Editor’s Note: 05/23 While the Blitab’s website is still available, it appears that the Blitab is no longer a viable product. There have been numerous prototypes for multiline braille displays and the idea of a multiline braille displays is alive and flourishing, with a number of prototypes under development using different techniques. This Blitab post will remain on Paths to Technology as an example of the issue and a desire for this type of initiative.
Blitab is an Android tablet combined with a smart Braille surface. As an Android tablet, it has Wi-fi, Bluetooth and can run Android Apps. The upper portion of Blitab is a multi-line braille display with 14 rows each with 23 6-dot braille cells. The bottom portion of the tablet has an Android screen; the Home screen displays a variety of Android apps. Open an app to read a book, type an email, and perform tasks just like you would on an Android device. According to Blitab’s website, Blitab also supports all the accessibility features in iOS, such as VoiceOver.
Currently, braille devices that are paired with tablets, smartphones and computers have limited number of braille cells and are only in a singular line. Materials read on the braille display are not formatted in the traditional paragraph formation; instead, students press a key that ‘pans’ to the next set of braille cells. Many students – especially young students – often use an 18 cell braille display, meaning that only 18 characters can be viewed at a time. This means that the student typically has to pan just to read a complete sentence on the braille display.
Math: Just imagine using a multi-line braille tablet for complex, multi-line braille math equations!
Reading: Read a document – or a whole book – in braille on the multi-line braille display. You can also choose to pair tactile reading with VoiceOver. The tablet displays the braille on the top portion of the device and the visual text on the bottom half, making it easy for teachers, parents or peers to follow along.
Writing: The Blitab uses an on-screen 8-key braille input similar to most braille devices (plus space bar). The top half of the tablet displays the document in braille. The lower half of the tablet has the text in print and the braille input screen below the printed text.
Blitab’s braille display uses small bubbles to create the braille. This revolutionary technology is cost effective. Blitab will soon be available to the public with the anticipated retail price of $500. To pre-order, visit Blitab’s website.
By Diane Brauner