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An Alternative Option to Dedicated Braille Notetakers for People with Visual Impairments: Universal Technology for Better Access

Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Volume 106, Number 10, ISSN 0145-482X


Technology provides equal access to information and helps people with visual impairments to complete tasks more independently. Among various assistive technology options for people with visual impairments, braille notetakers have been considered the most significant because of their technological innovation. Braille notetakers allow users who are visually impaired to retrieve e-mails, access web pages, maintain schedules and calendars, emboss braille documents, and perform math and scientific calculations. With their capability to utilize speech and braille at the same time and to use six-key entry or a traditional QWERTY keyboard, braille notetakers became widely used among people with visual impairments. With innovative user interfaces and fast-developing hardware capability, recent smartphones, including some tablet devices, embrace many features that had only been available for desktop computers in the past. These smartphones also have many accessible built-in features. Among them, a function that requires closer examination is a feature for a user to connect a refreshable braille display wirelessly. From posting a photograph on Facebook or identifying colors and money denominations, to reading bar codes for product usage and user reviews, the combination of a smartphone or a tablet and a refreshable braille display can function as an alternative to a dedicated braille notetaker. More important, this new option can provide many more functions and expand possibilities for people with visual impairments. While specific functions designed for users with visual impairments such as Nemeth code support, braille embossing, and native access to multiple-language braille are not readily available, a smartphone with a refreshable braille display can provide other functions by utilizing external applications that have not been available for a braille notetaker. Teachers of students with visual impairments, orientation and mobility specialists, rehabilitation counselors, and assistive technology specialists should carefully review the combination as an alternative to a braille notetaker and, if appropriate, provide recommendations and instructions for students and clients with visual impairments. (Contains 1 table.)


Hong, S. (2012). An Alternative Option to Dedicated Braille Notetakers for People with Visual Impairments: Universal Technology for Better Access. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 106(10), 650-655. Retrieved November 17, 2019 from .

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