Huge changes are afoot in the Braille world. This month we’re excited to tell you about the Canute – a new affordable Braille e-book reader from fellow Bristolians, Bristol Braille Technology. We fill you in on what’s been called the world’s first Kindle for Braille readers.
This month we introduce Alice Clark from the A2i team… long-time member of staff, squash aficionado, and (no doubt exhausted) mum to new baby girl Bethany!
And finally, we need to let you know our Christmas opening times. There. We’ve mentioned it. If you want accessible formats before Christmas, get your orders in quick.
Turning the tide: Canute – the world’s first affordable multiline Braille ebook reader
For many visually impaired people, Braille means freedom and independence. Yet the recent explosion in affordable digital e-readers such as the Kindle has not been matched for people who read Braille. Digital Braille displays have been both expensive and limited – until now! The soon-to-be-launched Canute is an affordable digital Braille reader and heralds the start of the democratisation of Braille literacy, increasing opportunities for tactile reading.
In recent years Braille literacy has, unfortunately, been in decline. Various factors have contributed to this, including the wide-spread use of text-to-speech software. Although audio formats are favoured by many people who are print-disabled, audio is not always suitable or convenient. That’s not to say that one format is better than the other, but that they are often complementary, with each format having its own distinct functions and advantages, depending on the context.
Braille is important in its ability to enable people to read silently and independently, at their own rate, and while listening to something else. Consider how often sighted people might read during a meeting or conference, or even while listening to the TV or radio. Braille enables this reading experience for blind and partially-sighted people, too. However, the developments in refreshable Braille technology signal a positive step for Braille, and we anticipate that the Canute (and other refreshable Braille readers in development) with its affordable price, will address this decline in Braille literacy, and enable Braille users to access a wider variety of texts and in an affordable way.
What is a refreshable Braille display?
How is the Canute different?
Apart from being much cheaper, the Canute can display up to nine Braille lines, each containing up to 40 characters (or cells), which means that more complex documents – such as tables, calendars, maths and music – can also be displayed. This differs from existing refreshable Braille displays, which often display only one or two lines. Books or texts in special Braille-formatted files are loaded into the Canute’s memory via a USB, and, just like a Kindle or other e-book reader, can be stored in its library.
When will Canute be available?
Gaela Benn, one of the Canute’s first Braille users, says:
Bristol Braille Technology reminds us that “Braille is literacy, employment and independence”. With these huge improvements in refreshable Braille technology, A2i hopes to see trends in Braille illiteracy reversed.
For more information, visit Bristol Braille Technology’s website: http://bristolbraille.co.uk
Alice was A2i’s first employee, working with Susie – the founder – since 2002. Taking responsibility for promoting A2i’s transcription services from early on, she has helped develop the company into what it is today. Alice has an encyclopaedic knowledge of transcription processes, and is always happy to answer customer queries on the best way to make their documents accessible for their print-disabled readers. Alice has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl Bethany, so will be off on maternity leave for a few months… we’re looking forward to her return already! Find out a bit more about Alice Clark…
How long have you been at A2i?
The main audio format we produced was tape – a format most young people nowadays have never seen, let alone use. Now our main audio formats are CD and mp3.
We have added Braille business cards, tactile diagrams, Large Print diagrams, Easy Read, foreign language translation, DAISY, podcasts, full colour Large Print (GDA), Audiobooks and an online shop to the services and products we provide.
What do you do at A2i?
What do you like about working for A2i?
I also really like the great team atmosphere at A2i, with everyone happy to help each other if needed!
What are you interests outside of work?
I am married with a toddler, and we have another baby on the way so I think I will have to play a bit less squash than I’d like for the next few years!
What do you like about living in Bristol?
Congratulations to Alice and Matt – and hello baby Bethany!
Christmas opening times
Ho! Ho! Ho? Yes, it really is that time of year already. A2i will be closing over the Christmas period from 4pm on Thursday 22 December, and we’ll re-open at 10am on Tuesday 3 January.
If you want your accessible formats before Christmas…
So, if you’ve been meaning to send us your documents for transcription, simply email them over for a quick quote, or contact us for a chat about your transcription project. We’d be happy to help!
Image: By Kris de Curtis [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons