411: PDAs for the Deaf Blind

I am absolutely blown away by how advanced technology can be, more so when it is geared towards meeting the consumer needs of the Deaf-Blind. A while ago in one of my blogs I expressed my concern that while every sighted person has a pager, a VP, blogging/vlogging and more tech gizmos, the Blind were being left behind. 

Now, we have 1) transcripted vlogs, 2) accessible websites like www.Deafread.com, 3) Hawk Relay wants to have services for the Deaf Blind via in-person interpreting when conducting VP conversations, and now 4) Pulse Data has introduced a PDA (wireless pager) tailored for the Deaf Blind.

These kind of equipment truly make me feel relieved, knowing that I and thousands of other Deaf-Blind people would be able to ‘break even’ with the sighted society of today’s fast-paced industrialized countries. (deep sigh of relief)

This Braille PDA was introduced in 2004, and I had heard very little about it. Of course, through my pal, Bapin. Now the info is as I see it, and it’s amazing. 

I look forward to learning how to use this one day, when I return from my 2-year volunteer tour in Nigeria, Africa.

Read on – it’s a little long but it’s rather fascinating to read about the details of this Braille wonder.

tactile love,



Reprinted from the American Association for the Deaf Blind Listserv www.aadb.org , with contribution by Bapin Bhattacharyya, of the Lighthouse for the Blind, Long Island, NY.

News Release (posted in June 2004)PULSE DATA ANNOUNCES BRAILLENOTE PK – THE WORLD’S SMALLEST BRAILLE PDA with the following features:

ò          Full Wireless networking support

ò          Built-in Bluetooth

ò          Full network client support

ò          USB

ò          Amazing new Media Player

ò          Supports all versions of Microsoft Word

ò          Flexible e-mail support

ò          Long battery life

ò          Many great KeySoft applications and features that have made BrailleNote the market leader in PDA technology for blind people.

ò          And, it’s real!

Details below:

The WorldÆs Smallest Braille PDA

You’ve heard the saying “good things come in small packages”? Well terrific things come in really small packages.  Pulse Data International, the world’s leading manufacturer of personal data assistants for the blind, is proud to announce a new member of the BrailleNote family to complement our other great models. It’s BrailleNote PK, the BrailleNote that fits in your pocket.  Shipping early in the fourth quarter of 2004, BrailleNote PK is the ultimate PC companion for people on the move.

Because most professionals on the go can’t really do without a full laptop, the last thing they want is to lug a large additional device with them.  They want a small, intuitive PDA.  BrailleNote PK is the solution, the ultimate in portability for the blind person who needs to be connected, but who can’t make compromises on functionality. Best of all, with an interface designed from the ground up with blind people in mind, it’s intuitive and efficient. That’s important when you have deadlines to meet and a thousand things to do.

WiFi Means More Access More Often Take the BrailleNote PK out of your pocket at a caf?, hotel or an airport, connect to a WiFi hotspot, and surf the Net at high speed to catch up on your mail or read the paper. Use your corporate wireless network no matter where you are in your office. And when you get home, settle back in your easy chair and surf the web using your wireless home network.

Bluetooth Means No More Wires Never fuss with wires again. BrailleNote PK will talk to a wide range of wireless devices including mobile phones, personal computers and keyboards through its built-in Bluetooth technology. When no WiFi access is available, easily establish a Bluetooth connection with your cell phone for Internet access anywhere your mobile network has coverage. ActiveSync with Bluetooth and you can keep in sync without your BrailleNote PK and PC ever having to be physically connected. Use a Bluetooth keyboard with your BrailleNote PK, and you have the choice of either Braille input on the PK itself, or QWERTY input on the Bluetooth keyboard.

No Bluetooth on your PC? That’s OK, BrailleNote PK has USB! Use the USB functionality built-in to BrailleNote PK to connect effortlessly with your PC for ActiveSync.  You can load up your favorite music, important documents, or the book you are reading, and then hit the road.

Full Network Client Support Means Portable Power

A professional on the go needs to have full networking support. BrailleNote PK delivers. At a meeting in the office, be the envy of your sighted co-workers as you have full access to all the facts and figures on the network, and all in Braille. Browse those important documents remotely from anywhere you have network access. Complete a presentation and send it back to your office as a nicely formatted Microsoft Word file.

Super-quiet Keyboard Means Non-intrusive Operation BrailleNote PK utilizes the familiar Braille input and cursor routing keys and the keyboard is super quiet. Make notes in that important meeting at high speed, and your keyboard input is barely audible.

KeySoft Means Full-size Features How did we get so many full-size features into such a pocket-sized device? Many of the BrailleNote PKÆs features are thanks to Pulse Data International’s award-winning KeySoft software.  KeySoft 6.0 delivers the functionality that is expected by mobile blind people in the 21st century, and so many more new functions, applications and ingenious solutions are on their way.

KeySoft Means Powerful Applications that are Easy-to-Use

Word Processor is Unrivalled on a Blindness PDA BrailleNote PK’s word processor is the most powerful on any blindness PDA today. With features such as place markers, Braille and print exclusions, templates, spell checking and more, you can be sure that the corporate presentation you’re working on during that long flight will look professional. The unparalleled handling of back-translation to other formats like Microsoft Word means you can spend more time on the content, while BrailleNote PK looks after the technical side. And as you switch between documents, BrailleNote PK improves your efficiency by remembering your place in each document.

Email supports all major POP3 E-mail services The multiple accounts feature of the BrailleNote PKÆs email program makes it easy to manage mail for business and pleasure on the same tiny device. Set up an account for business and an account for pleasure, and BrailleNote PK knows which address to use when.

Planner with Outlook Synchronization You always know what you are doing with The Daily Planner. ItÆs a mini electronic memory that keeps track of important dates, and lets you set reminder alarms. And the Outlook synchronization functionality means itÆs easy for people back at the office to keep track of your diary, and for you to be aware of appointments that have been scheduled for you.

Address List in Synch with your PC The Address List means what you know is who you know. All your contacts, phone numbers, addresses are on hand û and constantly in synch with your PC.

Browser is the Most Intuitive Way to Surf the Web KeyWeb, the web browser in BrailleNote PK, has already won acclaim for being the most intuitive way for a blind person to surf the web. With KeyWeb, there’s no need to go in and out of forms mode when you want to complete a form on the web. Easily access the link you want by pressing its initial letter, without having to go into a special links list mode. Based on Internet Explorer 6 technology, KeyWeb gives you access to on-line banking and shopping, and many sites that use complex enhancements like Javascript. Manage your banking with privacy and dignity, shop at a time that suits you and without assistance, all on the most easy-to-use web browser for the blind on the market today. Go where you’ve never been able to go before, surf faster than ever.

As Easy as MP3 It might sound too good to be true but you can listen to a wide range of media using the Media Player in BrailleNote PK. Connecting headphones means you can enjoy crystal clear stereo sound when listening to files in MP3, Windows Media, Wave, AIF and other formats. BrailleNote PK lets you listen to media files while working in other applications. Play some relaxing music while answering your work e-mail, or working in the word processor. There’s no need to worry about the music being too loud for the speech, the volume of the speech and the volume of your Media Player are controllable separately, even when the Media Player is running in the background! Listening to an audio book or training material that requires you to take notes? No problem, just play the book in the media player, switch to KeyWord, and type away. And the Media Player remembers your place in the last file you were playing, great for that long audio book when your reading is interrupted.

Stopwatch Time flies when youÆre having fun, so the stopwatch feature in BrailleNote PK helps you keep track.

Scientific Calculator The BrailleNote PK even has a Scientific Calculator, another feature to add to the list.

Simply Powerful

There’s plenty of power in the BrailleNote PK, yet it’s easy to use. For those times when you want detailed help, truly context sensitive help is just a keystroke away, as is the entire user guide.

Exceptional Battery Life When your days are long and the workload is heavy, you need robust technology that won’t let you down and just keeps on going. With over 30 hours of battery life when using speech, the tiny BrailleNote PK will easily see you through more than one grueling day.

Robust Yet Snappy And it’s solid. On the outside the BrailleNote PK is protected by a robust magnesium pressure-molded case, and ships with an attractive, fashionable carrying case for additional protection. On the inside a state-of the-art processor gives snappy performance when loading or searching large documents.

The BrailleNote PK has an 18 cell Braille display, easy-to-use joystick for menu navigation and convenient function keys for scrolling through text, plus the clarity and responsiveness of KeyNote Gold speech.

Technically Speaking

–           Size 6.8″ x 3.6″ x 1.3ö (174mm x 92mm x 32mm )

–           Weight 0.9 lbs. ( 450 grams)

–           8MB of non-volatile user storage

–           24MB ROM for program and OS storage

–           64 MB of RAM

–           Compact Flash Card slot for additional user storage Ethernet card, modem card etc.

–           Serial port (custom connector and cable)

–           USB slave/client

–           Bluetooth

–           Ethernet connectivity

–           Synchronization with MS Outlook’s Planner and Contacts using KeySync

–           Supports the 1GB MicroDrive and ATA Memory cards.

–           PS2 connection (custom cable and connector)

–           18 cell Braille display

–           Nominal operating time (speech only) 30 hours.

It’s Real!

While others have been talking about new and exciting products, we’ve been busy putting them together. No smoke and mirrors here! Come and see the BrailleNote PK for yourself at the ACB and NFB Conventions in the United States, and Sight Village in the UK.

Jonathan Mosen

Blindness Product Marketing Manager

Pulse Data International Ltd

DDI: +64-3-373-6192

Fax:  +64-3-384 4933

Mobile: +64-21 466 736

Email: JonathanM@pulsedata.com

Internet: www.pulsedata.com

This entry was posted in Articles & Published Studies, Technology & Equipment. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 411: PDAs for the Deaf Blind

  1. Bill says:

    Wow, that is really cool! Wish I had thought of that (and created it).

  2. marisa says:


    Unless you are really confident about entering all your text on a 6-key braille keyboard, you may want to consider a BrailleNote QT instead. It uses a regular QWERTY keyboard, so you can type how you’re used to typing on computers and old TTYs. Even some people who have used braille all their lives prefer using QWERTY input because it’s faster, and you only have to press one key at a time. Some people type really fast on braille keyboards, but I bet you’re more used to regular keyboard typing.

    The PK model, so that it can be small, seems to only come in a BT format (braille input keyboard).

    Also, like most braille PDAs, the BrailleNote line has both braille output and speech output. If you’re not really going to use the speech, I wonder if there’s such a thing as a braille plus large print PDA? I’ll ask at work and let you know what I find out.


  3. Reich says:

    That’s really awesome technology! Thanks for the article. 🙂 I knew nothing about it til reading this.

    Als0, would you mind writing or vlogging more on your trip to Nigeria? I’m REALLY interested in what you’re doing there, how you found the opportunity, etc. Thanks!

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