CSUN Round-Up 2024 (Episode 54)

The 39th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference took place from 18 to 22 March in Anaheim, California, hosted by the Centre on Disabilities, Division of Student Affairs at California State University, Northridge. There were many exciting braille product announcements at the conference, and the latest prototypes of previously announced braille products were also exhibited.

In this episode, we are joined by a panel of braille experts who attended the conference. They will help us unpack the announcements and share their thoughts on the products they saw.

If you are planning to attend any of the Sight Village exhibitions in the UK, this episode will help you decide which products you might like to see for yourself.

Products discussed in this episode:

On the panel:

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Catching Up with Bristol Braille Technology: Canute 360 and Canute Console (Episode 53)

Bristol Braille Technology CIC recently released version 2.1 of the firmware for Canute 360, the world’s first multi-line braille E-reader. Canute has come up in conversation many times before, but never specifically: what is it, and what can it do? In this episode, we sit down with Ed Rogers, Managing Director of BBT, to find out.

Links of interest:

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Multi-Line Braille in the Classroom (Episode 52)

The braille community is buzzing about the next generation of braille display: multi-line devices which can show anything from tables to tactile graphics at the press of a button are now a reality, and enthusiastic early adopters around the world are putting the technology through its paces.

These multi-line braille displays will, sooner or later, undoubtedly disrupt all our experiences of refreshable braille in many places, but perhaps most notably in education. What does this mean for teachers, and what does this mean for students in the classroom, doing their homework and progressing to further and higher education? We’ll be digging into the detail in two parts:

Firstly, we will hear from HumanWare, Bristol Braille Technology CIC, Dot Inc and Orbit Research, all of whom are developing multi-line braille displays, and each of whom will give a ten minute presentation on how they see their products working in the classroom.

Secondly, we’ll hear from a panel of education professionals. They will share their reactions to the presentations, discuss how current practice might evolve to take advantage of emerging braille technologies, and engage with the manufacturers to find answers to some of their most pressing questions.

This episode is presented in collaboration with the Professional Association for the Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW).

Manufacturers, their Products and Representatives

Panellists

The event was hosted by Dave Williams and produced by Matthew Horspool.

Extracts from the Chat

What are the dimentions of the Dot Pad please?

Participant: 273.2 mm × 228.1 mm

Mazi: 20 braille cells per line and 10 lines on the large screen. 20 cells on single line below graphics area.

Dot Pad pricing is not fixed but our goals is to make the Dotpad economically accessible.

Can you send information from the dot pad back to an iPad?

Mazi: We are working on two way interaction between the Dot Pad and connected devices. At this time, the Dot Pad is a printer. It receives content from the iPad, iPhone, PC, or Mac. It is interactive in the sense that you can scroll up and down pages and make selections. You can also scroll across icons showing on your iPhone or iPad.

If you would like more information, please be comfortable contacting me. We are rapidly innovating and all ideas and advice is welcome.

Do the graphical devices allow a tactile diagram and a braille label on the same page?

Ed: Yes. You can mix them up. We typically use a lot of Braille to make sense of the diagrams. For the Canute Console, that was.

Andrew: For Monarch, Yes, it can display both graphics and braille on the same array.

I’d be very interested to know if manufacturers were intending to (or have) produce progression charts/teaching ideas for supporting student development of skills in using these products? We can’t afford to have one for us to learn on as well as one for the student, so any help on how to use them effectively and to think about skills progression is really helpful!

Andrew: HumanWare appreciates there is a lot to learn when it comes to these types of new technology, therefore before Monarch will be released we will be conducting in-person teachers training across the UK. The objective will be to show how a Monarch could be used in a classroom along with getting a better understanding on this new ebraille file format. Please register your interest so you can stay updated on when these days become available.

Participant: I am familiar with human wear products and they have a fantastic set of training videos for all of their devices. These are easily accessible for LSAs and BSAs as well as teachers.

Would the Dot Pad be useful for a student taking physics at advanced level (up to university)? Rendering the visual data effectively has been a constant struggle/ongoing question.

Mazi: Dot would love to work with you on your content and progression idea. YES, physics is an ideal subject matter for the Dot Pad.

Participant: That’s great to hear. I have a student applying for Physics at university this year, and this might be helpful for his Disabled Students Allowance application.

Mazi: Wonderful. Exciting to know your student is going for it. Let’s connect and set up a call to figure out how to help your student.

What is a simple device for early years children instead of Perkins Brailler?

Matthew (Braillists): The Perkins is still the best device for the job in our experience.

Ed: Using the Canute Console in the basic text editing mode I demonstrated would be closest equivalent experience for our display. However as Matthew says the Perkins hasn’t been superceded by any of these devices and they aren’t meant as replacements for it.

Participant: Unfortunately, for a 4 year old with small hands and not have the strength may impact their development

Ed: In that case, pairing a multiline display with a Hable One or an Orbit Writer, be that a Canute Console or any multiline display that supports external keyboards, would be something to experiment with.

Venkatesh: The Orbit single-line and multiline displays include an ergonomic Perkins-style braille keypad. The keys require very little force and would be suitable for a young child.

Participant: Thank Venkatesh, I need to view this to understand if its suitable for my CYPVI

Venkatesh: You are welcome. Please feel free to email me and we can work out a demo.

Louise Johnson: The Annie Brailler is especially for young children. We will be purchasing two and I am happy to let you know how we get on.

How do you distinguish colour? Textures? We need to teach students to read diagrams the way they will be presented in exams.

Ed: Explaining our solution is a bit much to fit into the chat box but happy to tell you about the solutions we use and are experimenting with by email. In short though, with a display 40 cells wide you have space for a key along side every image if you need it and the image can include information about colour and other style information. That is one solution suitable for some circumstances.

Participant: In terms of development of these products, it’s worth remembering that there are a significant number of learners who are not braillists but still need tactile diagrams.

Is it easy to create a table?

Ed: Very easy to create a table for the Canute Console. You can use a spreadsheet or a text editor or generate a tables using conversion software.

Will Monarch run on an up to date Android system? BNT+ is Oreo which no longer receives security patches. (Happy to hear if this is not the case!)

Monarch will be based on Android, but will not have access to the play store, therefore it would be more capable of updating security. It should not be the case of being stuck.

Does the Monarch come with Windows applications (Word, PowerPoint) and email?

The Monarch will include KeySoft core application including word processor, email client and many more.

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Two Conferences in the Summer … Or Should That Be Winter? (Episode 51)

It’s an exciting time for braille as we approach the 200th birthday of the braille code, and the International Council on English Braille will be celebrating in style this year with its eighth General Assembly, the theme of which is “Two Centuries of Braille”. It will take place from Saturday 25 May to Thursday 30 May at The Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland, 71 Mayoral Drive, Corner Vincent Street, Auckland Central, New Zealand.

But what is the International Council on English Braille, what is the purpose of its General Assembly, and how can we get involved? James Bowden, Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, Chair of the Braille Coding Group of the UK Association for Accessible Formats, Chair of ICEB’s Braille Technology Committee, and UK representative on the ICEB Executive and Code Maintenance Committees, tells us more.

Join the iceb-announce group on groups.io by sending a blank email to [email protected]

The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities is holding its Annual Conference the week before the ICEB General Assembly. It will be taking place at Novotel Perth Langley, 221 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, Western Australia, and early bird registration is open until 29 February 2024. The conference theme is Information Equity: Empowerment through Technology, Advocacy and Collaboration. The Annual Meeting of the Australian Braille Authority will be held on Saturday 18 May, followed immediately by the Round Table Conference from Sunday 19 May to Tuesday 21 May.

Chantelle Griffiths, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at New Zealand’s Tactile and Technology Literacy Centre and good friend of the Braillists Foundation, tells us more.

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The Braillists at NFB 2023 (Episode 50)

The Braillists Foundation held a face-to-face meeting at the 83rd annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind at the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel, Texas, in July 2023. Our Chairman, Dave Williams, was there with a microphone to soak up the atmosphere.

We spoke to:

With thanks to the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library for allowing us the use of their room for our meeting.

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The Braille Doodle (Episode 49

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just pick up a tablet of sorts, draw on it, and have the drawing in a tactile form? And wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if you could simply erase the drawing and start over if you didn’t like it?

The Braille Doodle does just that, and we catch up with the Touchpad Pro Foundation to find out more.

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CSUN 2023 (Episode 48)

Dave Williams, Chairman of the Braillists Foundation, and Ed Rogers from Bristol Braille Technology discuss the braille products to emerge from this year’s event.

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Braille Technology Throughout the Ages (Episode 47)

This episode focusses on braille technology: its past, present and future. We are joined by historians, people working in the braille technology industry today and developers of the next generation of braille hardware and software.

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How a Blind Musician and Programmer Developed the First Braille Music Translation Package (Episode 46)

The blind community is not without its fair share of innovators: Louis Braille himself, of course, alongside many others who brought us the braille code we know and love today. Elsewhere, the blind community has invented talking book players, screen readers, notetakers and so much more.

For blind musicians, many of the most notable technological innovations in the past thirty years or so have come from Dancing Dots, makers of the Goodfeel braille music translator, Cake Talking scripts for the Sonar Digital Audio Workstation, and Sibelius Speaking.

In this episode, we catch up with its founder, Bill McCann. We talk about how he came to found Dancing Dots and what his products do, before discussing the advantages of his favourite braille displays – the QBraille XL and Canute 360 – and the mechanics of reading music using refreshable braille.

Purchasing in the UK

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Using Braille Displays with Phones and Tablets (Episode 45)

The Braillists Foundation recently held its first face-to-face event since the Coronavirus pandemic. In this episode, we catch up with some of the people who attended, and we also hear recordings of the three presentations which took place:

  • Reading multilingual text using an iPhone, the Kindle app and a Focus 14
  • Text entry with an iPhone and a Brailliant BI40X
  • Reading books with an iPhone, the Kindle app and an Orbit Reader 20
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