The new Perkins SMART Brailler is a combination of the Next Generation model with a first-of-its-kind multi-sensory technology designed to make learning and teaching braille easier. Designed by PDT, the new model features instant audio and visual feedback to make it easier to learn braille and enable sighted teachers, classmates and parents to work alongside students. This makes it more possible than ever before to include students who are blind into mainstream classrooms, and for adults who may be losing their sight to learn braille.
"We know that reading braille can be the difference between employment and unemployment for people who are blind. But there aren't enough ways for people to learn braille," said John Freese, PDT program manager. "What PDT did was bring new technology together with an established Brailler to make it easy to learn braille, with the goal of empowering people who are blind to lead full and fulfilling lives."
Studies show that about 70 percent of people who are blind are unemployed or underemployed. Yet 80 percent of those who use braille are employed. Despite this, braille use has declined, in part due to a shift from specialized schools for people who are blind to mainstream schools where there are too few qualified teachers.
Current high-tech braille products only work if users already know braille. The new Perkins SMART Brailler gets even new users connected instantly to braille. PDT worked with teachers, parents and consumers who are visually impaired throughout the roughly two-year development process. The SMART Brailler features instantaneous audio and visual feedback and Acapela text-to-speech (in English, and a range of other languages), plus downloadable lessons for braille beginners, and electronic document saving, editing and transfer capability via USB. Because it is built around a Perkins Next Generation Brailler, the new device also generates hard copy braille as the user types.
With this new assistive technology, sighted teachers, classmates and parents can also work alongside students, providing a new level of learning support and making the inclusion of students who are blind into mainstream classrooms far more possible than ever before. "We are convinced that this truly levels the playing field and de-mystifies the braille 'code' to allow a shared learning experience for all - student, parent, teacher, friend," said David Morgan, Perkins Products Vice President & General Manager. "Adults who are losing their sight get a big screen and large text to learn braille independently."
The new Perkins SMART Brailler will start shipping to U.S. consumers in September 2012.