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This nifty piece of technology helps me navigate life and work as a blind person

It’s something called the Mantis Q40 and it’s a refreshable Braille display. This device allows me to interact with my computer using Braille. 

Braille is a reading and writing system of raised dots, which are read by touching them with your fingertips. I use it because I’m blind.

I first started using Braille at eight years old after my sight became too poor to read and write using traditional methods. The Mantis Q40 is a far cry from the Braille I used as a child.

The Mantis Q40 is a device about the size of a sheet of A4 – most of the space is taken up by a QWERTY keyboard but at the bottom is a row of 40 refreshable Braille cells. 

Each cell consists of eight pins arranged in two columns and four rows. These pins move up and down electronically to create different combinations called Braille symbols.

These symbols correspond to letters, numbers, and punctuation marks displayed on my computer screen. 

Essentially, the Mantis allows me to both touch type using the QWERTY keyboard and read the contents of a screen by touch in Braille.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying that I have a line of Braille which changes under my fingers as I work, enabling me to take in information as I type, or look up and read stored information.

I use it all day, every day. I couldn’t do my job at Guide Dogs without Braille.

Refreshable Braille is surprisingly old technology, developed by a company in Germany called Papenmeier in 1975. I first came across it aged 17 in 1982 when a machine called a VersaBraille was loaned to my school. 

It was a standalone machine. You could input data using a Braille keyboard and it stored what you wrote on a cassette. 

Source of data and images: metro

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