What is electronic braille?

Electronic braille is produced using an electronic braille display. They are also known as paperless, soft or refreshable braille displays. Braille displays work with a screen reader, the device is placed underneath a computer keyboard and enables the user to read what's on the computer screen by touch in braille. They vary in size from 12 to 80 braille cells.

Each cell has 6 or 8 pins made of metal or nylon, which are electronically controlled to move up and down, to display a braille version of characters that appear on the computer screen. The seventh and eighth dots can show additional information like formatting or the location of the cursor.

Above each cell is a touch cursor which can be used to move the cursor to that location. This means you can be reading some text, notice a spelling mistake, and move the cursor to the mistake before moving your hands to the keyboard to correct it.

The displays have additional controls which can be used to move around the screen, reading whichever part you wish, and this reduces the need to keep switching back and forth between the display (for reading) and the keyboard (for everything else).

Braille can provide layout information more efficiently and using a braille display is described by users as being more accurate. A spelling mistake, for example, is often more obvious on a braille display than hearing mispronunciation amongst a lot of speech. It is sometimes said that speech is for speed and braille is for accuracy. For many people braille is their natural way of working, and is an essential medium for deafblind people.

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