Bristol Braille

Finalist category: AbilityNet Accessibility Award

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Accessibility Award, Winner, 2017

The world’s first multi-line digital Braille e-reader

“This is not just a hardware project; it’s a labour of love that’s lasted five years. All of us came through either the Hackspace or the Braille reading community,” said Ed Rogers from Bristol Braille.

Affordable Braille is essential for blind literacy, education and employment, yet Braille use has been declining for decades due to stagnant technology.

Bristol Braille Technology is building a revolutionary and radically affordable Braille e-reader for blind people called Canute, designed with and by the blind community.

The Canute is the world’s first multiple line Braille e-reader, forty characters per line by nine lines, and it will be affordable too. They want to be able to sell it for the price of a Perkins typewriter or iPhone. This would make it 20 times cheaper than existing digital Braille devices.

“Everyone on the team is deeply committed to see the project through to completion and have often volunteered their labour when the project was struggling. We also rely very heavily on the feedback, design and knowledge of a community group of 290 Braille readers called the Braillists,” said Ed Rogers.

Now, it is finally coming together. Field tests have been running in schools and with blind professionals, educators and students. At each stage they have been honing the design, so it will have greatest impact on the lives of blind people. Trials have taken place in Britain, Ireland and the States.

Canute shows a full page of text rather a single line, meaning it can be used to teach mathematical and scientific formulas. With the Canute they aim to help reverse the decline in Braille literacy and increase blind literacy, education, employment and social engagement.

There are an estimated 25,000 blind and partially sighted children and young people in Britain. Braille learning could grow significantly once the price barrier is removed.

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