Bristol Braille Technology is a tech company based in Windmill Hill in Bristol, who have created and manufactured the first multi-line, refreshable Braille machine. We have been perfecting the machine for around 12 years, before finally going to market in 2019. Since then, Bristol Braille Technology has sold machines all over the world including Japan, Uzbekistan and Dubai to both individuals and organisations who want access to Braille.
The Canute 360 is, in essence, a Kindle for blind people. 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” with the Braille dots appearing on the surface of the machine.
Globally, Braille 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.
Currently, Braille readers have access to paper Braille books, which can become enormous depending on the material. A Braille page is around 1/3 of an A4 sheet which leads to books becoming huge bulk items for a Braille reader. The Lord of the Rings trilogy would take up 4ft square of space if laid next to each other!
Blind people in work or education need access to research books, maths equations and real-time graphs to do their jobs, all of these are limited when it comes to paper Braille.
Whilst the Canute 360 is currently solving the problem of space-saving reading, we realised that Braille had far more applications than just enjoying books. Over lockdown, we looked more closely at the Braille display and wanted to find out what else the machine could be used for. From this, we have developed The Canute Console, a state-of-the-art device that uses Python (a programming language) access to features and programs sighted people take for granted.
Plugging straight into the Canute 360, The Console is able to use Braille to give users the ability to access and create their own data via computer programming, word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, computer games and more. Historically, something as simple as an excel spreadsheet has been out of reach to blind and visually impaired people due to a lack of investment in accessible tools.
We currently have these machines out on trial to find out how they can be used, we’re exploring everything from controlling robots, teaching someone to programme their own Braille-based computer games and even finding out how best to access their bank statements.
We are looking for sponsors to get these machines to the people that need them as well as to help support us in finding out what else we can give Braille readers access to. So far we’ve managed games of snake, explored cities all over the world, followed the 2022 world cup matches and lots more.
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.
“If I want to remember something, really remember, I need to read it in Braille”.
Stuart Lawler – Braille reader
To find out more about what we do head to our website: www.bristolbraille.org