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What You Need to Know About the Perkins Brailler

Posted in Braille In The News

Written by Nicole Hill

Braille is a tactile code used to represent written language and is read by blind and visually impaired individuals. A Perkins Brailler, generally referred to as a brailler, is a machine that produces braille. Braillers are approximately ten pounds and about as wide as a computer keyboard. Braillers can be different colors, but the colors are only decorative and have no practical function other than to “look” good. Braillers are similar to typewriters in design, but one of the most significant differences is that a brailler has only 9 keys whereas a typewriter has a minimum of 44 keys. This is because a braille character is a combination of six or fewer bumps, so only six keys are necessary to type the entire alphabet. Additionally, a typewriter stamps inked characters onto paper, while a brailler embosses (raises) braille characters on a piece of paper. Individuals used to use a slate and stylus as a primary method of embossing braille before braillers were invented.

Features of a Perkins Brailler

The Handle: A Perkins Brailler can be carried by a slim metal handle located on the top of the machine. When the handle is not being used it can be folded down into the top of the brailler.

The Levers: At both the back, top corners of the brailler, there are little metal levers. The levers can be lowered to hold a sheet of paper in place or raised to release the paper.

The Dials: On either side of the machine, near the top are plastic dials. The dials are used to wind the paper into the brailler. There are two dials: one on either side of the brailler.

The Cursor: The cursor is composed of two visible pieces, the carriage and the embosser. The carriage is a plastic piece found on the front face of the machine. The carriage moves the cursor left and right. The embosser, a little metal horse-shoe shape, is on the opposite side of the brailler from the carriage. As the label implies, this piece embosses braille onto the paper.

The Keys: There are nine plastic keys that run from left to right, beneath the carriage on the front face. The far left key is a backspace, the middle key is a spacebar, and the key on the far right is a new line key. The other six keys represent a Braille cell. Simultaneously pushing any combination of the six keys will emboss a braille symbol.

The Bell: The bell is not visible. Once the cursor is near the end of the track, a ding sounds to signify the end of a sheet of paper.

Note: Braille is used around the globe and the components may be labelled differently in other countries. Here are some other names by which the components may be called:
• The cursor refers to the embosser and carriage.
• The embosser may be called a head or hammer.
• The carriage may be called a return slide.
• The levers may be called clamps or a paper release.
• The dials may be called winders or paper rollers.

How Do You Use a Perkins Brailler?

As previously mentioned, a brailler ¬¬¬¬¬¬produces braille. There are two primary steps to use a brailler. First, the paper is loaded into the machine. This consists of placing a piece of paper under the embosser, clamping the paper in place with the levers, and rolling the paper into the machine with the dials. The second step is typing. An individual embosses braille onto the paper by pressing the keys down, which moves the cursor to the right. The bell rings when the cursor is near the end of a page. Then the carriage moves to the left, which simultaneously moves the embosser to the left, and the new line key is pressed. A person can continue to type lines of braille until the paper is full of braille. The number of lines depends on the size of the paper. For instance, about 5 lines fit on an index card in landscape position, while a regular page of copy paper in portrait position may fit 28 lines. The handle allows an individual to carry the brailler around between typing sessions.

You will find Perkins Braillers available here




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