Getting Around the Orbit Reader 20 (Extra 4)

Dave Williams, Brailleists Foundation Chair and Customer Experience Manager at RNIB talks us through the Orbit Reader. What is it, how does it compare to other displays on the market and how can you get one?

This session was recorded on Tuesday 3 November 2020. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.

The Orbit Reader (Extra 3)

This is an overview of the Orbit Reader 20, held as part of a Stay Safe: Stay Connected call on Monday 27 July 2020.

The Bumpy Road (Extra 1)

In this first episode of Braillecast Extra, we re-acquaint ourselves with Megan Paul, winner of the 2016 Onkyo Braille Essay Writing Competition. We’re treated to a complete reading of her winning essay, following our interview with her on the very first episode of Braillecast.

Brian MacDonald (Episode 18)

Based in Boston Massachusetts since 1927, National Braille Press is a global leader in producing high quality, affordable braille materials and developing innovative technologies advancing braille literacy for blind and visually impaired children and adults everywhere. In addition to its first class braille transcription facility, producing everything from standardised tests to restaurant menus, NBP has a unique specialism in publishing original books by blind authors expressly for blind people, from cookery to technology. It also provides braille transcription and production services to like-minded organizations and, through the Centre for Braille Innovation, overseas the annual Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation.

In adapting to public health guidelines designed to minimise the spread of COVID-19, National Braille Press has found safe ways to produce braille for the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (part of the Library of Congress), is offering free digital downloads for both children and adults until 31 August 2020, and continues to supply original titles explaining food delivery and preparation options from a blindness perspective. On Friday 15 May, the Braillists Foundation was privileged to host Brian MacDonald, NBP’s President, on its weekly Stay Safe: Stay Connected conference call, and participants had the opportunity to ask questions about how more high quality braille is finding its way into the hands of more readers throughout these challenging times. We’re pleased to present a recording of that session on this episode of Braillecast, with sincere thanks to Brian and all of the contributors for their permission.

To contact Brian, email [email protected]. If you’re an aspiring author and would like National Braille Press to consider publishing your work, email [email protected] or view the Frequently Asked Questions on the NBP website.

Links of Interest


Touch of Genius Prize Winners

UEB Online (Episode 17)

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) is Australia’s largest non-government provider of services supporting thousands of adults, children and their families with hearing loss or vision impairment. Established by an Act of Parliament in Australia in 1860, it now operates via a number of Centres, promoting the rights of all persons with vision impairment to inclusion in education, employment and society on the same basis as sighted persons – leaving no-one behind. Of particular note for this podcast is the Renwick Centre which, in partnership with the Macquarie University, is Australia’s leading centre for the provision of high quality teaching and learning opportunities for professionals in the area of Special Education for students with hearing or vision impairment, research in these same areas, and related community service.

In September 2014, the Renwick Centre launched UEB Online, an interactive website offering free training in the Unified English Braille code. An Accessible version followed in September 2016 and, since then, the website has reached over 15,000 people in 197 countries. Most recently, in 2020, it received an Award for Innovative Practice on Inclusive Education and ICT from the Zero Project. It is being continuously updated with new features and new content and now boasts a 2-part Literacy course based on the UEB Australian Training Manual (in turn edited from the RNIB Braille Primer) and two purpose-written Mathematics courses (Introductory and Advanced), with a further Extension Mathematics course due to be launched by the end of 2020.

To find out more, we’re joined by three members of the team behind the UEB Online website:

Where Have All The Braille Books Gone? (Episode 16)

James Bowden is the Braille Technical Officer at RNIB, whose hard copy braille library is currently out of action due to COVID-19. We asked him what alternatives might be available.

RNIB Services



Dean Martineau (Episode 15)

For many in the blind community, Dean Martineau will be a household name. Prolific in the technology sphere, he’s perhaps best known for his Top Tech Tidbits newsletter, which has been published every Thursday for over ten years. In the past, he was also the voice behind the Sound Computing audio magazine, and delivered bespoke technology training under the brand of Top Dot Enterprises. Towards the end of 2018, he started a new initiative which uses a combination of audio tutorials, electronic braille files and the Orbit Reader 20 to deliver personalised, long-distance instruction in the braille code. We caught up with Dean to find out more about the project, as well as the person behind it, just after it launched. We didn’t manage to bring the interview to you at the time, but thought we’d bring it to you now.

To contact Dean, please email [email protected].

In other braille news:

  • The UKAAF AGM has been moved online
  • The ICEB General Assembly has been postponed to the week of 19 October
  • Visit for information related to Coronavirus for blind and partially sighted people

BrailleSense, ElBraille and Canute (Episode 13)

This episode features a couple of interviews that we recorded at the recent Sight Village South East exhibition. We also hear one person’s perspective on the ElBraille.

  • Jenny Axler, Technical Support Manager at Hims and Stuart Lawler, Manager of Sight & Sound Ireland, join us to discuss the BrailleSense Polaris and Polaris Mini, QBraille XL, and the fifth generation Focus line of braille displays from Freedom Scientific.
  • Sean Randall from New College Worcester was loaned an ElBraille in 2017, to be tested by himself and his students. His thoughts were captured in this interview which, in spite of being a few years old and based on an older model of the product, is still broadly relevant. For a snapshot of ElBraille as it was in 2017, listen to episode 141 of the FSCast podcast, or for a demonstration of the 5th generation version, listen to episode 16 of the Sight & Sound Technology Podcast.
  • Finally, Liam Smyth from Bristol Braille Technology CIC brings us the exciting news that Canute 360 is now available for purchase from Techno-Vision Systems for £1895. We also find out a bit more about the user interface and hear what it sounds like when it refreshes.

Chapter markers have been inserted throughout this episode to aid navigation.

Braille Art Competition (Episode 12)

4 January is Louis Braille’s birthday (he would have been 211 this year if he was still alive). It’s no coincidence, then, that, since 2019, the United Nations has formally celebrated this date as “World Braille Day”, an international day of observance “… to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.” In spite of its recency, it already feels firmly established in the calendars of the sight loss industry, attracting a great deal of online publicity this year. Perhaps that’s because, for many, the significance of Louis Braille’s birthday predates the UN’s intervention: organisations in the United States of America have observed National Braille Literacy MOnth in January since at least 2011, and Royal Blind’s National Braille Week in the UK was held in the week containing 4 January until 2013. (It’s now held in the second week in October to coincide with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s “World Sight Day”, held on the second Thursday in October.)

One of the more creative announcements to spring from this year’s World Braille Day came from VICTA, a national charity in the UK that provides support to blind and partially sighted children and young adults (aged 29 or under) and their families. They’ve launched their first ever competition to challenge children and young people to push the boundaries of their creativity and use the braille system to produce a piece of art. Blind and partially sighted 0-10-year-olds are invited to present a creative way of displaying their name in braille using different objects, whilst 11-29-year-olds should find a way to use braille to create a picture. £50 and £25 Amazon vouchars are up for grabs respectively for the winners and the runners up in each category, and chosen finalists will be displayed in a booklet and an online gallery. Entries close at 5:00 PM on 31 January 2020.

We spoke with Luke Wakefield, Head of Activities & Strategic Programmes at VICTA, about the competition and the charity as a whole.

Advent Of Change (Episode 11)

We hear from Kristina Salceanu, founder of Advent Of Change about their braille advant calendar. It’s available for £29.95 online via both Advent of Change and John Lewis and it’s also available at John Lewis’s Oxford Street store.