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Collection: Technology for Students Who are Visually Impaired

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NCIP Staff, 1994

The following is a summary of adaptive devices for outputting text on a computer in Braille. The products mentioned here 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 manufacturer and are not an evaluation of the product.

[Braille Translation Software | Braille Embossers]

Braille Translation Software


The printing out of text in Braille is done with a Braille embosser. Before embossing, however, the text saved on the computer must be translated into Braille. This is done with a product called Braille translation software. This process involves more than substituting the Braille for text but involves the translation of the format, such as indents, tables and other special formatting. In addition, Braille code takes more space than text on a page so the physical layout, such as pagination needs to be determined. Some software work with heavily formatted texts as well as certain word processing applications better than others, so this may be a consideration when choosing a particular product. Another consideration may be the product's ability to work with different braille codes, since the translation of braille codes into other braille codes, and the translation of braille into text, known as "back" translation, is performed by this product.. The cost of Braille translation software ranges from $200 - $800, depending on its capabilities and whether it is packaged with other features.

Sample Products

Auto Braille (KANSYS, Inc.)
A memory-resident version of TurboBraille (see below) for IBM PC compatibles. Will translate into Grade 2, Grade 1 or computer Braille. Occupies approximately 48K of memory. Available as a stand-alone program or in combination with TurboBraille.

TranscriBEX (Raised Dot Computing)
For the Apple II. Is an add-on feature for enhancing word processing, braille translation and braille formatting capabilities of the BEX product. Features include: automatice braille page numbering; running heads; literary format prose; poems and plays formatting; foreign languages are represented in Grade 1 braille; tables and other columns. Creates large-print output on the screen. Translates print files to Grade 1 or Grade 2 braille and supports braille output to every braille embosser on the market currently. Can back translate Grade 2 braille files to print.

Braille -Talk (GW Micro)
For Apple II and IBM PC and compatibles. Braille-Talk is a Grade 1 or 2 Braille translator with voice output. Allows standard text to be translated into Braille for embossing. No prior knowledge of text-to-Braille translation is necessary. Information displayed on the screen is simultaneously spoken as each key is typed. Speech output may be silenced at any time. Supports a variety of embossers as well as most speech synthesizers.

Duxbury Braille Translator (Duxbury Systems, Inc.)
Available in the IBM PC version or Macintosh version. Is a text-to-Braille and Braille-to-text translation program. This translator allows a sighted person with no knowledge of Braille to type and edit text, and format it into Braille. Capable of Grade 1 and Grade 2 Braille output in American as well as many foreign languages. Can be used with most word processing programs.

Hot Dots (IBM) (Raised Dot Computing)
For the IBM PC and compatibles. Allows the user to translate the native files of over 30 word processing programs into Grade 2, Grade 1 and no translation Braille. Requires 256K of memory. Demo disk available.

MegaDots (Raised Dot Computing, Inc.)
A word processing, Braille translation and large print program for the IBM computer that allows the user to produce ink or Braille output from the same document. The program comes with predefined styles for items such as headings, items in a list, tables of contents and indexes. Can import files from several other programs (including Macintosh applications). Supports most ink and Braille printers.

PC Braille (ARTS Computer Products, Inc.)
For IBM PC and compatibles. Translates text files into Grade 1, Grade 2, or Computer Braille format. Translated files can be printed on a Braille printer or sent to a refreshable Braille display using standard DOS commands. The provided contraction table, exception table, and Braille translation table can format text for printing or brailling. Requires 256K of memory. Demo disk available.

ProBraille (Microtalk)
For Apple II. A software program that translates text files into Grade 1, Grade 2 or BANA Braille for printing on a Braille embosser. Commands enable levels of translation to be changed within a single document. May be used with Echo speech synthesizer.

Ransley Braille Interface (HumanWare)
Hardware that connects any standard computer to a Braille embosser. Grade 2 Braille can then be produced in the same way that printed output would be generated from a non-Braille printer. Knowledge of Braille is not required to use the Ransley Braille Interface. Appropriate for low-volume production of materials that do not require special formatting.

Turbo Braille (KANSYS, Inc.)
For IBM PCs. A Braille translation program that produces Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3 or computer Braille from text files. Program handles formatted ASCII files, files created with WordPerfect or WordStar or Braille Intermediate Format (BIF). Supports a variety of Braille embossers. The program also supports graphhic files embedded in Braille documents.

Braille Embossers


Braille embossers punch special 100 lb. paper with braille symbols to provide hardcopy in braille. These products are grouped according to need from at-home use all the way to production-level machines with corresponding prices from $1700 to $30,000.

Some important criteria for choosing an embosser are:

Sample Products

Braille Blazer (Blazie Engineering)
Synthesized speech output. Creates braille on a wide array of papers. 15" x 10" x 5". Weighs about 12 lbs.

Braille BookMaker (Enabling Technologies Company)
Produces interpoint braille at 80 cps. Prints on tractor fed or loose materials. Transportable, stores a 30-page file and makes copies independently, freeing the computer for other work. 21-1/4" x 18" x 8-3/4". Weighs 52 lbs.

Braille Express (Enabling Technologies Company)
Operates at 150 cps, and will generate about 500 pages in one hour. Optional single-side operation embosses at 90 cps. It will store a 500-page file.

Braillo (American Thermoform)
Serial and parallel ports. Two-speed design for use on various paper qualities. Variable line and sheet lengths. Six- or eight-dot braille. Set-up program included.

Everest D T (TeleSensory)
Has an internal speech system speak all set-up parameters. A single sheet feeder produces double sided interpoint braille at 100 cps. at a low noise level.

Juliet (Enabling Technologies Company)
Produces interpoint braille at 55 cps and single-side operation embosses at 40 cps. Has an optional sheet feeder for printing on loose materials. Can be operated from its front panel keypad or from the keyboard of the user's computer. 11-1/2" x 24-1/2" x 9-1/2". Weighs 52 lbs.

Marathon Brailler (Enabling Technologies Company)
A high-volume production embosser. Runs at 2000 charactersper second. equipped with both serial and parallel ports to allow interface with virtually any computer system or host device

Ohtsuki BT-5000 (American Thermoform Corporation)
Produces braille and print on the same page simultaneously. Also includes braille graphics and braille-only options. Compatible with most microcomputers, voice synthesizers, and popular software.

Porta-Thiel Braille-Printer (Blazie Engineering {Importer})
Small braille embosser prints on all types of paper. A built-in speech synthesizer announces when it's out of paper.

Reusus Braille Printer (American Thermoform Corporation)
Braille embosser which prints at 140 CPS.

Romeo (Enabling Technologies Company )
Prints braille and graphics on a variety of materials. Available in both 20 cps and 40 cps models. Prints on tractor-fed paper, adhesive-backed plastic or light metal foils. 21-1/2" x 12-1/2" x 8". Weighs 27 lbs.

Thiel Beta-X3 (Blazie Engineering)
Medium speed embosser (130) CPS

VersaPoint Braille Printer (Telesensory)
Prints at 40 cps with a 30,000 character buffer. Tractor-fed printer gives the user a choice 6-dot or 8-dot braille with underline spacing and sideways printing. Uses 11 solenoids (styluses).

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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. 

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