Technology has helped narrow the communication gap between the blind and sighted. First we shall look at some of the equipment that is available and then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of technology for braille users.
1 (a) Braille Note Takers – These are hand sized devices which can easily be carried about. They have 6 keys and a space bar. They have, voice which can be used when desired. The information recorded is later fed into a computer for retrieval in any format – print, large print, comtracted braille, 8dot braille, voice or storage.
(b) Laptop Keyboard Notetakers – As above but device is larger and input is via a print keyboard.
2. Scanners – A scanner can scan a print page and feed the information into a computer which can produce material in any format. Material can be indexed for searching topic, chapter etc.
3. Braille Printers – these are attached to computers and can produce material in either contracted or alphabetic braille, quickly and accurately. Some can also produce material in 8dot braille.
4. Print Printers – These attached to computers and can produce material in various sizes of print as desired.
5. Voice synthesiers – These are attached to a computer and will read aloud or through earphones what is on the computer.
6. Computer ans Software Programs – There are programs which allow braille keyboard input or print keyboard input. There are programs which allow output in different formats using equipment mentioned above.
7. CD-Rom – this disc technology allows access to vast amounts of information, such as encyclopedias, by command and search, almost instantaneously. The information desired can be retrieved in any format.
8. Talking Calculators – Give oral as well as visual output for mathematical problems.
Some braille notetakers have a calculator and a calendar
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Disadvantages of Computer Technology
1. Expense – Many people do not have access to finding for high cost of computer equipment.
2. Upkeep – Sometimes it is difficult and/or expensive to remedy problems and pay for repairs. A person needs back-up skills to use when the computer or equipment is not functioning
3. Isolation – Sometimes people will spend too much time alone with the computers and too little time socializing with other people. Sometimes students are delegated with their equipment to a corner of the room away from other students.
Advantages of Computer Technology
1. Vast amounts of information available
2. Ability to access information quickly
3. Choice of medium – print, large print, voice, alphabetic braille, contracted braille, 8dot braille.
4. Braille notetakers are portable, can be silent (do not diturb rest of class) and are comparatively safe from theft.
5. Using scanners, much print material such as private mail, magazines and books are immediately accessible
6. Voice can be used alone or as reinforcement to print braille.
7. A Student can braille an assignment and have the printer make a print copy to hand in.