Author: Margaret Griffin, M.Ed.Stud., State Coordinator, Vision Impairment Service, Tasmania, Australia


In Tasmania (2005) students with visual impairment are supported by a flexible range of technology options that parallel the options described in the different case studies. Funding for these options has been obtained by a financial partnership with Royal Guide Dogs Tasmania. On another level, these students, their schools and families also have access to a Braille Transcription Unit. It exists as a production unit for Braille and large print production. It also accesses Braille and auditory and large print resources from mainland specialist library services.  The work of this Unit complements individual student’s technology platforms by ensuring that high quality learning resources are supplied that extend each student’s opportunity to engage with curriculum materials. The unit also produces a range of tactual graphics that are linked to particular curriculum areas.  For example, diagrams relating to mathematical concepts such as shape, size and measurement are produced within the unit. 

The following technologies enable the Unit to meet production requirements:

  • 5 x PC’s, operating with Windows XP
  • 1 x INDEX Everest Embosser for large-scale Braille output. This cut sheet embosser also has the capacity to Braille tables and graphics with adjustable dot and line separation for better quality Braille graphics. The Everest embosser has the flexibility to play with the sequencing of book pages.
  • Duxbury Braille Translation Software. The service has purchased a three- user license which is regularly upgraded. This enables documents to be accurately formatted in Braille.  Specific information is available on the Duxbury site at www.duxburysystems.com/dbt.asp.  Duxbury Braille Translation software that is compatible with Macintosh computers can also be purchased.
  • 2 x Juliet Embossers have been placed in regional centres to facilitate smaller more localized and less complex Braille output.  These are essentially Braille printers that have been connected to desktop computers and have the capability to produce quality hard copy Braille materials. This type of embosser can be viewed at http://www.quantech.com.au .  
  • HP scanner and OCR software. Scanning texts and editing for Large Print output. The scanner enables texts that will not be successfully enlarged by photocopying to be scanned in to a word document and then formatted to individual student requirements.
  • Tactile Image Enhancer (T.I.E.) For production of hand drawn tactual graphics to compliment Braille output. The website for this is http://www.brailler.com.
  • Picture Braille is a simple drawing software package that permits drawn lines to be represented as lines of braille dots when embossed. 

Currently the Unit is investigating two new technologies that offer exciting possibilities for all students with severe visual impairment.  These are:

1. New Options for Sophisticated Tactile Graphics. The Viewplus Embosser is driven by a specialist software product called Tiger. Information on the Viewplus and Tiger software is available at www.viewplus.com.  The Tiger software program enables documents that are created in Windows programs to be translated and embossed directly from Windows.  Immediately, this opens up huge possibilities in the production of tactile graphics.  Staff have seen this demonstrated at the SPEVI (South Pacific Educators of Vision Impairment) national conference in January 2005.  Features noted include:

  • Savings in time through the Windows printer
  • High resolutions graphics as the result of an innovative embossing technology – for example different dot height can be used in tactile graphics.

This technology has great potential for improving both the quality and quantity of tactual graphics available for students with visual impairments.

 2. New digital reading technologies specifically designed for users who are blind or vision impaired. The Victor Reader Wave is a new talking book player. It is lightweight and portable and adapted to play DAISY books. DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System.  A range of talking book libraries have worked towards the transition form analogue to Digital talking Books, using Daisy formatted materials. An overview of the Daisy Project is available at www.daisy.org.

Basically Daisy formatted material offer the reader an extensive range of features for interacting with that information.  Some of the key navigations features for readers are

  • The browsing feature which enables readers to browse through headings, chapters and pages.
  • The capacity to place bookmarks and return to these references at a later reading.
  • The capacity to access information with synthetic speech or via a Braille display.

The Unit will consider how Daisy formatted materials can be obtained and then what options are available for accessing this information.  As digital talking books  will be more readily available in the future, it is necessary to commence planning for how this technology can be most effectively supported.