexterity will be interested in models such as Tatrapoint adaptive or the Perkins Brailler with extension keys.
- Those interested in a braille writer that also performs other functions may be interested in the "professional" version of the Mountbatten electric braille writer, which also functions as a braille notetaker and printer, or the Elotype 4E from Blista-Brailletec, which also functions as a braille printer.
Thermoform embossers use a vacuum and heat to create raised areas on special plastic paper. This process is primarily used to create tactile graphics (raised drawings and diagrams that can be felt by blind people), but the process can also be used to make copies of braille documents. The American Thermoform Corporation manufactures a braille copier called EZ-Form that can be used to produce multiple copies of a braille document on Brailon plastic paper. The advantage of plastic paper is that it can survive handling by many readers, such as children in school. To make Brailon copies on the EZ-Form, the user first embosses a master on heavyweight braille paper then runs the master through the machine. This process can also be used to reproduce existing braille books and other documents.
Figure 6: American Thermoform Corporation's EZ-Form Thermoform Duplicating Machine,
an example of a braille copying machine.
Braille printers operate by embossing raised braille dots onto braille paper. For this reason, the terms "braille embosser" and "braille printer" are interchangeable. The embossing process involves pressing pins into one side of the paper in order to create raised dots on the other side. In the type of braille printer typically used in braille publishing, a zinc embossing plate is created using a computer and then used to emboss multiple copies. Printers of this type are called "plate embossing device" or PED printers. In contrast, desktop braille printers emboss braille directly onto sheets of paper without a plate, and are therefore occasionally called text embossing device (TED) printers. Like ink-jet or laser printers, desktop braille printers connect to a personal computer, and they emboss documents from braille files on the computer. PED printers also use computer input, but they generally come in large stand-alone cabinet units.
Figure 7: Enabling Technologies' BraillePlace is an interpoint embosser for
Until recently, there was a sharp divide between printers designed for use in braille publishing and those designed for personal use. A printer designed for use in publishing needs to be able to emboss a large volume at higher speeds. It must be able to handle the wider types of paper used to make braille books, and it should be able to emboss double-sided braille. Printers designed for braille publishing have usually been PED printers costing tens of thousands of dollars. In contrast, personal desktop printers may cost as little as a few thousand dollars, but they are generally slower and may only be able to emboss paper measuring 8.5 x 11 inches or less. Some only do one-sided braille. However, the line between personal braille printers and printers for braille publishing has begun to blur, as improvements in desktop braille printers have made desktop braille publishing a possibility.
To enable independent use by blind people, many desktop braille printers have voice output for their controls, at least as an option. This feature is not always available on printers designed for publishing.
Figure 8: The Juliet Pro 60 from Enabling Technologies Company, a desktop braille
For some purposes, it is useful to have braille and ink print on alternating lines on the same page, and there are a number of printers and printer systems that do this. Some are single-unit printers that create parallel lines of ink and braille. These models can also create braille pages without print. Another option is a control unit that coordinates a braille embosser and a separate ink printer to place braille and ink print on the same page.
Braille printers differ in the types and sizes of paper they can handle. Most desktop braille printers use computer-style fanfold paper that feeds through the printer on sprocket holes. Many desktop braille printers are designed only for paper 8.5 inches or less in width. Typically, printers for braille publishing are designed to handle a range of paper sizes, including wider sheets that can be stapled and folded in the middle to produce braille books.
Braille printers also differ in their speed, measured in characters per second or pages per hour. Some models print as many as 850 sheets per hour, according to manufacturer estimates; however, studies conducted by the National Federation of the Blind have found that actual printer speeds are often considerably less than the speeds stated by manufacturers. Results of the latest NFB study for 27 printer brands are given in the article "Choosing Your Braille Embosser," by Anne Taylor, one of the resources listed below under the heading "Product Evaluations."
Choosing a Braille Printer
When choosing a braille printer, some questions must be answered-
- How much braille will be printed? Those who plan to print many braille documents will want a printer with more speed; however, speeds stated by the manufacturer may be greater than what will be seen in actual use.
- Is double-sided output desirable? Single-side printers are less expensive than interpoint printers, but double-sided output takes less space and uses less paper.
- Does the printer have voice output for all controls? Most desktop braille printers now have this feature, but for some it is only an option.
- Is a portable printer needed?
These considerations and more are discussed in Anne Taylor's 2001 Braille Monitor article, "Choosing Your Braille Embosser," which also provides product comparisons, including data on actual measured printing speeds and comments on noise levels and customer service. For information on locating this article, see below under the heading "Product Evaluations."
Braille Translation and Editing Software
Just as inkjet and laser printers create ink documents from electronic text files on a computer, braille printers create braille documents using electronic braille files. Braille translation software automatically transforms electronic text files into electronic braille files, and braille editing or word processing software is used to edit these files.
Braille translation software usually comes with a braille editor, which is needed because automatic braille translation is prone to problems like those seen in automatic conversion from one electronic format to another or even automatic translation from one language to another. Unedited results of automatic translation can be garbled and confusing. This is true even though braille is only an alternative alphabet, not a separate language. Situations that can cause problems for automatic translation using braille translation software include special formatting, multiple languages in one document, math and other special notation, and ambiguities resulting from the use of braille contractions and abbreviations.
Even the simplest formatting, such as indentation, may need to be presented differently in braille, and special formatting may require extensive changes. Tables and charts are particularly hard to represent, and footnotes usually need to be presented as endnotes.
Multiple Languages in One Document
Documents containing more than one language present difficulties for translation software. Braille alphabets differ just as print alphabets do, for example the English and Spanish alphabets. Punctuation differs too, and outside North America most braille alphabets use only Grade 1. Therefore, the set of braille characters used in one language differs from the set used for another, and when a text in English, for example, contains a quotation in Spanish, the translation software must recognize that the passage is in Spanish, not English, and use the correct Spanish braille characters for that passage.
Math and Other Special Notation
When a text contains mathematical equations or other special notation, it is necessary to recognize what kind of notation is being used and translate it using the appropriate specialized braille code.
Braille Contractions and Abbreviations
An essential part of standard Grade 2 braille, braille contractions and abbreviations are another potential source of difficulties for automatic translation.
Because of these potential pitfalls, braille specialists generally recommend that even when a sophisticated translation program has been used to translate a printed document into braille, the braille file should be edited for accuracy and format, and the resulting document should be proofread by someone familiar with braille. Blind people who know braille can often tell when a document has been run through a braille translation program without being checked and edited, and they may complain that unedited documents are confusing or garbled.
For a discussion of many of the issues involved in the use of braille translation
software, see the section on braille in "A Guide to Making Documents Accessible
to People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired" by Jennifer Sutton, one of
the resources listed below under "Other Publications on Braille Production
Braille translation programs that can be applied to Windows-based text files include Duxbury Braille Translator from Duxbury Systems, WinVision from Index Braille, Braille2000 from Computer Application Specialties Company, and BrailleMaster Braille Publishing Software from Robotron Group/Sensory Tools Division. Duxbury Braille Translator is also available in DOS and Apple Macintosh versions. MegaDots is a braille translator for DOS. These programs include features such as support for multiple languages that can help users to avoid bad translations. NFBTrans is a freeware program that translates ASCII text files into Grade 2 braille. It includes an editing function.
In addition to braille translation programs for text (literary braille), there are also specialized programs designed for use with mathematics and music. These include MegaMath from Duxbury and Goodfeel music translation software from Dancing Dots.
Choosing Braille Translation Software
Braille translation software programs may differ in their ability to handle the sorts of situations that raise difficulties for translation, such as special formatting, multiple languages, or documents that use mathematical symbols or other special notation. Companies often make timed demo versions available so potential customers can try their software before purchasing it, and it is a good idea to obtain demo versions and use them.
As noted above in the section on braille translation software, it is recommended that users of braille translation software should edit and proofread the result. Obviously, this may be a problem for the teacher, government official, or business person who wants to create a braille document without knowing braille, but it is possible to avoid some of the pitfalls of automatic braille translation by carefully editing potential problems out of the text document before translating it. If the original document is a text file with only simple formatting, in one language, with no mathematical equations or other special symbols, potential problems may be avoided.
An alternative is to use a braille transcription service. Professional braille transcribers have the knowledge to edit and proofread braille. A list of braille transcription services and Library of Congress-certified braille proofreaders in each state is available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The National Braille Association, an organization of braille transcribers, offers a referral service. Contact information for the NLS and the National Braille Association may be found below under the heading, "Organizations That Promote Braille Literacy."
Manufacturer and Distributor Directory
The following companies sell braille writers, printers, copiers, or software. For each manufacturer or distributor, full contact infor-mation is provided (including street address, telephone [voice unless otherwise noted] and fax numbers, e-mail address, and Web address) and a brief list of the brands sold. When available, the manufacturer's suggested retail price or the U.S. distributor's price for each brand as of August 2004 has also been included.
Prices are subject to change and may vary depending on options selected.
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
1839 Frankfurt Avenue
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, KY 40206-0085 USA
Telephone: 800-223-1839 toll free or 502-895-2405.
Web site: http://www.aph.org.
- Braille erasers (wooden or plastic with large and narrow ends)
- Braille paper (3.75 x 5.75 inch white paper, 6-hole punched for pocket notebook; 8.5 x 11 and 11.5 x 11 inch unpunched, 3-hole-punched, or 19-hole punched white or manila paper for slate and stylus and braille writer; and 11.5 x 11 inch unpunched, 3-hole-punched, or 19-hole-punched fanfold paper for computer-driven braille embosser).
Also sells braille writers from Howe Press.
American Thermoform Corporation
1758 Brackett Street
La Verne, CA 91750 USA
Telephone: 800-331-3676 toll free or 909-593-6711.
Web site: http://www.atcbrleqp.com.
- Braillo series braille printers, from $36,995 to $86,000.
- Dot & Print (dual ink print/braille printer).
- EZ-Form braille copier, $2250.
- Brailon paper (used with EZ-Form), from $16.95 to $26.95 for 100 sheets and from $34.95 to $45.45 for 500 sheets.
- Embossables (clear adhesive labels in continuous fanfold sheets designed for use with braille printers), $28.95 for box of 50 Embossables
- Compu-Dot Final Edit paper (8.5 x 11 inch and 11 x 11.5 inch braille paper), from $30.00 to $32.39 for box of 1000 sheets.
Also sells braille translation software from Duxbury and braille printers from Index Braille.
D-35041 Marburg, Germany
Web site: http://www.brailletec.de.
Sold in the U.S. by Maxi-Aids.
- Tatrapoint standard (manual braille writer)
- Tatrapoint adaptive (manual braille writer with adjustable typing width for individuals with limited dexterity)
- Marburg Brailler (manual braille writer)
- Eurotype E (electric braille writer)
- Elotype 4E (electric braille writer/printer)
- Btec 100 (desktop braille printer).
- Braille2000 (braille text editor and translator), from $269 to $789
- ED-IT PC (braille text editor and translator, superceded by Braille2000 but still available for use on older operating systems such as Windows 3.1).
- Goodfeel music braille translation software, from $299 to $795.
- Duxbury Braille Translator (braille translation software for Windows, DOS, or Apple Macintosh), from $550 to $645
- MegaDots (braille text editor and translator for DOS), $595
- MegaMath (mathematical braille translation software for DOS), $325
- Edgar (braille text editor for DOS), freeware.
Also sells braille music translation software from Dancing Dots.
Easy Talk Computers
2201 Limerick Dr.
Tallahassee, FL 32309 USA
Web site: http://www.easytalkcomputers.com.
Sells braille translation software from Duxbury and braille printers from Index Braille and Thiel.
Enabling Technologies Company
1601 Northeast Braille Place
Jensen Beach, FL 34957 USA
Telephone: 800-777-3687 toll free or 772-225-3687.
Fax: 800-950-3687 toll free or 772-225-3299.
Web site: http://www.brailler.com.
- Romeo series (single-side braille printers), from $2195 to $2895
- Juliet series (interpoint braille printers), from $3795 to $4095
- ET (interpoint desktop braille printer), $3795
- Thomas Braille Embosser (single-side braille printer), $3295
- TranSend LT (dual ink printer/braille printer system), from $4000 to $17,800
- BookMaker (embosser that prints braille and tactile graphics on the same page), $8,995
- Braille Express series (embossers that print braille and tactile graphics on the same page), from $10,995 to $15,995
- Marathon (single-side braille printer designed for use in braille publishing), $14,995
- BraillePlace (interpoint printer designed for use in braille publishing), $36,995.
Also sells braille translation software from Duxbury.
Freedom Scientific Blind/Low Vision Group
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, FL 33716-1805 USA
Telephone: 800-444-4443 toll free or 727-803-8000.
Web site: http://www.freedomscientific.com.
- Braille Blazer (single-sided braille printer), $1895
- Versapoint Duo (interpoint braille printer), $3795 without speech output or $3995 with speech output
- Braille paper (white, sprocket-holed fanfold printer paper, 8.5 by 11 inches and 11 by 11.5 inches), from $45 to $49 for 1000 sheets
- Braille labels (for cassettes and diskettes, made of fanfolded white Mylar plastic), $30 for box of 250.
Also sells braille translation software from Duxbury.
Howe Press of the Perkins School for the Blind
175 North Beacon Street
Watertown, MA 02172-2790 USA
Web site: http://www.perkins.org.
- Perkins Brailler series (braille writer with manual, electric, one-hand, and large cell models)
- Perkins Brailler accessories, including extension keys for individuals with limited dexterity; Dymo tape holder for use in brailling Dymo labeling tape; felt pad for noise reduction; soft-side carrying case; narrow paper adapter; and attachment for measuring how many lines are left to braille
- Braille erasers
- Braille paper (heavy and lightweight, three-hole punched, and pads).
Independent Living Aids, Inc.
200 Robbins Lane
Jericho, NY 11753 USA
Telephone: 800-537-2118 toll free or 516-937-1848.
Web site: http://www.independentliving.com.
Sells braille writers and accessories from Howe Press; braille printers from Freedom Scientific, Index Braille, Thiel, and ViewPlus Technologies; and braille translation software from Duxbury.
Hantverksvagen 20, Box 155
S-954 23 Gammelstad, Sweden
Web site: http://www.indexbraille.com.
Distributed in the U.S. by Sighted Electronics.
- Everest Braille Embosser, $3695
- Basic-S braille printer, $2495
- Basic-D braille printer, $3195
- Index 4x4 Pro with Acoustic Cabinet (braille printer), from $5945 to $6495
- WinBraille (braille translation program), free with purchase of Index Braille printer
- Index Braille Stapler, $265.
42 Executive Boulevard
P. O. Box 3209
Farmingdale, NY 11735 USA
Telephone: 800-522-6294 toll free or 631-752-0521.
Web site: http://www.maxiaids.com.
Sells braille writers from Blista-Brailletec and Howe Press, and Brailon paper from American Thermoform.
- NFBTrans (braille translation program), freeware
- NFB Braille Writer Case (designed for transporting a Perkins Brailler), $45
- Braille paper (five types of white paper: lightweight three hole punch, and form feed and heavyweight paper in legal and letter sizes)
- Wooden braille eraser, $3
- Labeling tape holder for Perkins Brailler, $26
- Transparent labeling tape (½ inch-wide plastic).
Hanzomon MK Building, 1-F 1-8-1
Tokyo, 102-0083 Japan
Web site: http://www.telesoft.co.jp.
- Gemini (dual ink print/braille printer)
- TP-32 and BPW-32 braille printers (desktop braille printers).
Pulse Data Humanware
175 Mason Circle
Concord, CA 94520 USA
Telephone: 800-722-3393 toll free or 925-680-7100.
Web site: http://www.humanware.com.
- Paragon Braille Embosser (desktop braille printer), $3295.
Also sells braille writers and braille text editors from Quantum Technologies, braille printers from Enabling Technologies, and braille translation software from Duxbury.
P.O. Box 390
Rydalmere, New South Wales 2116, Australia
Web site: http://www.quantech.com.au.
Distributed in the U.S. by Pulse Data Humanware.
- Jot a Dot (portable manual braille writer)
- Mountbatten Brailler (electric braille writer), $1999
- Mountbatten Brailler Pro (electric braille writer with note-taker functions and computer connectivity), $3799
- Monty (braille text editor), $295.
Robotron Group/Sensory Tools Division
15 Stamford Road
Oakleigh 3166, Australia
Web site: http://www.sensorytools.com.
Sold in the U.S. by Technologies for the Visually Impaired.
- BrailleMaster Braille Publishing Software (braille text editor and translator).
69 Woodland Avenue
Westwood, NJ 07675 USA
Telephone: 800-666-4883 toll free.
Web site: http://www.sighted.com.
Imports and distributes braille printers from Index Braille and Thiel, and sells braille translation software from Duxbury.
Technol Eight Company Limited
Seto, Aichi Prefecture, 489-8510 Japan
Web site: http://www.technol-eight.co.jp.
- Ohtsuki BT 5000 Braille/Print Printer (dual ink print/ braille printer).
Technologies for the Visually Impaired
9 Nolan Court
Hauppauge, NY 11788 USA
Telephone and Fax: 631-724-4479.
Web site: http://www.tvi-web.com.
Sells braille printers from Index Braille, and braille translation software from Dancing Dots, Duxbury, and Robotron.
D-64342 Seeheim-Jugenheim, Germany
Distributed in the U.S. by Sighted Electronics.
- Impacto 600 Interpoint Braille Embosser (printer designed for use in braille publishing), $32,000
- Porta-Thiel (desktop braille printer), from $1995 to $2945.
ViewPlus Technologies, Inc.
1853 SW Airport Avenue
Corvallis, OR 97333 USA
Telephone: 866-836-2184 toll free or 541-908-6186.
Web site: http://www.viewplustech.com.
- Tiger Professional (embosser that prints braille and tactile graphics on the same page, for use in publishing), $9750
- Tiger Max, Cub, and Cub Jr. (braille and tactile graphics embossers for personal use), from $3995 to $5995
- MathType Tiger Style Package (braille format set enabling MathType from Design Science, Inc., to function as mathematical braille translation software), free.
This list includes manufacturers of braille writers, printers, copiers, and software in the ABLEDATA product database as of August 2004. For an updated list of products, go to the ABLEDATA product database at http://www.abledata.com.
The records in the ABLEDATA database are provided for information purposes only. Neither the U.S. Department of Education nor Macro International Inc. have examined, reviewed, or tested any product, device, or information contained in ABLEDATA. The Department and Macro International Inc. make no endorsement, representation, or warranty express or implied as to any products, device, or information set forth in ABLEDATA.
The following articles discuss specific braille printers, and may be useful in selecting a product. The views stated in each article or web site are those of the individual authors and do not reflect the opinions of ABLEDATA or the U.S. Department of Education.
Taylor, Anne. "Choosing Your Braille Embosser," The Braille Monitor,
Vol. 44, No. 9, October 2001.
This article presents results of testing to determine the actual printing speeds of 27 braille printers sold by American Thermoform Corporation, Enabling Technologies, Freedom Scientific, N.V. Interpoint, Pulse Data Humanware, Sighted Electronics, and ViewPlus Technologies. In most cases, actual printing speeds were found to be significantly less than the speeds stated by manufacturers. The article also assesses each company's customer service practices and other printer features.
Zelvin, Lynn. "The Braille Must Go Through: A Review of Two Lower-Cost
Braille Printers," Access World, Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 5-15, December
This article reviews the Braille Blazer from Freedom Scientific and the Porta-Thiel from Thiel GmbH.
Other Publications on Braille Production and Printers
Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/Early
Intervention Services, February 1999. Ensuring the Production of Quality
Braille Instructional Materials for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired:
A Guideline Document.
Model Braille Law (Braille Literacy Services for Blind or Visually Impaired
Children, State Model Bill). National Federation of the Blind, no date.
Sources of Custom-Produced Books: Braille, Audio Recordings, and Large Print.
Washington, DC: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped,
This directory lists volunteer groups, individual transcribers, and nonprofit and commercial organizations in each state who transcribe and record books and other reading materials for persons who are blind and physically handicapped. It includes a separate list of braille proofreaders certified by the Library of Congress.
Strauss, Carol. Braille Embossers. Washington, DC: National Library
Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 2000.
This circular lists current braille printer models, including features and manufacturer contact information.
Sutton, Jennifer. A Guide to Making Documents Accessible to People Who
Are Blind or Visually Impaired. Washington, DC: American Council of the
The section on braille discusses the use of braille translation software, and how to emboss, bind, and label braille documents.
Other Publications on Braille
Halliday, Jim. "A Fresh Look at Braille," Closing the Gap,
Vol. 22, No. 5, December 2003/January 2004, pp. 1, 18.
The author reexamines the issues discussed in his 1999 article (see following resource) on braille versus speech in light of technological advances and current research.
Halliday, Jim. "Braille vs. Speech: Making Sense of the Debate,"
Closing the Gap, Vol. 17, No. 6, February/March 1999, pp. 6-7, 26-27,
This article discusses the comparative advantages and disadvantages for blind people of access to written materials through braille and speech in light of research by cognitive psychologists into learning, memory, and reading. The author argues that it is necessary to move beyond an either/or approach.
Mangold, Sally S. "Trends in the Use of Braille Contractions in the United
States: Implications for UBC Decisions," The Braille Monitor, Vol.
43, No. 9, October 2000.
The author argues for changes in the Unified Braille Code (UBC), including reductions in the number of contractions.
Pierce, Barbara, Ed. The World Under My Fingers: Personal Reflections on
Braille. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind, 1995.
This book is a collection of essays on the value of braille for blind people and the importance of learning braille as a child.
Ryles, Ruby. "The Impact of Braille Reading Skills on Employment, Incomes,
Education, and Reading Habits," Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness,
Vol. 90, No. 3, May-June 1996. http://www.braille.org/papers/jvib0696/vb960311.htm.
Excerpts reprinted with additional material in The Braille Monitor, Vol. 41, No. 2, February 1998,
Sanspree, Mary Jean. "Early Literacy: Braille and The Young Child,"
See Hear, Summer 1998.
This article describes how to decide when a child should be taught braille. It is written from the viewpoint of a professional talking to parents.
Walhof, Ramona. "Braille Contractions: Are They Really So Hard?"
The Braille Monitor, Vol. 44, No. 4, April 2001.
The author responds to the Mangold 2000 article cited above.
Whittle, Jerry. "Learning Braille As an Adult: Read Until You Bleed," The Braille Monitor, Vol. 45, No. 3, April 2002.
This article describes the process necessary to acquire braille reading speed as an adult.
For an updated list of publications on braille and related products, go to the AT Library on the ABLEDATA Web site, http://www. abledata.com.
Organizations That Promote Braille Literacy
The following organizations promote braille literacy, as well as providing other services and information related to blindness and low vision.
American Council of the Blind (ACB)
1155 15th Street NW, Suite 720
Washington, DC 20005 USA
Telephone: 800-424-8666 toll free or 202-467-5081.
Web site: http://www.acb.org.
ACB is a leading membership organization of blind and visually impaired people, with 51 state and regional affiliates and 20 national special interest and professional affiliates. One of these affiliates, the Braille Revival League, was established to promote braille literacy. ACB's monthly magazine, the Braille Forum, often features articles on topics related to braille.
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011 USA
Web site: http://www.afb.org.
The AFB is a nonprofit organization assisting blind and visually impaired persons to achieve equality of access and opportunity through advocacy, information and education programs, development and evaluation of assistive technology, and direct service provision. AFB publishes books, pamphlets, periodicals, bibliographies, and videos on topics relating to blindness and visual impairment. AFB's National Literacy Center promotes braille literacy with educational publications, including a free quarterly newsletter, DOTS for Braille Literacy. AFB's Technology Center tests and evaluates assistive technology for blind and visually impaired persons, and its product evaluations are published regularly in Access World, a bimonthly publication from AFB.
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
1839 Frankfort Avenue, P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, KY 40206-0085 USA
Web site: http://www.aph.org.
Chartered in 1858, APH is the oldest and largest printing house serving blind people in the world. Since 1879, congressional appropriations have supported publication of books in braille, large print, and recorded format for blind students under college age. An annual report on students who receive aid under this system includes data on the distribution of students by reading media (visual, braille, and auditory readers, pre-readers, and non-readers). APH also manufactures and sells adaptive equipment and educational tools including braille slates, styluses, and paper (see the "Manufacturer and Distributor Directory" above for more information).
Braille Authority of North America (BANA)
Web site: http://www.brailleauthority.org.
BANA is the internationally recognized standards setting agency for braille codes used in the United States. Its braille code standards are presented in volumes published by the American Printing House for the Blind.
Web site: http://www.braillejail.net.
Braille Jail is a remote learning site for blind and visually impaired people, providing on-line courses on braille and other subjects.
Braille through Remote Learning (BRL)
Web site: http://www.brl.org.
Braille through Remote Learning is an online instructional program that provides teachers, parents, social workers, and current or future braille transcribers with a series of three integrated online courses in braille and braille transcribing.
Braille Revival League
Contact: DeAnna Noriega, President
PO Box 1104
Manitou Springs, CO 80829 USA
The League is a national organization formed for the purpose of promoting braille literacy among children and adults who are blind or have visual impairments. It is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
Contact: Nadine Jacobson, President
5805 Kellogg Avenue
Edina, Minnesota 55424-1819 USA
Web site: http://www.nfbcal.org/napub/napub.htm.
The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille is a division of the National Federation of the Blind comprised of braille users and others interested in encouraging the use of braille by blind children and youth. The association encourages local school districts and residential schools to offer braille instruction as an essential skill that all blind children should acquire even if they use other alternative media as well. Through legislative advocacy, the organization seeks to establish standards for teachers. The association sponsors an annual "Braille Readers Are Leaders" contest in cooperation with the NFB.
National Braille Association, Inc. (NBA)
3 Townline Circle
Rochester, NY 14623-2513 USA
Web site: http://nationalbraille.org.
NBA is a national association of volunteer and professional braille transcribers. For members, NBA provides continuing education and other professional services. It maintains the Braille Book Bank, a depository of textbooks, career and general interest materials, and music. For braille readers, NBA provides transcription and duplication services. Its transcription service will accept textbooks, technical material, music, and items of a more general nature when transcribers with the necessary skills are available. Its duplication service furnishes Thermoform or embossed copies of the masters in the Braille Book Bank collection.
National Braille Press
88 St. Stephens Street
Boston, MA 02115 USA
Telephone: 888-965-8965 toll free or 617-266-6160.
Web site: http://www.nbp.org.
National Braille Press is a publisher of braille books.
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230 USA
Web site: http://www.nfb.org.
The NFB is national advocacy organization run by and for blind and visually impaired persons, with chapters in 50 states and the District of Columbia. The NFB operates a national information/resource center, the National Center for the Blind. Its Materials Center sells braille and labeling supplies (see the "Manufacturers and Distributors Directory" above for more information). The NFB sponsors various projects to encourage braille literacy including an annual "Braille Readers Are Leaders" contest for blind children and youth. Its monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor, often features articles on braille literacy.
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
1291 Taylor Street NW
Washington, DC 20542 USA
Telephone: 800-424-9100 toll free or 202-707-5100.
Web site: http://www.loc.gov/nls/.
NLS maintains a collection of full-length braille and recorded books and magazines for free loan to eligible individuals who cannot hold, handle, or read conventional printed matter. Books, magazines, and playback equipment provided by NLS is distributed through a national network of state and regional libraries to residents of the United States and its territories.
Tactile Access to Education for Visually Impaired Students (TAEVIS)
Purdue University, Office of the Dean of Students
509 Harrison Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2025 USA
Telephone: 765-496-2856 .
Web site: http://www.taevisonline.purdue.edu.
The TAEVIS project at Purdue University investigates and develops new products and systems to streamline and economize the process of braille transcription, and makes innovations and materials available to other schools, with the goal of promoting greater access to education for braille readers.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, TX 78756 USA
Telephone: 800-872-5273 toll free or 512-454-8631.
Fax: 512-206-9450 .
Web site: http://www.tsbvi.edu.
The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Web site offers extensive resources on the education of blind and visually impaired students, including information on braille learning and educational materials in braille.
For an updated listing of resources for people who are blind or have low vision, go to the Blind and Low Vision Resource Center at the ABLEDATA Web site, http://www.abledata.com.
This fact sheet was researched and written by David G. Johnson and was produced by ABLEDATA. ABLEDATA is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under contract number ED-02-CO-0038 and is operated by ORC Macro.
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 930
Silver Spring, MD 20910 USA
Telephone: 800-227-0216 toll free in the U.S.;
301-608-8998 local call in the Washington, D.C. area.
All ABLEDATA publications and the ABLEDATA database of assistive technology are available on the ABLEDATA Web site, http://www.abledata.com.
© 2004, Macro International, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Education.
Eight-dot systems have been proposed for use in a unified braille code, which would replace todays separate six-dot codes for math, science, music, computer programming, and standard written language. However, an eight-dot system has not been officially adopted, and only six-dot systems are widely used.[Back to text]