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Braille and computers

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Braille is a system of writing that is based on combinations of dots on a 6-dot (standard) or 8-dot (technical) grid. Braille users are able to review material in a character-by-character manner, which is useful when spelling is a concern or when reviewing equations or programming code. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people who are blind are “fluent” in Braille. In 1993, fewer than 9% of registered blind students could read Braille (Jernigan, 1994), and these numbers are likely to be lower for adults who become blind later in life. Williams et al. (2006) found that only 6% of employees with visual impairments used Braille documents, and 4% used Braille displays.

Computer access products that employ Braille include keyboards (in which each key represents a dot and chordic input is used to type each letter), conversion programs that prepare text files to be printed in Braille, various types of Braille printers, and refreshable Braille displays.

Refreshable Braille displays typically consist of a single row of 8-dot Braille cells that are each made up of a group of retractable pins. The pins extend to form a Braille letter. As the person continues to read though a document, the display is refreshed, and the pins extend in a different pattern to form a new letter. Displays can be created that represent a full page of text or even an image, however the cost of the refreshable technology currently makes that prohibitive. Many of these systems provide Screen reading along with Braille output.


  • Williams, M., D. Sabata, et al. (2006). "User Needs Evaluation of Workplace Accommodations." WORK, 27(4): 355-370.

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