Resources for Braille Embossers and Refreshable Braille Displays
Since APH’s BrailleBlaster™ braille translation software is available free to anyone, more individuals may be interested in access to a braille embosser. BrailleBlaster is a powerful, yet easy-to-use braille translation program that is offered free-of-charge as a service to the field of blindness.
This article covers:
- Braille Embosser Overview
- Braille Embossers and Refreshable Braille Displays
- Locating a Braille Embosser in Your Community
- Features to Look for in a Braille Embosser
- Representative List of Lower-Cost Braille Embossers
- Sources of Funding for Accessible Technology
- The Future of Braille and Tactile Graphics
Braille Embosser Overview
Braille embossers are devices that let you output braille text to a physical, portable medium—paper! Hard copy braille is currently the only way to enjoy a full page of braille text. Depending on the software and embosser, you may be able to emboss tactile graphics as well.
AFB’s FamilyConnect™ has published this video overview of braille translation software and braille embossers.
Braille Embossers and Refreshable Braille Displays
While braille embossers allow you create full pages of braille, they can be costly for individuals. An alternative may be a refreshable braille display. BrailleBlaster software is compatible with braille displays.
Refreshable braille displays, usually built into notetaker, are a good option for reading physical braille; however these devices are limited to a single line of text and cannot display graphics. These may be limitations you are willing to accept and could even be advantageous because of the portability and flexibility of a refreshable braille display.
An ideal situation for many braille readers would be to have access to both an embosser and a refreshable braille display. While a notetaker is advantageous for many, most blind learners and professionals value the ability to emboss full pages of formatted text and images. For example, with an embosser, younger students can could emboss formatted puzzles prepared by a teacher or parent, such as crosswords, hidden word, or Sudoku games.
Locating a Braille Embosser in Your Community
It’s possible that you may be able to send braille files, such as those generated by BrailleBlaster, to a publically-available braille embosser. Note that publicly available-embossers are not yet wide-spread.
Public Libraries: Some public library systems now have braille embossers available to patrons. Check with the main branch of your public library to ask if they offer this service.
Teachers of the Visually Impaired: Ask your TVI if he or she is aware of braille embosser access for parents.
Features to Look for in a Braille Embosser
If you wish to purchase a braille embosser, here are some factors to consider. Certain features, such as embossing speed, can significantly increase the cost.
- How fast do you want to produce documents?
- What quality do you need? (for example, good dot height)
- How much noise is acceptable?
- Do you need the embosser to be portable?
- Do you need to emboss graphics?
- Do you need wireless connectivity?
This article, published by the National Federation of the Blind, contains many important questions to ask. Although the article is several years old, many of the questions are still pertinent.
Additionally, several embosser manufacturers have a “questions to ask yourself” page on their websites.
Example Lower-Cost Embossers
Here are a few examples of lower-cost embossers.*
The National Library Service of the Library of Congress offers a more comprehensive list of embossers of all types. Please check with each manufacturer for the most current information.
*Note: These embossers are listed for informational purposes. The American Printing House for the Blind does not endorse any particular embosser.
Sources of Funding
Funding to purchase assistive technology can be challenging, but there are more options today than ever before.
State Offices for the Blind: Check with your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office or Office for the Blind. Some states have specific services for people who are blind; others include these services as part of a Vocational Rehabilitation program. In addition, certain cities and states may have local agencies that serve people who are blind.
These offices may require you to apply and open a case and may ask you to justify your need for the assistive technology. Depending upon a host of factors, an organization may fund all or part of the cost of purchasing assistive technology.
For Individuals Who Are Deafblind: For individuals with both a significant vision and hearing impairment, the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program may purchase assistive technology. This is a federal program with contacts in all 50 states. You can check to see if you qualify and get more information at http://www.icanconnect.org/
Service Organizations: Some charitable organizations, such as Lions Clubs International, may be willing to fund assistive technology purchases.
Online Fundraising Platforms: GoFundMe.com and other online “crowdfunding” platforms are a newer way to raise funds by requesting donations from the online community. Many individuals and schools currently have GoFundMe campaigns for purchasing equipment.
List of Funding Sources Across Disabilities
The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) offers this extensive list of possible funding sources (this list covers equipment for many types of disabilities).
The Future of Braille and Tactile Graphics
With the current emphasis on imagery in society and many aspects of education, getting quality tactile renditions of graphical content is increasingly important. Faster embossers, refreshable graphics tablets, and artificial intelligence software are all areas that need significant growth before true inclusion can achieved. In the meantime, 3-D printers are a viable option. Touch Mapper offers an exciting way to download maps that you can either render on a 3-D printer or emboss with a graphical braille embosser.