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Braille Printing Gets An Update Thanks To New Technology

Clovernook
Ann Thompson
/
WVXU
Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired is the largest Braille producer by volume in the U.S. Two new printers allow it to expand what it can do.

Advances in printing technology are breaking down barriers for the blind and visually impaired. Researchers in India have created software to display images, text and audio stories side by side. That has the potential to cut printing costs by 90%. New printers at Cincinnati's Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired are also able to cut costs because they decrease the amount of time workers must spend hand-creating images.

Clovernook is the largest producer of Braille materials by volume in the world, but until recently was held back from further expansion because of outdated technology.

Thanks to thousands of dollars in grants, Clovernook now has two new printers for Braille images. Textbook Specialist Saul Garza demonstrates the intricacies of creating an image by hand versus using one of the printers.

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Another new printer uses UV rays to dry ink on the page for high-quality museum graphics or ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) signage. This may allow the organization to expand its production according to Printing House Manager Samuel Foulkes. "At Clovernook we've always been very Braille-specific. Tactile graphics are something that we've done but historically we haven't had a lot of capacity."

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
The peacock was done by hand and took 45 minutes. The image must go through a heating process to bond onto Braille paper. On the right are computer images that take just minutes or seconds.

Clovernook does most of its printing for the Library of Congress. It also produces the Braille editions of Rolling Stone and National Geographic magazines and McDonald's menus.