Freedom Scientific is perhaps best known for its popular JAWS screen reader, but it also manufactures the Focus line of refreshable braille displays. The first generation of these well-known units was released in the early 2000s, and now the fifth generation is available in 14, 40 and 80-cell configurations, with the 40-cell version being an integral part of the ElBraille from Elita Group. To tell us more, I’m joined by Ron Miller, Blindness Hardware Product Specialist at Vispero.
For at least the past 30 years, blind people have been well-served by notetakers: electronic, computer-like devices with a Perkins-style keyboard and speech and braille output. At their most basic level, they’ve functioned as an electronic brailler for composing documents and, of course, taking notes, but they’ve also included functionality such as a calculator, address list, scheduler and, latterly, internet connectivity. Over the past few years, there’s been a steady shift towards vastly increasing the capabilities of these devices, with many moving towards either Windows or Android.
The latest of this newer style of notetaker is the BrailleSense 6 from Selvis Healthcare (formerly Hims). It measures 9.65×5.67×0.87 inches, weighs 1.58 lbs (2.3 lbs with case), and is equipped with a 4590 mAh user-replaceable battery, wi-fi up to 802.11AC, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS and compass, USB C with display port functionality, full-size SD card slot, 13 MP rear camera, microphone and stereo speakers. It’s also just received its first software update.
Stuart Lawler is Head of Digital Content at Sight and Sound Technology Ltd, and Business Development Manager at Sight and Sound Ireland, and he joined me to tell us more about this update and the BrailleSense as a whole.
The BrailleSense 6 retails for £4395 excluding VAT.
We were delighted to have been joined by Sean Randall for the first in a two-part series. Sean is something of a computing and IT mastermind and now works at New College Worcester, training many of their students in the use of assistive technology including screen readers and braille displays.
This session primarily discuss the various braille devices available to consumers. He then provided an overview of libraries and sources of materials specifically for blind people, including:
- RNIB: reading Services, Bookshare and NTNM
- The Seeing Ear National Accessible Library
- Bibles for the Blind
This session was recorded on Tuesday 9 November 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.
George Bernard Shaw, in his play Pygmalion, wrote that “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” That line has its roots in spoken language, though of course in English rather than Spanish! But what about written language?
We quite often talk about braille being useful as a tool when learning languages, but María García Garmendia of Madrid, Spain has taken things to the next level by qualifying as an official translator for the Spanish Foreign Ministry. As well as professionally translating to and from Italian and Portuguese, she’s also a fluent speaker of English, German, French and Russian.
She’s been blind effectively since birth due to Retinopathy of Prematurity, learnt braille from the age of three and, in addition to her translation work, she has a part-time job as a lawyer in one of Spain’s principal banks.
In this episode of Braillecast, we hear more about her legal and translation work, the availability of braille and braille technology in Spain, and the Spanish braille code. We also discuss her thoughts about grade 2 braille, scenarios in which braille is especially useful, and braille education.
Transcription, for anyone who doesn’t already know, is the process of taking content in one format and converting it into another. In this case, print is being converted into braille, a process ubiquitous in the production of braille books, magazines, bills, bank statements, legal documents and much more. Humans have been at the heart of this process since its inception and, in spite of numerous technological advances, they remain so today.
Kawal Gucukoglu, herself blind since birth, was a braille transcriber at RNIB for over 23 years, and in this episode of Braillecast, she shares some of the highs and lows of this part of her career, as well as what braille means to her more generally. We discussed the change to Unified English Braille, the evolving role of technology, the division of labour within a large organisation, and unique opportunities afforded to her through her braille-related work.
It’s a question we get asked all the time – how can I read braille more quickly? To answer it, we were delighted to be joined on Tuesday 19 October by Kit Aronoff of Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and founder of Main Line Accessibility Consulting. Kit has a background in elementary education and, using principals of teaching literacy to emerging readers and articles from the National Federation of the Blind, she has developed a series of strategies which are sure to benefit even the most competent of braillists.
Our Chairman Dave Williams led the discussion, and he started by asking Kit to describe her braille learning journey.
- Braille Together Mingle is organised by the American Council of the Blind. For more information, email [email protected]
Perhaps you’re thinking about learning braille, but don’t know whether it’s worth it. Maybe you learnt braille as a child, but haven’t used it since. You might know braille and want to use it in your daily life, but can’t work out where it will fit. Or you could be bamboozled by braille technology, gadgets and gizmos.
A panel of passionate braillists met in front of a live audience on Tuesday 12 October 2021 to celebrate National Braille Week. They explored how to overcome common obstacles faced by people who could benefit from reading by touch, sharing a diverse range of perspectives from braille learners to braille experts, technology enthusiasts to people who just need to get on at home or in the workplace. The audience also had the opportunity to ask questions and contribute their own tips and suggestions.
- Dave Williams
- Claire Amoroso
- Darren Paskell
- Laurent Cadet de Fontenay
- Ben Mustill-Rose
- Matthew Horspool
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
What is computer braille? Are there different flavours? What are all the signs? Why would you want to use it? Is it still relevant now that we have UEB?
The latest occasional Masterclass from RNIB’s braille expert James Bowden answered all of these questions and more.
This session was recorded on Tuesday 21 September 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.
Dave Williams, Chairman of the Braillists, explored how to use braille displays with various combinations of screen reader and web browser, unpicked some of the jargon that appears on the display, and explained how to navigate without a QWERTY keyboard or touch screen.
This session was recorded on Tuesday 7 September 2021. For further information please visit the Braillists Foundation Media Page.
How many listeners remember Talks? The popular screen reader for Series 60 and other phones running the Symbian operating system. It first came to the market in the early 2000s, and perhaps its most well-known proponent in the UK was Steve Nutt, the man behind Computer Room Services. His expertise when it comes to mobile phones is unparalleled and, unphased by the slow demise of Symbian, he’s now just as well-known for his knowledge of Android.
There’s more to Steve than phones though. His company offers assistive technology training and consultancy; braille transcription; and sells a wide range of products including digital audio recorders, talking gadgets, talking book machines, speech synthesizers and other assistive software and, most notably for this podcast, an assortment of braille products. In addition to flagship displays from VisioBraille and Esys, he also sells the full range of leather cases from Executive Products, including a case for the popular Orbit Reader 20.
Call Computer Room Services: 01438 742286
Also In This Episode
- Sight Village Birmingham: Queen Alexandra College, Court Oak Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9TG
- Braille and Beer: The Old House at Home, 193, Lordswood Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 8QP
- Focus 14 Blue 5th gen and Focus 40 Blue 5th gen special offer: call 01604 798070 or order online
- Vision Through Sound CIC