The braille transformation has begun... meet Monarch!
Producing braille textbooks demands substantial time and funding, frequently resulting in delayed delivery of information to the students’ fingertips. Andrew Flatres, Braille Product Manager at HumanWare, has visited many schools and points out that blind students lack the necessary tools to effectively complete tasks that involve tactile information.
One instance stood out: a young, blind student working on quadratic graphs was attempting to plot coordinates to create a graph with tactile bumps and wiki sticks. By the time he finished, his classmates had moved on to another topic. The blind student was extremely disappointed. The wiki sticks and bumps were falling off, hindering his progress considerably.
This scenario is painfully familiar to many students and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs). The result? Blind students without appropriate resources falling behind, as well as TVI’s having to invest valuable time to create or revise educational content.
Blind students rightfully deserve faster and more
equitable access to educational materials.
Watch this video to learn about the significance of innovative braille technology in schools and how it can positively impact student education.
Together with our close partners at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), HumanWare is working to create and develop the Monarch, a multipurpose, multiline, tactile braille device that can download digital textbooks and access tactile graphics from APH’s TGIL library to significantly reduce the information time to fingertips for blind students. HumanWare and APH have an equal hand in setting the specifications and designing the user experience requirements for the Monarch. HumanWare manufactures the hardware and builds the software base, while DOT Inc. is providing the innovate braille cell technology.
In addition, the NFB (the world’s leading membership organization representing the blind), has played a critical role in ensuring that the customer’s voice has informed every step of this revolutionary project.
What is the Monarch?
The Monarch, formerly known as the Dynamic Tactile Device (DTD) is the size of an average gaming laptop and weighs a modest four-and-a-half pounds. It features an 8-dot braille keyboard, zoom in/out buttons, direction pads, up/down arrow buttons and an unheard of 10 lines by 32 cell refreshable braille display that can render multiple lines of braille and tactile graphics using equidistant pins.
This highly innovative technology along with the development of a new dynamic file type that will bring braille and graphics together in a navigable file, will bridge the existing educational gap for all blind students.
The ultimate in braille technology: A revolutionary new electronic file format!
The massive investment in R&D makes the Monarch a game-changer, but it is our firm belief that this powerful device alone will not be enough to make our dream of instant and efficient access to braille a reality without the file types to support it.
APH, with the support of the DAISY consortium, is working to accelerate the conversion of regular Braille Ready Format (BRF) files to a digital format, known as eBRF or eBraille.
Monarch BETA version test program: On request
Great news! Beta units of Monarch are ready, and the unique window of opportunity of reaching out to international organizations eager to discover how the Monarch can revolutionize the distribution of textbooks and provide access to a wide range of tactile graphics on demand, has begun.
We are currently giving demonstrations and gathering user feedback for our prototypes while the eBraille (eBRF) committee is working to advance the development of the device.
In the coming year, APH plans to collaborate with the DAISY Consortium to turn the eBRF vision into a reality.
In addition, APH will be creating a BRF-to-eBRF converter tool that will enable the conversion of existing braille files to eBRF format. This ensures that a wealth of existing braille resources can be seamlessly integrated into the Monarch platform.
To achieve the best results, we believe in providing superior tools and resources. That’s why we are committed to delivering comprehensive training and learning programs, along with helpful materials for both teachers and users.
Once the first eBRF file version becomes available, we will collaborate closely with teachers of the visually impaired and transcribers to enhance our training program, ensuring it is well-prepared for the scheduled launch at the end of 2024.
Then, our immediate focus will be on training teachers specifically on the Monarch, so they can maximize its potential in their classrooms and beyond.
We feel incredibly fortunate to have the support of our pioneering community, consisting of users, software developers, educators, professionals, and parents.
Their collective efforts will play a crucial role in fulfilling our mission of establishing a collaborative international network that will deliver robust, relevant and dynamic content. Together, we can reach great heights in our journey.
Key partners of the Monarch projects are: