Collection: Technology for Students Who are Visually Impaired

Bullet.gif (1137 bytes)Computer Monitoring in Braille

NCIP Staff (1994)

The following is a summary of adaptive devices which facilitate the monitoring (reading and editing) of information on a computer through Braille Acces. It also includes descriptions of specific products to illustrate the technology. The products cited are used as examples of the technology and do not constitute a complete list of products. Inclusion of a product's name does not imply endorsement of that product and descriptions of products are supplied by the manufacturers and are not evaluations of the products.


Monitoring, editing, and correcting text on the computer in Braille is accomplished through the use of Refreshable Braille displays. (Sometimes referred to as "paperless" Braille displays.) These devices provide paperless Braille access to information on the computer by translating the text on the screen into Braille and displaying the Braille for reading by the user. The display sits on the user's desk under and in front of the computer keyboard. A line at a time is displayed by the electronic raising and lowering of plastic pins which form the Braille characters. A line may be 20, 40 or 80 characters of Braille depending on the product. Because the pins appear and disappear, the display is known as "refreshable." Refreshable displays use an eight-dot cell, the original six dots plus dots seven and eight to indicate on-screen enhancements such as capitalization, control characters, and graphic symbols. A control panel allows the user to move around the screen, move to a particular line, or search for specific material.

There are several features to consider when purchasing a refreshable display, including:

Sample Products

Alva Braille Terminal (HumanWare, Inc.)
45- and 85- cell desktop Braille display Can use either serial or parallel connections. Imported from Holland.

AlvaBraille Terminal (portable) (HumanWare, Inc.)
Available as 23- or 43-cell models with batteries.

Braillex IB40 and IB80 (Adaptec)
40- and 80-column Braille displays from Germany. Hardware driven only, no memory-resident driver software.

DMFM-80 (Baum USA)
This is a Braille workstation with 80-cell Braille display, two ten-cell status banks, built-in Braille keyboard, and more

A new 40-cell Braille display; this one is a keyboard/Braille display that plugs into the keyboard port. Also available with speech and/or 12-cell monitoring modules. It should be available in the spring of 1994.

KTS Braillotherm (American Thermoform Corporation)
40- or 80-cell desktop Braille displays.

Mini Braille (HumanWare, Inc.)
This is a 22-cell Braille display that is portable and runs from batteries. It can be used as a Braille display with a computer or with the Braille 'n Speak 640.

Navigator (TeleSensory, Inc.)
A Braille output device that provides Braille access to MS-DOS displays. The Navigator attaches to the bottom of a PC keyboard or laptop computer and a control panel on the front of the unit provides keys for moving the cursor and display window. An Enhanced VersaBraille model is capable of using Braille to produce, translate, and manage alphanumeric text. The system is compatible with software packages such as Lotus 1-2-3, dBASE III, WordPerfect and telecommunications packages. Software for 3270 termination emulation is included. The Navigator is available in a number of different configurations, including: a 20 braille character, 6-dot desktop unit; a 40 braille character, 8-dot unit; and an 80 character, 8-dot unit with laptop.

PowerBraille (TeleSensory, Inc.)
New 40-cell display from TeleSensory. This unit replaces the Navigator. An 80-cell model is expected later.

[Collection Table of Contents]

[ Home | Library | Videos | Tour | Spotlight | Workshops | Links ]

This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.