3.2.4 Considerations when choosing a Braille printer

One of the principle pieces of Braille equipment used by schools and universities is a Braille printer. Translation software converts an electronic text file into Braille code -- either grade 1 or 2. Grade 2 Braille contains contractions of commonly used combinations of words and letters. The Braille printer uses Braille code to emboss the Braille dots onto the paper, which generally heavier than inkjet printer paper. Interpoint printers can emboss Braille on both sides of the paper.

Braille printers vary greatly in price. The main difference between printers is the volume of Braille they can produce. Quality Braille production also requires some level of training and knowledge of Braille, the translation software, and use of a Braille printer. So it may not be practical for all schools using Braille for their students to run and maintain a Braille printer. When choosing a Braille printer, considerations should include:

  • The need for Braille – Establish the exact number of students needing Braille and the likely volumes for each student. These numbers are best derived through consultation with students and their families or advocates.
  • The volume of Braille likely to be produced - Determine the volume of class texts that will be produced in Braille. An important consideration is that Braille production requires the original source document to be available in electronic text.
  • Lead-in time – When is the Braille required, and can it be provided in time for students to keep pace with the class? In one Kenyan school, it takes four to six months for updated Braille versions of textbooks to arrive.90
  • Specialist knowledge – Braille is best produced by a trained Braille transcriber who is familiar with the translation software and the different grades of Braille, and who can provide some proofing of the embossed Braille.
  • Local or centralized production - Consideration should be given to centralizing the production of Braille. An underutilized Braille printer may be available for use in another school or facility.
  • Location – Braille printers vary in size but all are noisy, due to the mechanical nature of Braille embossing. Consideration should be given to where the printer will be housed.

Costs – It may be cheaper to run a larger Braille printer in a central location that will serve a number of schools than to run and maintain multiple smaller printers. Consideration should also be given to the cost of other high-tech solutions such as a screen reader.

See the case study from Kenya in which laptops and ATs for blind students were provided by an international aid organization and an AT vendor at a reduced rate to university students. The laptops and ATs were provided at a cost of USD 250, compared with USD 400 for a Brailler.