July 01, 2008
Braille Embossers Enable the Blind to Print From a PC
By Kara Hiltz
DoubleSided: A Priceless Gift Courtesy of Enabling Technologies, Index Braille, ViewPlus, and Others
When you think of a printer, you probably imagine high-resolution graphics and crisp text. But most of us take for granted the fact that we can see these results. For the blind, inkjet and laser printers don't communicate anything.
You may know that braille, raised bumps on paper specially positioned to follow a language system, gives blind people the ability to read and write. But have you ever thought about how braille documents come into existence? Machines called braille embossers create the raised dots necessary for braille documents by puncturing paper.
Braille Embossers: Older Than You Think
Even though most of us don't know much about braille embossers, printing companies have specialized in braille embossers and other accessories since the early 1970s. Enabling Technologies started in 1971, and currently offers both single-sided and double-sided braille embossers along with braille translation software, reading machines, and braille signmakers.
Following in Enabling Technologies' footsteps, Index Braille in northern Scandinavia, has offered braille embossers since 1981. Its products have also expanded to include braille translation software and accessories such as cabinets, staplers, and paper.
Other braille embosser makers have sprouted up more recently. ViewPlus launched in 1996 when a physics professor at Oregon State University who became blind at age 48 after complications from eye surgery realized that most of his physics material didn't come in a blind-accessible format.
A Braille Embosser For Every Need at Prices Not Everyone Can Afford
Braille Embossers share one thing in common with the inkjet and laser printers you're used to — they're tailored for different markets, including everything from the home office to the commercial publishers.
Double-sided braille embossers save paper by printing their raised dots on both sides of a sheet, just the way duplex printing works in traditional printers.
Many braille embosser makers sell printers that combine both ink and braille. This way, both the blind and their families can read documents printed on the braille embosser.
While braille embossers cost a pretty penny — anywhere from $3,000 to more than $10,000 depending on the embosser's quality and features — you can't put a price on reading and writing.
We all have our idiosyncrasies. So do printers as it turns out. In our DoubleSided feature, we explore the lighter side of printers as well as the esoteric and bizarre. We also peer into the future of printing. From fabbers to printing on toast, you'll find it all here.