RESOURCE: Low-Cost, Mechanical Braille-Writers
As many as 90% of the world’s 45 million blind people live in developing countries. But only about 10% of them have the tools they need to write in Braille. Even if they had electronic Braille writing equipment, specialized Braille paper is even more rare in developing countries. Also, two billion people still lack access to electricity.
Tim Connell, in writing for the January 2008 issue of the American Foundation of the Blind Access World newsletter says there is a solution to this problem. Two products have recently been developed that can write Braille onto regular paper without using electricity. One is the Jot a Dot, which has been used successfully in a pilot evaluation project in Uganda. The other is the Tatrapoint Braille Writer, which has the additional innovation that the keys can be spaced differently to accommodate different sized hands. (Think of rapidly growing children, with their rapidly growing hands.) Both are designed to be small and portable, like the traditional stylus and slate that also has been used for producing Braille by hand. However, both operate similarly to electronic Braille writers.
Tim Connell criticizes most blindness agencies and organizations for failing to give more support to distributing simple Braille writing technologies in developing countries. It should be noted that Connell works for the Quantam Technology company that sells both the Jot a Dot and the Tatrapoint Braille Writer. This, however, does not invalidate some of his underlying arguments. For example, he points out that blind people deserve to have a wider range of technologies and tools that enable them to write in different situations and contexts–just like sighted people do.
Read more about the Jot a Dot, the Tatrapoint Braille Writer, and Tim Connell’s views on why agencies should be more actively involved in supporting low-tech (and high-tech) solutions for blind people, at http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw090107.
Read more about the Jot a Dot and the Tatrapoint Braille Writer products at the Quantam Technology web site.
If you’re interested in other low-cost, portable technologies for blind people in developing countries, then you might also be interested in reading about the Sightsaver’s Dolphin Pen. The Dolphin Pen is designed to enable blind people in developing countries to read computers.
We Can Do learned about Tim Connell’s article on alternate Braille writing equipment through the Accessibility discussion group. The Accessibility email group is devoted to brainstorming how to make the XO laptop more accessible for disabled children in developing countries. People can join the Accessibility mailing list for free.
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