Open Source Braille Display

With YOUR help, we can create a low-cost way to make Braille available to more and more blind people...
David Pankhurst
Victoria, British Columbia
1 Team Member

Note: to see it in action, visit YouTube at 

The Story

This project started earlier this year when I read a local author's book of life as a Blind person. After contacting him, I decided I could best help by designing a simple device to make low-cost Braille display from a computer possible.

So Will It Change the World?

I hope so - or I wouldn't be working on it!

Braille is to the Blind as the written word is to us sighted folk - and so Braille literacy is vitally important. Yet according to Wikipedia, while in 1960 half of blind American schoolchildren could read Braille, in 2007, that number had dropped to one in ten. To improve literacy, we need to make available more ways to access and learn Braille - and an important one is a tool to allow the Blind to read the vast amounts of information on the Internet.

For many years, Braille readers have done just that. A Braille reader takes computer text and turns it into tactile impressions of Braille characters for the blind to 'read'. However, these devices are expensive - thousands of dollars - and so few can afford them. The goal of this project is to make an Open Source/Open Hardware Braille reader: simpler, easy to build, well documented, and inexpensive, so people anywhere can make it themselves (or get it made locally).

But there's a second goal: to get people doing more. This design is meant to be simple and cheap to build. My hope is other, smarter people will step in and build better, faster, and more powerful devices. But nobody is doing it now, and so someone has to start the ball rolling. 

With your help, this will be that ball...

What You Can Do

The goal is to get from the current first prototype to a finished design for a 40-character Braille display, complete with software, and all the details people need to build it, placed online. To that end, here's some of the things needed:

  • Small CNC machine (build or buy), to do faster turnaround of prototype parts.
  • Purchase a selection of stepper motors and driver boards, to test different price/performance ratios for the Braille display design.
  • Get a low-cost netbook to prototype the exact software to run a device (netbook rather than a full computer so as to test the device in the most likely 'real world' situation).
  • Materials! Prototypes use up a lot of material, as a part can get tweaked many times, each time requiring a new piece cut out.

Make no mistake - the project IS going ahead, whether a little or a lot of money comes in - the difference is just the speed things happen! So when this project is out there making the difference I hope it will, ask yourself how good it will feel to say 'I helped with that' - and please contribute!

Any level is appreciated, and there's some 'thank yous' listed on the right side of this page to show appreciate for your aid.

Progress will be discussed on my blog,, and designs will be made available there as they are finished. All code and design will also be made available for download, allowing people to make or modify these products.

What (Else) You Can Do

Tell the world - the more people that know of this project, the greater impact we can make. Blog about it, tweet away, link to it, talk about it at work. And please share this information with everyone and anyone.

Thank You.

Find This Campaign On
raised in 2 months
59% funded
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$1,500 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
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This campaign ended on January 27, 2012
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Online Thank You

    For your contribution, a 'Thank you' on the project website, on a special "Sponsors-Only" web page.

    5 claimed
  • $50USD
    Weblink Thank You

    Also a 'Thank you', but including both your name AND a live website link that rotates on all Braille-section web pages of - displayed on the right side or at the bottom, it will appear for all of 2012 (at a minimum). Since actual single-page links on UM currently cost $100 a year, this not only supports the Braille Display Project, but can be a cost-effective way to get links to your sites!

    15 claimed
  • $500USD
    Your OWN Prototype

    Shipped to you, a copy of the current prototype - laser cut from Acrylic, this will make a very nice display, and show to others how much you support Assistive Technology Development for the Blind!

    0 out of 3 claimed
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