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APH’s Jessica Minneci Discovers a Literary World on the Monarch

A woman with long hair types on the Monarch at a desk in an office.

Jessica Minneci, APH’s Communications Associate, composes blogs during work and spends her nights drafting novels. One-line braille displays assist with these tasks, but 40 characters aren’t enough compared to a full computer screen of print available to a sighted person. APH’s Monarch aims to level the playing field with its 10-line by 32-cell display that shows braille and tactile graphics on the same surface.

Jessica was introduced to the Monarch in 2023 when the APH team gave a demonstration of the device. “I cried happy tears after that meeting,” said Jessica. “Having the Monarch in my hands was like holding an electronic version of half a braille page. It was a dream come true.”

When she was little, Jessica got in trouble for reading past her bedtime. Originally, she devoured braille books, but when mainstream titles were no longer embossed in a physical format, she reluctantly switched to a one-line braille display. “With the Monarch, I no longer have to settle for reading a book in small snippets. For the first time, I can download novels from Bookshare and access multiple lines of each page simultaneously, similar to the way a sighted reader would.” The size of the display also allows for the presence of formatted elements, like headings or a chapter title centered at the top of the page. Before the Monarch, formatting was only present in physical braille books. “After many years of advancing line by line, I forgot it existed and what it looked like. Yet, my sighted peers understood formatting because they read full pages of print every day. Now, students who read braille on the Monarch will be on equal footing with their classmates.”

The Monarch also simplifies both writing and editing as users can create and save .docx files in the word processor.  Jessica grew up typing on a Perkins-style keyboard. “This one is very comfortable,” said Jessica. “My fingers fly across it as new ideas come to me.” When she needs to proof files, she uses the zoom in key to create double-spaced braille. This makes it easier to read and find mistakes. “I’ll use the point and click method or the directional pad to navigate and fix errors, and then zoom out to create single-spaced braille so I can reread my work.” The Monarch’s speech capability also assists with this process as the device will read the document aloud when users press space with G at the top of the file. “This helps me identify misspellings, word echoes, or phrases that sound funny and need to be revised,” said Jessica. “If I had this device while I was in school, I bet my papers would have turned out even better.”

Jessica hopes TVIs will purchase the Monarch to increase their students’ braille literacy skills: “Download books for them to read after school that will whisk them away on adventures to far away lands. Let their imagination run wild with free time to write stories in class. Once they love braille, they will enjoy learning even more.” Purchase the Monarch to breathe new life into braille literacy and set students up for success in school and work.

Preorder your Monarch today!

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