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The braille code we use today was not developed all at once but went through several revisions. Each revision created lively discussions and debate. In brief –

Braille Reading History

The system of braille was invented in the late 1820s by Louis Braille, a student at the National Institute for Blind Children in Paris, France. The braille system used 6 dots of 3 dots in 2 vertical rows. Combinations of dots created letters, punctuation or words. He published a book describing the code in 1829 called “Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them”. With the publication of the book, one might think the literacy mode for individuals who were blind was settled. It was not — and the braille debate is known as the War of the Dots.

Early developments were forms of raised line symbols/lines and had names such as Moon Type, Gall Type, Lucas Type, etc.

Boston Line Type was created by Samuel Howe in 1853. It was basically raised letters.

New York Point was developed by William Wait in 1860 and was a set of 8 dots — 4 dots lined up horizontally in 2 rows. The Kleidograph typewriter, developed in 1894, was used to produce the New York Point code.

Gradually the code developed by Louis Braille increased in popularity and use. In 1932 the War of the Dots was ended when the U.S. and Great Britain officially adopted the English braille code.

The development of the braille writer was similar to the progression of braille. The earliest braille writer was the Hall Typewriter developed in 1881. In 1894, the Superintendent of KSSB (at the time called the Kansas State Institution for Education of the Blind) modified the mimeograph machine to create the Mimeograph Braille Typewriter.

Many of these early machines had mechanical problems due to the complexity of creating a braille cell. As a result, they did not endure until David Abraham invented the Perkins Braille Writer in 1951.

Today, most students begin their writing instruction using one of the Perkins Braille Writer Models. It is a remarkable machine and has such heft that it can stand up to decades of use.

Additional Reading

APH Virtual Tours

Braille Writer – Care and Storage

Finding a braille writer repair service can be difficult. As a result, handling the braille writer appropriately is the best way to delay or prevent problems from occurring.

APH Light Touch Perkins Braille Writer

Excerpt directly from Manual.

  • When you are not using your APH Light-Touch Perkins Brailler®, push the paper release levers away from you, and cover it with the dust cover. Dust combines with oil to form an abrasive paste which can damage the machine over time.
  • Try not to drop your brailler. Though it is designed to withstand normal wear and tear and deliver years of service, it is a precision machine which can be damaged by a fall.
  • The brailler is thoroughly oiled at the factory with non-oxidizing oil, so you should not oil it yourself. Only non-oxidizing oil should be used. Oiling should be done by a trained brailler repair technician; otherwise, your brailler may be permanently damaged or made inoperable.
  • The brailler is made of aluminum, with enamel baked on to protect it. Though hard, this surface will chip if knocked about. The keys, knobs and carriage lever are made of hard plastic. Though durable, a sharp object can scratch them. Please handle your brailler with care.
  • Do not leave the brailler in hot places such as on a radiator or in direct sunlight. The rubber on the bottom of the machine and in the paper feed roller could degrade.
  • Though the brailler is designed to withstand corrosion, try not to expose it to excessive dampness. Exposing the machine to salt water and spilling liquid into it are particularly damaging.
  • If you travel with your brailler, use a carrying case if you have one. Try to keep the brailler from getting jostled, and do not check it as baggage if at all possible. A soft-sided carrying case is available from Perkins Solutions and works especially well for transporting the machine or storing it when not in use.

Perkins Brailler

Excerpt directly from Manual.

  • Store your brailler in a clean dry environment; humid and moist conditions can accelerate corrosion of the metal components.
  • Clean the exterior of your brailler on a regular basis using a lint free cloth and soft bristle brush.
  • Always keep your brailler covered when not in use; doing this will keep dust and debris from entering your brailler and avoid premature loss of motion (sluggish action) to the keys and carriage assembly.
  • Send your brailler in to a certified Perkins repair center for regular service; we recommend every 3 – 5 years under normal use. For brailler writers that are heavily used or exposed to harsh environmental conditions, service more frequently.

Braille Writer Cleaning

School districts and teachers of students have been known to clean the braille writers when small problems arise. According to Perkins, 60-80% of braille writer problems can be fixed by cleaning the machine. Perkins School for the Blind does provides 6 step by step instructional videos. Carefully review all of the videos, gather the needed supplies and develop a plan before attempting to clean the braille writer.

Perkins Braille Writer Cleaning Videos

Telephone Pioneers Braille Writer Repair Volunteers

When an individual worked 18 or more years in the United States or Canada in the telephone business they are eligible to join a service organization called the Telephone Pioneers. This service organization was founded in 1911 to offer, according to their creed, “Fellowship, Loyalty and Service” for the telephone repairmen. Members recognized as a group of volunteers who are dedicated to braille writer repair.

Request Repair Service

A Telephone Pioneer volunteers at KSSB every Tuesday morning from 8 a.m.-noon, to clean and repair broken braille writers.  To request this service Email Toni Harrell in advance. Use Free Matter for the Blind to ship the box to the School for the Blind. Before sealing the package, enclose a note with a description of the problems with the braille writer. 

Ship to: 

  • Kansas School for the Blind
  • c/o Braille Writer Repair
  • 1100 State Ave
  • Kansas City, Kansas 66102
A braille writer with cover, sides and bottom off revealing only the keys connected to at bar, embossing head and the inside frame connecting the inside pieces.
A pegboard of tools used to repair the braille writers.
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