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Two hands on the top screen of the Canute 360

Why Bristol Braille Technology want to turn the tide on the decline of Braille

Most of us are familiar with the tale of King Canute, the Danish king who couldn’t prevent the incoming tide, despite mustering his most kingly orders.

Whilst we have named our multiline Braille machine as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the decline in Braille globally, we hope to have more luck with turning this particular tide.

Globally, Braille as a language has been in decline for various reasons. The most common issues cited include the high cost of printed Braille, the size of the resources and the relative difficulty of access to printing or technologies in developing nations.

The Canute 360 is, in essence, a Kindle for blind people. Simplified, the device enables you to download a book onto an SD card, convert it to a Braille file and then read the book on the device itself. Each line refreshes as the reader moves down the “page” which means a book is read in a more traditional way. Currently, Braille readers have access to paper Braille books, which can become enormous depending on the material, The Lord of the Rings for example would take up 4ft square of space. A Braille page is around 1/3 of an A4 page, which explains why having more than a few books at the same time becomes a problem.

Whilst the default these days seems to be listening to audio content, we ask, why should this be the case?

“Voice systems do not work any better for a blind person than they would for a sighted person and I’d challenge you to find a sighted person who’d give up conventional reading for that,”

Bristol Braille Technology Founder Ed Rogers

To put yourself in the shoes of a Braillist, imagine wanting to read a book but your options are either to only listen to it or, read the whole thing one refreshable sentence at a time? Frustrating right? Currently, an affordable option for someone who reads Braille is a one-line device, which can be helpful as a screen reader but completely reduces the ability of the reader to read full paragraphs. But with stagnant technology in this sector, these are some of the only options available.

Our mantra is “Braille literacy is independence” and it’s true. It’s why we’ve joined forces with the group The Braillists, a worldwide community dedicated to teaching and encouraging more people to learn to read Braille and enjoy not only reading for pleasure but also opening more doors when it comes to careers and education. We hope the Canute 360 will contribute to an even greater uptake in this rapidly disappearing language.

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