BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone

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Editor’s Note: Parents, would you like to create braille at home for your child? Now you can using the American Printing House for the Blind's (APH) BrailleBlaster™ software. All you need is access to an embosser or a refreshable braille display, and you can provide materials in braille for your visually impaired child. We've partnered with APH to answer your questions about this new, free software. Read today's post, share your questions and comments, and tune in on Wednesday, January 17th, as we answer your questions about this helpful resource.

boy sitting on the couch with his father reading braille

Home Is Where the Braille Is: BrailleBlaster™ Software Is for Everyone

By the American Printing House for the Blind

Software for transcribing braille has been available for many years, but due to cost, it has been out of reach for most home users. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is changing that by offering the most powerful transcription software available free-of-charge! Originally designed for braille transcribers, BrailleBlaster™ can be downloaded and used by everyone, including parents, teachers, and students. Download at www.brailleblaster.org.

Special Question and Answer Event on January 17th

More about BrailleBlaster in a moment; we first want to invite you to an APH/AFB partner event right here on the FamilyConnect blog. If you have questions about how the BrailleBlaster software can make life easier for you and your child, type them in the comment section below or send them to info@aph.org. Return to the blog next week on Wednesday, January 17th, where we will be answering questions in the comment section starting at 9 a.m. EST.

You Can Create High-Quality Braille at Home

What would you braille for your child? Reminder notes, to-do lists, homework assignments, stories? Transcribe these and more into braille using the BrailleBlaster software. As a public service, APH is making its advanced transcribing software available free of charge. Although it is powerful, creating basic braille documents in BrailleBlaster is easy and does not require an in-depth knowledge of braille.

After you download and install the software on your Windows® PC or Mac®, simply copy and paste text from any document into BrailleBlaster. Instantly, excellent quality simulated braille will appear on your screen. This braille can then be edited for formatting in a similar way you edit text in a word processor. For example, to center a heading, put your cursor in front of the words you want to be centered, go to the toolbar, click on the headings button, select center, and the heading will automatically center.

Have an older student? BrailleBlaster is fully accessible and can be used by students to create their own braille!

Getting Braille Into Your Child's Hands

Now that you've created a braille document, there are two ways to get it into the hands of your braille reader: using a braille embosser or using a refreshable braille display.

If you have a braille embosser, you can create hard copy braille by sending your braille-ready file (.brf) from BrailleBlaster to the embosser.

If your child uses a refreshable braille display, you can save the file as a braille-ready file and e-mail it to them.

Frequently Asked Questions About BrailleBlaster

Have questions about using BrailleBlaster at home or at school? Find our FAQs here. You can also e-mail questions to APH at info@aph.org or ask your questions below in the comment section.

Gaining Access to Braille Technology

Braille Embossers: Although prices have decreased, the cost of braille embossers remains high. Fortunately, there are now more options than ever! Here is a list of possible resources for locating or purchasing an embosser. The list includes local places, such as libraries, that may have an embosser, a list of lower-cost embossers, and ideas on how to raise funds for buying assistive technology.

Refreshable Braille Displays: There are many good options for refreshable braille displays. One device is APH's upcoming Orbit Reader 20™, which has a significant price breakthrough.

How Will You Use BrailleBlaster?

We know BrailleBlaster will be useful in the home and in the school. It's free, so you can download it and experiment all you like on as many devices as you like. Let us know how you use BrailleBlaster; we're sure users are going to find more uses for it than we have imagined!

And remember, feel free to send your questions to info@aph.org and mark your calendar for our Q&A event next week, Wednesday, January 17th!

Topics:
Books
Education
Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future
Reading
There are currently 15 comments

Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Hello! Does BrailleBlaster support UEB math?


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Can it run on Apple and Windows products?


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Hi Shannon, 1) Yes, BrailleBlaster does support UEB Math! It also supports UEB plus Nemeth Math. 2) BrailleBlaster works on a either Mac® or Windows® computer (and it also works with Linux). Of course it's free to the public for either platform!


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



A question people ask a lot is: Is BrailleBlaster easy to use? Yes, if you understand how to use a word processor, like MS Word®, you can use BrailleBlaster to make braille! You can also utilize the many BrailleBlaster tools, styles, and automation processes to get good braille created quickly.


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



If someone sends me a Word document can I use BrailleBlaster to create it in braille?


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Yes, kcreasy, you can. Right now you would need to copy and past the text of the Word document into BrailleBlaster but we are very close to being able to open Word documents and other document types like EPUB3 and HTML. Please join the mailing lists found at brailleblaster.org to stay up to date on the newest features!


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



What makes BrailleBlaster unique?


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



That is a great question Marylyn! Thank you. What makes BrailleBlaster unique is a combination of its ease of use and its power. Rarely in software do you get both!! Especially with something as complex and context based as braille transcription.

If your document type is supported, and many more will be supported soon, then a good chunk of the work is done as soon as you open the document in BrailleBlaster. The rest is cleanup and our styles are done in such a way that, for example, if you know what a list is in print, you can make a list in braille. We then have many tools that are optional, powerful, and easy to use. Combine all that together and you get something that can be used by the average person, who knows next to nothing about braille, to a trained and experienced transcriber to make quality braille. While it's definitely still true that you'll want to leave the most complex transcriptions, like a science textbook to the trained transcriber, a novice braillist can easily make everyday documents and worksheets for themselves or for a family member, colleague, or student that is blind.


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Another question we often hear: Is BrailleBlaster accessible? Yes, it is. BrailleBlaster is compatible with screen readers such as JAWS® and NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) with Windows®, as well as VoiceOver® with Mac OS®. It also works well with screen magnification software, such as ZoomText®.


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



-Can I input a PDF file into BrailleBlaster?
-Is there a way to simply create braille music with BrailleBlaster?
-Can I create uncontracted braille in addition to contracted?


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Thanks for your questions Shannon. BrailleBlaster cannot currently open PDF documents. While we have plans to eventually make this a possibility, PDFs are one of the hardest file types to convert for braille because they are so image-centric. We won't give up though!

You can create braille music with BrailleBlaster but right now you'll have to rely on direct translation and six-key entry. If there is interest, we'd like to develop a tool that will make this easier, so braille music aficionados, reach out to us and let us know what you'd like!

BrailleBlaster can create uncontracted and contracted versions of any document. We currently have uncontracted tables for EBAE and UEB. Once you've created your document, its only a matter of changing tables to take it from a contracted to an uncontracted document or vice versa. No need to tediously retranslate. You could start and make a contracted UEB document and then change it to an uncontracted EBAE, or contracted EBAE, or whatever combination works best for you!


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Thank you so much! This is a phenomenal tool.

In the words of one FamilyConnect Facebook user: "I was just in awe of all the work [APH] put into it and it is free. I am so thankful for them".

Thank you, APH!


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Need ideas what you could translate with BrailleBlaster? Some possibilities include worksheets, reading lists, word lists, tables, study sheets, short stories, poetry, line-numbered prose, reminder notes, to-do lists, recipes.

If you have ideas, we'd like to hear them - please share them in the comments!


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Do you have access to an embosser? You might wonder if BrailleBlaster supports it. If your embosser is supported by your operating system, then it is supported by BrailleBlaster! We designed BrailleBlaster so that your operating system does a lot of the work communicating with your embosser, making it compatible with most embossers.

Need access to an embosser? Here's a resource page with ideas to help you gain access to accessibility technology, such as braille embossers. http://www.aph.org/brailleblaster/resources-for-braille-embossers-and-refreshable-braille-displays/


Re: BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone



Did you know that BrailleBlaster supports U.S. Spanish? BrailleBlaster is currently compatible with U.S. Spanish as well as Cherokee. We will be offering additional language support in the future!

Let us know what your needs are for support of various languages.


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