Over the past 7 years, PDT has worked with Perkins Products to develop the next generation Perkins Braillers. The company began with a redesign of the original mechanical brailler, which hadn’t changed in more than 50 years, and most recently helped develop the SMART Brailler, a digital braille device built upon the iconic mechanical machine.
PDT’s East Coast Design Director, John Freese, was invited to take part as an expert speaker on the Technology panel for the National Library Service (NLS) Braille Summit at Perkins School for the Blind. The event, which took place in Watertown, Massachusetts, June 19−21, 2013, was assembled to bring together librarians, braille literacy professionals, braille readers, and other stakeholders to help determine the best ways for libraries to promote and support braille literacy. Braille is the only true form of literacy for people who are blind. It increases access to education, allows for fuller participation in society, and drastically increases the odds of employment. Yet studies suggest that less than 10 percent of people who are legally blind in the United States can read braille, and many children who are blind have no opportunity to learn it. As leading providers of braille reading materials, libraries are poised to play a key role in the fight to reverse this trend.
Freese explains, “Improvement is constrained by: size, weight, speed, power, cost, noise, reliability and production volume. While the answer is short, it isn’t simple.” He also offered his take on what to expect for the future of braille technology. He believes future major advancements will likely come from advancements from three groups, “cost reduction and modified use of existing piezo cells, novel use of existing materials and new mechanisms, and new materials science of electronically controlled polymer actuators.” NLS is committed to increasing braille literacy as part of its strategic plan and PDT is proud to be part of it.