Braille technology firm creates ‘Kindle for the blind’
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British firm Bristol Braille Technology plans to launch a Braille e-reader for blind people this year in an effort to enhance their reading experiences and spare them from having to lug around hefty print volumes.
Developed by Louis Braille in the 19th century, the braille – an alphabet of raised dots – has allowed for millions of blind and partially-sighted people to experience the joys of reading. However, its printed form is seen as inconvenient and non-portable.
To overcome this, Bristol Braille Technology has developed what it says is the world’s first multi-line braille e-reader, in which the e-reader displays nine lines of text at a time, or around a third of a page of regular print.
“This means you only have to press the forward button every 360 characters, rather than every 20,” said Stephanie Sergeant, whose company Vision Through Sound provides training for blind people and has been working with Bristol Braille Technology.
“It refreshes a line at a time, starting at the top, so even though it takes a little while for all the lines to refresh, you can start reading almost as soon as you press the forward key.”
Known as the Canute 360, any text that has been translated into braille format can be downloaded into the device, potentially putting an endless supply of reading material at the user’s fingertips.
The proportion of blind people who can read braille lettering - formed of one to six dots in a range of combinations - has fallen, partly due to advances in audio-description technology. However, Bristol Braille Technology says learning to read it can significantly boost literacy and numeracy rates among the blind.
“Innovations in the field of braille technology make this a very exciting time for braille readers,” said Claire Maxwell, senior product developer for braille at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Bristol Braille Technology has said that the final prototype of the Canute 360 will enter mass production this year, with the intention for it to be priced similar to a high-end laptop.
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