Monday, April 18, 2016

Braille Readers Benefit from Technology Advances

Although some of us may occasionally find it challenging to use, digital technology has been a gift to many people - especially those with disabilities. The Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH), the National Library Service and Library of Congress have utilized technology for many years to provide access to the printed word for people with disabilities.

In fact, braille readers have been able to download books and magazines since the late 1990s, long before most of us even considered perusing books in audio or e-book format. (At the time, many of us were just happy to be able to download music.)

Library patron Judy Dixon with a refreshable braille device. LBPH photo.

But braille is very bulky. Even if someone had a braille embosser to use in producing a copy of a downloaded braille book, it might require massive amounts of braille paper to produce a hard copy.

Enter technology! Refreshable braille devices can make reading braille much more convenient. These devices enable the braille reader to download the braille file (.brf) of a book or magazine from the TLBPH’s BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. The file can be saved to an SD card so all the patron needs to carry is the device, which is about the size of a hardback book.

The refreshable braille device in use. LBPH photo.

Refreshable braille devices come in many sizes and prices. Most of them use the new Unified English Braille code. Unfortunately, none are currently affordable for the TLBPH to provide to braille readers. However, we are hoping it is only a matter of time before we will be able to do this so braille publications are as portable as print.

For more information about TLBPH, please visit:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

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