2001 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents


NEW NOTE-TAKERS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Alan Holst
Product Manager
Freedom Scientific, Blind/Low Vision Group
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Alan@Blazie.com 

Alan Holst
Product Manager
Freedom Scientific, Blind/Low Vision Group
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

Graceful, accurate, efficient note taking is one of the most fundamental tasks in virtually every arena today. Whether at school, at home, or at work, one must be able to record and retrieve scads of information quickly and efficiently.

Blind persons need this capability as much as or more than sighted people. In today's mobile society, comfortable and convenient information access is both a functional and a social need. In other words, we need to be good at retrieving information and we need to look good while doing it.

In the mid 80’s Blazie Engineering introduced 2 very small and portable PDAs (Personal Data Assistants). One was designed for people who prefer a Braille keyboard and the other was made for people who prefer to type. The version with a Braille keyboard was called Braille’n’speak, and the unit with a typewriter style keyboard was called Type’n’speak. These rugged and portable products are still on the market today and while their features have improved over the years, they are still the same basic flexible, reliable, portable devices they were 15 years ago.

In the mid 90’s, Blazie Engineering added a Braille display to the Braille’n’speak and the Braille Lite was born. Just last year, the typewriter equivalent (Type Lite) was introduced. These iterations are particularly useful because they feature both speech, and a refreshable Braille display.

Dynamic Braille display users enjoy unparalleled access to information! They can use speech for quick and easy reading or they can use the Braille display for accurate quiet information retrieval. Just as many sighted people find that they have better access to their world with 2 kinds of refraction in a bifocal lense, blind individuals benefit from Braille when doing very close specific work and from speech when needing to read quickly.

Another neat thing about combining speech and Braille is that the speech can confirm the accuracy of input as it is not possible for the user to read and write Braille at the same time. Speech then can provide excellent confirmation of one’s keystrokes. There is nothing like a Braille display for locating a cursor to insure that one is inserting characters at the proper location; and there’s nothing like Braille when it comes to working with numeric or technical information.

At the close of the last millennium, The Braille Lite was available in an 18 cell and a 40 cell version. This spring we introduced the millennium line of Braille Lite products. These new units come in 20 and 40 cells. They feature a built in modem for text based email as well as yet to be announced modem features; flash cards for unlimited file storage; a unique duel position switch used to toggle between a PDA mode and the PC Braille display mode; and whiz wheels for fast effortless display navigation.

One of the most unique aspects of the millennium Braille Lite is its new whiz wheels. These innovative navigation wheels will make it easier than ever to zoom around a document with a Braille display. Similar to the whiz wheels on main stream mice, these wheels will be programmable so they can potentially perform a variety of functions. They can be used to move through a document by lines or sentences, or they may be used to adjust the rate of speech on the fly. They can be used to navigate through menus or adjust the position of the Braille display on a line.

The rocker switch on the left hand side of the millennium Braille Lite will allow your Braille display to do double duty! One minute it’s a PDA and at the flip of a switch it’s a Braille display for JAWS. Consider the savings! No need to invest in 2 displays when one will do the job!

The switch on the PDA is designed so that you never lose your place in the Braille Lite or Type Lite when you toggle over to the PC and back. The toggle is available on the Braille Lite 20 character and 40 character units as well as on the Type Lite.

Flash cards are commonly used in digital cameras today. Fortunately, pictures require lots of memory and digital cameras are becoming widely available. That means that the Millennium Braille Lite and Type Lite user should have no trouble obtaining flash cards at a great price.

So with Freedom Scientific’s new line of note-takers you can have it all.

A Braille keyboard or a typewriter style keyboard: A rocker that toggles between the PDA mode and the Braille display mode: Synergy with the worlds leading Windows screen reader, JAWS: World-renowned blind friendly PDA software: Grade 2 forward and backward translating: Flash cards that provide virtually unlimited file storage capacity: A modem for text based email and more: The list goes on and on!


Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.