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This nifty technology can help you live and work as a blind person

To write this article, I am using this very article technique.

It’s called the Mantis Q40, and it’s a refreshable braille display.This device allows you to interact with your computer Braille.

Braille is a reading and writing system of raised dots, which are read by touch with the fingertips. I use it because I have bad eyesight.

I started using Braille when I was 8 years old when my eyesight deteriorated and I could not read or write in the traditional way. The Mantis Q40 is a far cry from the braille I used as a kid.

The Mantis Q40 is a device roughly the size of an A4 sheet. Most of the space is taken up by his QWERTY keyboard, but the bottom is lined with 40 updateable braille cells.

Each cell consists of 8 pins arranged in 2 columns and 4 rows. These pins electronically move up and down to create different combinations called braille symbols.

These symbols correspond to the letters, numbers, and punctuation marks you see on your computer screen.

Basically, in Mantis, QWERTY keyboard Touch Braille to read the contents of the screen.

This is a game changer – I can’t imagine working without it

All this is a very roundabout way of having braille lines that change under your fingers as you work, allowing you to take in information as you type or retrieve and read stored information. .

I use it all day, every day.I couldn’t do my guide dog job without it Braille.

Refreshable Braille is a surprisingly old technology, developed in 1975 by a German company called Papenmeier. I first met him in 1982 when he was 17 years old when a machine called the Versa Braille was loaned to my school.

It was a standalone machine.You can enter data using the Braille keyboard and your writing will cassette.

It acted as a note-taker, as the stored information could be read back at any time via a small refreshable Braille display. I was blown away!

Imagine being able to write in Braille without the very bulky paper I’m used to.

The VersaBraille was too expensive for the school to buy. One teacher pointed out that for the price of one he could have bought a family car.

But that was a pipe dream, and I didn’t have the fortune to own a Braille display until late 1993.

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Up until then I had been using Braille paper, which was very thick and like a thin card. It was not uncommon for schools to have piles of notebooks five to six inches thick.

The first model I used was Government Access to work Diagram. It was in ALVA, a large platform with braille displays and nothing else. There was his standard QWERTY keyboard that sat separately.

An all-in-one solution (Photo: Mel Griffiths)

It was huge, perhaps three times the size of a Mantis, and incredibly heavy. Certainly not portable.

Since 1993, I have worked in a variety of customer-facing roles that I would have struggled with without Braille.

Some people use text-to-speech software. technology Reads the contents of the screen. I hated them and their ability to decipher the different voices in the headset and stay sane, but I couldn’t use it.

For the past 6 years I have worked guide dog, charity I have a beautiful German Shepherd Cross Golden Retriever guide dog called Elsa so close to my heart. Since she got her first guide dog in 1989, she is my seventh guide dog and I can’t be without her.

As a dog health advisor, I work on “guidelines”, speaking to service users and volunteers and advising them on health issues for working guide dogs, retired dogs, or puppies in training.

This is where my Mantis Q40 comes into its own.

This is a completely versatile piece of kit that has opened up a world of writing in ways I never imagined.

Other braille displays I’ve used have been much larger and less portable, but the Mantis is a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard with a built-in refreshable braille display that reduces clutter and ergonomics. a more comfortable experience.

This is an all-in-one solution. visual impairment I had to carry both a traditional keyboard and a separate Braille device.

I often have to look up things on my computer while talking to the caller. If you’re listening to someone talking and want to read information at the same time, you can’t have your screen reader speak to you at the same time, so the Mantis keyboard allows you to read the information on the screen while having a conversation on the phone. increase. .

There is amazing technology for the blind and I am lucky to own a piece of it (Photo: Mel Griffiths)

It also means that when taking notes or recording information during a call, reading back in Braille can quickly check the accuracy of what you have typed.

This is a game changer. I can’t imagine working without it.

It’s not cheap at around 2,500 yen. Thankfully, using the Access to Work scheme again and with the help of my employer, I was able to get it.

Since then I have been lucky enough to have this one and it does everything I wanted. It fits easily in your backpack, so you can take it anywhere.

An added bonus is that it can also connect to iOS devices like mine iphoneThat means you can access thousands of books to read in Braille with the Kindle app. This is something a blind person could only dream of until about ten years ago.

When my father passed away in 2021, I also used it to read poetry at church.

This is a completely versatile piece of kit that has opened up a world of writing in ways I could never have imagined.

I am a true proponent of Braille and urge anyone who is blind or has low vision who thinks they might benefit from it to learn it.

In my ideal world blindness All children learn it at school. For me, that’s the difference between being read and actually reading for yourself.

There is great technology out there for the blind, and I am lucky to own some of it. It really changed my life.

For more information, visit the Guide Dog Tech Hub.

Technology you can’t live without

Welcome to the technology you can’t live without. our new weekly series, readers share some of the kits that have proven essential.

From gadgets to software, apps to websites, you can read about all kinds of innovations that people really rely on. join the series

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