Braille Typewriter: Questions and Answers

written by
Perkins Brailler

In the realm of assistive technologies, the braille typewriter stands as a testament to innovation and inclusivity. With its six keys aligning with the six dots of the braille code, this unique device has played a pivotal role in empowering the blind and visually impaired community. As we delve into the world of braille typewriters, this article seeks to unravel the intricacies, uses, and historical significance of this remarkable assistive tool. Join us on a journey of exploration and discovery as we answer key questions surrounding the braille typewriter, shedding light on its functionality, evolution, and impact on accessibility.

What is a braille system?

The Braille system is a tactile writing system created by Louis Braille, designed for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It uses raised dots arranged in a rectangular grid to represent letters, numbers, punctuation, and various symbols. The basic Braille cell consists of six dots arranged in two columns of three dots each. By varying the arrangement of these dots, different characters are formed.

Louis Braille developed this system in the early 19th century, and it has since become a crucial tool for literacy and communication among the blind and visually impaired community. Braille enables individuals to read and write using their sense of touch, providing access to written information and facilitating educational and professional opportunities.

What is a braille typewriter?

A braille machine for blind is a device designed for producing braille text. It typically consists of a keyboard with keys representing braille characters, and as the user types, the corresponding raised dots are embossed onto paper, creating braille text. These typewriters are used by individuals who are blind or visually impaired to write and produce documents in braille, a tactile writing system used by people with vision loss. Braille typewriters have been an important tool for communication and literacy for the visually impaired community.

Who invented a braille machine?

Frank Haven Hall, a notable figure in the field of education for the blind, introduced the Braille typewriter in 1892 at the Illinois Institution for the Blind in Chicago, Illinois. Motivated by a desire to enhance the writing experience for his students using Braille letters, Hall’s invention marked a significant advancement in assistive technology for the visually impaired. The Braille typewriter played a crucial role in fostering literacy and communication for individuals with visual disabilities.

The Perkins Brailler

The Perkins Brailler

The Perkins Brailler, often referred to as a “braille typewriter,” features keys corresponding to each of the six dots in the braille code, along with a space key, backspace key, and line space key. Resembling a manual typewriter, it includes side knobs to advance paper, and a carriage return lever above the keys. The paper rollers have grooves designed to prevent crushing the raised dots formed by the brailler.

Before the introduction of the Perkins Brailler, writing in braille was a cumbersome process. Individuals used a stylus and slate or complex, expensive, and fragile braille writing machines. The Perkins Brailler significantly simplified the writing of braille characters, making it more accessible.

The Jot a Dot 

The Jot a Dot

The Jot a Dot Pocket Brailler is a compact, manual braille writer specially designed for individuals with visual impairments. Featuring six keys for Braille entry, the keys are distinguished by high-contrast colors for easy identification by users with low vision. Braille is written from left to right, with 20 cells of braille per line. Users can read braille in real-time by turning the unit over.

The brailler is equipped with a built-in reading stand, ensuring stability on hard surfaces. Tactile line and cell indicators help users track their location on the page, with the line indicator displaying the current line being brailled, and the cell indicator indicating the embossing head’s position on the line. The device accommodates standard photocopy paper (80 GSM Bond or 20-pound paper) in A5 and A6 paper sizes, providing flexibility.

Designed as a single-piece unit, the Jot a Dot Pocket Brailler eliminates the risk of losing parts, and it comes with a convenient neck strap for portability.

How does the braille typewriter work?

How does the braille typewriter work?

The braille typewriter is designed to enable individuals with visual impairments to type and produce braille characters on paper. Here’s a basic overview of how it works:

  1. Keys Corresponding to Braille Dots: The braille typewriter typically features six keys, each corresponding to one of the six dots in a braille cell. Braille characters are formed using various combinations of these six dots.
  2. Inserting Paper: Similar to a manual typewriter, the user inserts paper into the machine.
  3. Typing: When a key is pressed, it activates a mechanism that raises specific combinations of pins or hammers corresponding to the chosen braille characters. As the user types, the braille dots are embossed onto the paper.
  4. Reading with Fingers: The resulting raised dots on the paper can be read by touch, allowing individuals with visual impairments to interpret the written content with their fingers.

Overall, the braille typewriter facilitates the creation of braille text, enabling individuals with visual impairments to express themselves in writing and access information independently.

In conclusion, the braille typewriter emerges as a transformative force, bridging the gap between written communication and tactile accessibility for individuals with visual impairments. From its historical origins at the Illinois Institution for the Blind in 1892 to its present-day relevance, the braille typewriter has been instrumental in fostering literacy and independence. As technology continues to advance, this classic device remains a symbol of resilience and adaptability. By addressing questions and providing insights, this article aims to deepen our appreciation for the enduring impact of the braille typewriter, acknowledging its role in empowering and enriching the lives of those who navigate the world through touch.

What machine is used to write braille?

Braille is written using mechanical braillers, which are robust desktop machines resembling typewriters. Equipped with only six keys, each corresponding to a dot in the braille cell, along with a spacebar and backspace key, these devices provide a tactile means of producing braille characters.

Is braille becoming obsolete? 

Far from it! Braille remains vibrant and relevant. Many braille readers emphasize that braille literacy has been instrumental in fostering independence, enhancing their abilities both at home and in the workplace.

How does a Braille typewriter function? 

There are two widely used Braille Writers—the Perkins Brailler and the Jot-A-Dot. Conceptually similar to a typewriter, the Braille writer involves placing paper into the machine. The user utilizes a combination of six keys and the space bar to create letters, contractions, or symbols in Braille.