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Orbit Reader is Available for Everyone!

Close up front view of Orbit Reader 20

Today we celebrate! Orbit Reader 20 is available in mass quantities!

It’s been a long journey, and the trials of bringing the Orbit Reader 20 to market were many, but those days are behind us. Cultivating a new technology always takes time, and this project was no exception. After a few false starts, some early pin issues, and challenges ramping up the production process, there is now a steady flow of reliable units.

This device contains 20 refreshable 8-dot braille cells, eight high-quality braille-input keys with a space bar, and both stand-alone and remote connectivity features for less than $450 in the U.S. The connectivity to phones, tablets, and computers combined with the ability to control the host device opened up the world for braille access. The SD card, reading and writing software, and simple functionality mean it works great by itself, too. The small size makes it conveniently portable.

Here’s what one Orbit Reader 20 customer wrote to us recently:

“Our orbit has become an absolutely essential component in our lives. My wife took a serious fall a couple of weeks ago and was in the hospital and then a rehab facility. I’ve carried the orbit with me to and from the hospital and rehab facility to take notes of things she wanted me to bring or take home or do and it has been absolutely wonderful. We’re both over 70 and memories are failing and I couldn’t have kept up with things without our orbit.”

Another Orbit Reader 20 customer had this to say:

“For me, one of the very reasons I went with the Orbit Reader 20 is its portability and I liked the idea of 20 cells much better than 14 or even 18 cells. Yes, size matters, even with portable, refreshable braille displays. I can either throw it in a purse to take to a meeting or to have on hand to read while I wait for an appointment, a pocket of my knitting bag, putting hundreds of patterns available at my fingertips at any moment or in my teaching supplies to use as part of a braille lesson with one of my students. Of course, it’s one more thing that adds to my students’ interest and motivation! It’s so convenient with so many uses! It’s just awesome!”

The availability of a low-cost braille display has profound implications for braille literacy worldwide. Just as important was the achievement of the Transforming Braille Group to shake up the industry by introducing new braille pin technology that makes it possible to keep the cost low. As a result, more companies are developing inexpensive technology to solve the braille problem, and they are all putting their unique twist on the challenge. It will be some time before these other technologies are available, but it is exciting to know they are in development.

APH is now taking orders of any size for the Orbit Reader 20. A new era in braille is here and there is hope that no one will ever again find braille technology out of reach.

Knowledge Management

Twelve APH employees from Resource Services, NIMAC, Educational Product Research, and Technical Product Research recently completed the Knowledge Management certification program from the KM Institute. The goal of KM is to gather, organize, and provide actionable knowledge for use at the point of need. This team is now ready to build on early successes in KM, such as the Accessibility Committee, Accessibility Hub, and In-House Braille Initiative. All these efforts along with additional KM initiatives are to help APH create the competitive advantage needed to continue to fulfill its mission as the global leader in the blindness field. Leveraging our knowledge powers innovation increases efficiency, strengthens collaboration, and enables rapid, fully informed decision-making. We’re transforming ourselves to empower the people we serve.


APH Press Advisory Board

Bottom row L-R: Sharon Sachs, Karen Ross, Stephanie Bissonette, George Abbott.
Top row L-R: Danene Fast, Janet Ulwicksacca, Debra Sewell, Bill Wiener, Amy Parker, and Cheryl Kamei-Hannan.

When APH assumed stewardship of the AFB Press in July 2018, we committed ourselves to continuing the legacy of AFB’s work. Included in that goal was to solicit input from our field to ensure that we continued the Press in an informed and collaborative way.

The inaugural meeting of the APH Advisory Board occurred in conjunction with Annual Meeting 2018. Led by co-chairs Karen Ross and Sharon Sachs, the board represents a wide breadth of knowledge, experience, expertise, and perspective. The group is charged with providing advisory guidance to APH to ensure sound planning for the next three years and beyond.

Product Updates

  • This tactile adaptation of Jérôme Ruillier’s print book, Quatre Petit Coins De Rien Du Tout, is about what it means to belong and to have access. The friends of Little Square, all circles with varying textures, fit easily through the round school door but Little Square cannot join them. Following the principle of “where there is a will there’s a way,” they suggest Little Square alter himself (fold, turn, stretch, twist!) to fit through the door. At last, but not without some emotion, all finally realize it is the school that must change to fit everyone’s needs. As the book’s message is shared, children can manipulate the shapes, explore textures, and relate the illustrations to this very meaningful text.

    Four Little Corners is produced for APH by the French tactile book publisher, Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (LDQR).

  • Now individuals who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy solving crossword puzzles on their computer. This free download is compatible with most browsers and screen readers. Just log in, select a puzzle and start solving.

    • Works with desktop browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari.
    • Compatible with screen readers including JAWS, NVDA, Narrator, and VoiceOver.

    Note: This program is currently supported on desktop only. Free download!

  • Traditional braille consists of six dots per cell, but six dots can only represent 64 unique patterns. Braille overcomes this limitation by letting two or more cells represent a single character preceding the symbol for a letter, for example, with a dot six makes that letter capital.

    However, it is often desirable, especially in scientific or computer fields, to be able to represent a full character set, like ASCII in a one-to-one correspondence. That is where the 8-dot cell becomes important. With eight dots to represent a character, you can make 256 unique patterns.

    APH offers a free file download that allows you to print your own slate on a 3-D printer.

  • “Build” a tactile book . . . and a connection to literacy.

    Tactile Book Builder (TBB)* contains a large and varied selection of materials for creating tactile books of many kinds –firsthand experience stories, concept books, simple texture books, informational books, alphabet books and more. The extensive assortment of pages, in black and a range of contrasting colors, permit easy attachment of objects and presentation of collaged textures, shapes, raised lines, and multisensory elements. There are fabric pages for hook & loop attachments, pocket pages, magnetic pages, polyblend pages, needlepoint canvas pages, board stock pages, re-sealable plastic pages for small or scented items, and a page designed for adding recorded sounds. All are pre-punched to fit binders (4 large, 3 small) that have re-closeable plastic loops and an open front so that users can insert their own tactile cover art. Braille paper, braille label material, and clear page protectors offer multiple ways to add braille and print text.

    *TBB binders and pages are interchangeable with the binders and pages in CVI Book Builder, another member of the growing Book Builder family of products.


    Tactile Book Builder Kit

    Included in the TBB kit and available separately is a handbook (120 pages) addressing: learning through touch and the skills needed to examine and interpret tactile illustrations, principles of good tactile design, specific guidelines for different types of tactile illustrations, examples of exemplary tactile books, and “story-starter” ideas.

  • The halls of APH are buzzing! There are a thousand bees flying through the building! Our quality control department has finished making sure every bee is a healthy bee, and in just a few more weeks, you can all enjoy the sweet sounds of, “Hi! I’m Braille Buzz!”

    Developed from an idea submitted by Diane Brauner and professors at UNC-Chapel Hill, Braille Buzz provides young braille readers and writers with an engaging device for learning early braille literacy concepts and phonics skills, with auditory and tactile support.

    Look for the launch announcement in next month’s APH News!


  • Load up a world of savings on selected APH products with APH’s Fall Harvest Sale 2018, October 1—December 31. As always, first come, first served.

  • Presentation/Exhibits

    October 1-3, 2018
    Alabama AER Conference
    Birmingham, AL

    October 11-12, 2018
    Low Incidence Conference
    Salem, Oregon

    October 24-26, 2018
    NBA Professional Development Conference
    Detroit, MI

    October 28-29, 2018
    California STEAM Symposium
    Long Beach, CA

    November 14-16, 2018
    Columbus, OH

    CIP Event

    October 27, 2018
    San Francisco State University Lab Day CIP Event
    San Francisco State University


    October 18, 2018
    Internet Archive Workshop, Print Disabled Collection at Open Library
    San Francisco, CA

  • Last week, APH held our Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Louisville, KY. The event was a great success with nearly 500 individuals in attendance. EOTs and special guests, along with vendors and staff, all gathered to celebrate APH’s 160th Anniversary and the 150th Annual Meeting of our Trustees. “From History to New Horizons” was our theme, and the week was filled with opportunities to learn and network including:

    • The Opening Session/Keynote Address – with the presentation of the Virgil Zickel and Wings of Freedom Awards, recognition of our 160thanniversary essay contest winners, and an entertaining keynote address by APH’s own Mike Hudson
    • Four general sessions – featuring APH’s State of the Company address, agency updates and updates from other organizations
    • 34 breakout sessions – with topics ranging from new product updates, to new EOT training, and information on APH’s new website and branding roll-out
    • APH InSights Art Awards Banquet – where 26 artists were recognized for their outstanding and creative creations.

    Watch for next month’s APH News which will feature a more detailed write up of this year’s Annual Meeting.

Treasures from the APH Libraries

The APH Barr Library supports research initiatives at APH, while the Migel Collection is one of the largest collections of nonmedical information related to blindness in the world. Although the collections do not circulate, arrangements can be made to use the materials on-site. In addition, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will continue to make materials available through the online catalog at

  • Aquillano, S., Hawkins, A., In Jackson, J., In Whiman, M., Chicago Public Library. Design & Play: Imagination Needs Places to Thrive. Boston, MA: Design Museum Foundation, 2017

    Design & Play talks about design and the impact of outdoor play and spaces on our lives. It emphasizes the importance play has in child development and how play, whether an individual or social act, involves freedom of choice, collaboration, problem solving and develops critical thinking skills, resilience and empathy. The authors stress the need for accessibility in playground design and thinking to overcome barriers that prevent inclusion. Throughout the book, one finds examples of accessibility design and incorporation; however, Design & Play just scratches the surface and serves as a starting point to a greater conversation regarding accessibility by offering compelling arguments and examples for not only play designers, but also for communities to build upon when thinking of space and points of interaction.

    Design & Play is an intriguing mix of documented history and science, featuring case studies, summarized research, and articles from play experts. It features a collection of amazing and curious playscapes from urban to rural, natural to manufactured, themed to abstract from around the world with photos, images of the design process, and stories. It is an infusion of ideas, designs and images regarding the world of play and its impact on the young and old.

  • Maxfield, Kathryn Erroll. What Girl Scouting Should Mean to Blind Girls. Boston: 1934.

    “Blind girls are always having to have things done for them,” the author says during a 1934 speech to a Boston Girl Scouts convention. From endangering those around them by using inadequate tea-drinking etiquette, to depending on sighted friends to have fun at parties, Maxfield believes that girls who are blind demand too many allowances be made for them. To fulfill their duties as citizens, they must be even more ready to do their share and make allowances than sighted girls. Girl Scouting will develop an appreciation of service to others, and cure the lack of social poise and happiness she believes are inherent to girls who are blind. The complete speech has been digitized for Internet Archive at


    APH is working with the Internet Archive to digitize portions of the M.C. Migel Collection. Search the phrase “full text” to find these items. The digitized texts are available in a variety of formats, including DAISY, Kindle, EPUB, PDF, etc.

    Contact Library staff:, 800-223-1839, ext. 705

Braille Book Corner

APH offers a number of recreational books in braille available with Quota funds. Each of these titles was originally transcribed and produced by APH for the National Library Service which has graciously granted permission for this offering. As usual, these titles have been added to the APH Louis Database where you can find thousands of titles produced in accessible formats.

  • By: Jan Brett

    T-N2214-60 – $19.50

    In this retelling of the traditional Ukrainian tale, a boy’s lost mitten becomes a refuge from the cold for an increasing number of animals.
    Grades P-2. *(AR Quiz No. 168511, BL 2.3 Pts: 0.5)

  • By: Shari Green

    T-N2216-00 – $86.00

    A novel in verse. Sixth-grader Macy, who is deaf, expects disaster when she is sent to help elderly neighbor Iris pack for a move to an assisted living home. To her surprise, Iris soon becomes a firm friend who helps Macy face her own major life changes. Grades 3-7. *(AR Quiz No. 189078, BL 5.2 Pts: 3.0)

  • By: Pete Hautman

    T-N2213-20 – $116.50

    Hoping to win a cash prize in a pizza-eating contest after accidentally racking up a tab on his mother’s credit card, fourteen-year-old David juggles his competitive eating training with the responsibility of looking after his autistic younger brother, Mal. Grades 5-8. *(AR Quiz No. 191877, BL 4.3 Pts: 7.0)

  • By: Sharon Bolton

    T-N2185-90 – $215.00

    After switching from the detective squad to the marine policing unit, Lacey Flint discovers a shrouded body while swimming in the River Thames and realizes someone meant her to. Meanwhile, detective Mark Joesbury, working a complicated undercover case, may have gone over to the other side.

  • By: Eve O. Schaub

    T-N2211-70 – $163.50

    The author of this memoir confronts her problem of holding on to too many possessions and creating general clutter in her house. As she tackles the worst offender, which she dubs the “Hell Room,” she examines the motivations behind her fierce desire to cling to so many things.

From The Editor

Starting in 2004, I relied on APH News to help me share information about new products and current events to the colleagues I represented in Arizona in my new role as EOT. I continued that practice through my work in Massachusetts, and in 2016, I had the opportunity to edit the news in my new role at APH. Today I’m sending a farewell message to you all as I move on to new opportunities.

At Annual Meeting’s closing session I reflected on the paths we take and the way they intersect. Here’s a snippet:

“Each of us does a lot of good as we tackle our life’s work. But it’s the gathering, the sharing, that moves us forward and makes the good great and the great even better. That’s when movements take hold and the needle is moved.”

“Sharing our knowledge builds trust and expertise. We are a learning organization, a learning field, and that means we listen to each other, learn from each other, and build on the foundations we have created.”

Thank you for sharing your paths with me. What sometimes felt like a rugged road now feels smoother and more beautiful.