World Braille Day Year in Review

For almost 200 years, people who are blind have used braille to read and write. In commemoration of World Braille Day on January 4, which coincides with Louis Braille’s birthday, we take a look at the braille-related news and events over the past year.

It was an awesome year for braille

Several braille devices were unveiled in March at the annual CSUN Conference in San Diego, Calif. The unit generating the most buzz is the Orbit Reader 20. This portable, refreshable braille display retails in Canada for $499. You can pre-order the Orbit Reader 20 with a $50 deposit from Shop CNIB. You will also be able to find the product description on the pre-order page.

Features include:

  • Reading contents of files on an SD (Secure Digital) card for Stand Alone mode
  • Remote connectivity to PCs and mobile devices for use with a screen reader
  • Simple editing functions
  • Braille input keys 
  • Rechargeable batteries

Other refreshable braille units that are now available include the BrailleNote Touch from Humanware and the B2G (Braille to Go) from National Braille Press. The Multiline braille display is currently under development, and often referred to as the "holy grail" in the realm of refreshable braille displays. The Canute from Bristol Braille Technology was also shown at the CSUN Conference​ in March, along with an updated prototype shown during the International Council On English Braille 6th General Assembly in May.

For more on braille displays and note takers/tablets visit Why the Resurgence in Braille on the CNIB blog.

Awards to Braille Readers

Awards of note include the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest, from the European Blind Union, the Braille Challenge, and the CNIB Braille Creative Writing Contest

Braille Events in 2016

The International Council On English Braille 6th General Assembly took place in Baltimore, Md., in May. Eight English speaking countries comprise ICEB including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. You can check out the research and technology papers as well as the proceedings from the event at www.iceb.org

The CNIB National Braille Conference was held in October. You can view conference highlights and download a transcript from the show AMI Inside., produced by Accessible Media Inc. You can also watch the conference's session on creating tactile books

Canada’s Accession to Marrakesh Treaty brought the Treaty into force in when Canada became the 20th country to sign the Treaty. You can read more about the Treaty on WIPO's website

A Look Ahead to 2017

This year holds great promise for braille, braille devices and accessibility. There was a time in the early 80s when pundits predicted braille would die out with the advent of synthetic speech screen-reading technology. In fact, the opposite is true today. Braille is easier to access, more available, more affordable, and more immediate on mobile devices and tablets because of this same technology. Research advancements in braille cell technology opens up its availability to more readers than ever before. It is an exciting time for braille users, and I'm glad to be a part of it.​