Have you ever tried sending an audio note to yourself on a crowded bus—using your cell phone? But the person next to you is talking so loudly into their phone that you can’t hear yourself think!
Or, have you ever been in an important meeting, with lots of action items and urgent deadlines flying around? It seemed inappropriate to fire up your laptop and have JAWS talking away while your manager was busy reading out the list of to-do’s and don’t-forgets. Were you able to keep all your notes in your head? Maybe you were fumbling with a small slate and stylus to take little notes on several scraps of Braille paper, all the while trying not to overturn the tall latte belonging to the coworker next to you.
In these situations, a Braille notetaker, also known as a Braille personal data assistant, really comes in handy. These electronic memo machines are small, portable devices for storing information with the use of Braille or QWERTY keyboards. With a notetaker, you can browse through your notes quietly using the Braille display. You can also make notes quietly without having to speak into an audio recorder or activate a screen reader. They also include calendars and phone book features and can be synced up with your home computer to permanently download and store your notes.
A Braille PDA is not as fast and does not have as much memory as a laptop, but it is far easier to tote around. They usually come with straps that you wear around your neck and will easily fit into a purse, backpack or small briefcase. You can’t place calls with a notetaker and accessing your email can be somewhat slow, so these devices do not take the place of a smartphone. But a Braille notetaker is indispensable for busy professionals and college and high school students.
Listen to the podcast below on Braille Notetakers. This was a seminar recorded at the LightHouse on September 25, 2010. You will hear LightHouse Public Affairs Coordinator Lisamaria Martinez and Lighthouse Social Worker Linda Porelle, both visually impaired users, compare and contrast notetakers. And, Sung Jae Hong, special education professor at San Francisco State University, discusses how he and his students use notetakers.