By: Carmen Willings
High tech braille devices are available for students who are blind or visually impaired to access and produce braille.
Refreshable Braille Display
A braille display device operates by lowering and raising different combinations of pins electronically to produce in braille what appears on a portion of the computer screen. A braille display device connects to a standard computer with a special cable. It takes information appearing on the computer screen, translates it and displays it in braille, a line at a time. A line of refreshable braille consists of a series of electronically-driven pins that pop up to form braille characters. As the cursor on the screen moves across a line or down the page, the line of braille characters changes to reflect what is currently under or near the cursor. This ever-changing line of braille is called refreshable. Refreshable Braille is available on some portable Braille Note talking devices, or on a full 20, 40, or 80 character device that attaches in front of the keyboard on a standard computer. The refreshable braille display provides direct access to information, giving the student the ability to check format, spacing and spelling and is quiet in comparison to a braille writer or embosser.
The braille embosser is a printer attached to a computer which is used to produce a braille copy of text. A braille embosser may also be attached to braille note taking devices for the same purpose. With the use of a braille embosser, a student is able to print a braille copy of his or her personal notes and written work. The embossers require heavy-weight paper and most models print on just one side. Interpoint printers emboss braille on both sides of the page, conserving paper, but are much more expensive. Smaller volume production embossers are less expensive than larger volume production models. In order to translate a computer file into a braille document, it is necessary to also purchase a braille translation program.
Braille Translation Software
Braille translation software converts printed text into braille. Translated text may then be printed for the student using a braille embosser (braille printer). Commonly used products include Duxbury Braille Translator, MegaDots, and Braille 2000.
Electronic Braille Note Takers
Electronic braille note taking devices, like this one from Freedom Scientific, may be used by a student to take notes in class using either a Braille or standard (QWERTY) keyboard. Those notes may then be transferred to a computer for storage, or printed in either braille or print formats. Many note taking devices have word processors, appointment calendars, calculators or clocks, and can do almost everything a computer can do. Some note taking devices have a speech program with braille input and some also feature a refreshable braille display. The note taking devices generally are the size of a book and are easily carried and used by the student. Note Takers are available from a wide range of distributors including those who specialize in products for people who are blind (and will be able to provide follow up customer service) as well as from Amazon.
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Resources to Support You in Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
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Selecting the Right AT for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired Recorded Presentation
Are you overwhelmed by the process of selecting assistive technology for your students? This presentation will encompass the process and steps of selecting the right assistive technology for students who are blind or visually impaired using the SETT framework. Key points covered in this presentation include identification of the current problem; consideration of current skills; understanding unique visual and learning needs; awareness of AT for VI; AT equipment considerations; the process of building a toolkit; instructional strategies; and next steps.
Request a Certificate of Completion
To receive a certificate of completion for 1 contact hour, complete the short "Selecting the Right AT" quiz on Google Forms and receive a score of at least 80%. Don't worry. If you don't pass, you can re-watch the presentation and retake the test! If you have any accessibility issues with the form, please don't hesitate to let me know and we can make other arrangements.
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