CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information



This appendix contains a more in-depth explanation of several of the
solutions introduced in Section II, Overview of Accommodation Requirements.
Although no document could fully cover every consideration or be fully
up-to-date in the changing realm of products and options, this appendix
represents a framework for narrowing the choice of solution options to a
manageable size.

A. General Hardware Configuration and Software Compatibility Considerations

As with the purchase of any computer based hardware add-on or software
package, there are several performance and positioning issues to consider
prior to purchase to ensure that the newly acquired items will function with
the system they are augmenting.  This section highlights several of these
general considerations.  Additional considerations that are specific to the
type of accommodation being made will be addressed in the sections on visual
impairment, hearing impairment, and mobility impairment that follow.

General Hardware Configuration Considerations:

     - Do the hardware solutions require a board slot in the computer 
       or a serial or parallel connection?  Is the proper connection 

     - If a board is used, does it present any compatibility problems
       with other boards in the PC?  Other EGA or VGA boards? LAN boards?
       Terminal emulation boards?  If an incompatibility exists, can the
       board interrupts or maps be changed?

     - Is the speed of the PC and the board compatible?  Some devices
       require at least an 80286 based PC, while others will not function
       properly on that PC platform.

General Software Compatibility Considerations:

     - Will the software run with the existing monitor?  EGA, CGA, VGA

     - How much RAM is used by the software?  Is there enough RAM in the
       PC to run both the necessary application packages and the
       accommodation software at the same time?

     - Can the software be loaded in extended memory?

     - If a terminate-stay-resident accommodation software solution is
       used, does the LAN software leave it active, or does it override?
       Are there any memory management conflicts that need to be resolved?
     - Will any terminal emulation software used allow the accommodation
       software to remain active?

Furniture and Space Considerations:

After the decision on equipment is made, determination of proper space for
the equipment needs to be considered.  Sufficient space must be available for
workstation solutions that include a scanner, printer/embosser, and/or
magnified display equipment.  Some of these items are quite large.  In some
cases, they may interfere with the hanging storage bins often used with
modular furniture.  Placement of the equipment in a manner that allows
efficient work flow is also of importance.

B.  Selection Considerations for Visual Impairment

This section highlights considerations associated with the use of magnified
display, screen reading systems, braille devices, optical character
recognition, speech recognition, and combination solutions.


After the user determines their information requirements, decisions can be
made about enlarging information on the computer, enlarging hard-copy
material, and making provision for simultaneous enlargement of both forms of
information.  Consideration should be given to both the nature of the
information sources and the document production capabilities needed.

Magnified Display of Computer Screen


     - Level of magnification - There are several software packages
     available that will enlarge the characters presented on the PC
     monitor from 2x to 8x.  A few software packages provide levels of
     magnification up to 16x.  There are also hardware based options
     that provide magnification levels from 2x to 16x.  As the level of
     magnification used is increased, the numbers of characters that may
     be seen on the screen at any one time decreases.

	- Does the magnification package work in support of other PC
	  application packages or is it a stand-alone large text
	  word-processing package only?

	- As characters scroll off the screen, is it done a letter at a
	  time or word at a time?

     - Font styles and choices - In addition to the size of the
     character being presented, the actual formation of the character is
     important.  Some packages offer font or style choices, others do

	- When looking at the enlarged character does it have a clean line
	  or a staggered, stair-step appearance?  Which format is easier to
	  read by the visually impaired user?

	- Are the characters uniformly shaped and spaced?

	- How is the cursor presented?  Is it easily found in a body of
	  text or does it "get lost" easily?  Various packages present the
	  cursor as an enlarged bar, a blinking bar, an arrow or other
	  special character taking the place of the letter at the cursor
	  position, or a reverse video block with the letter in that position
	  still visible.

    - Text or graphics or both - In both the software and the hardware
      based products, configurations are possible that will support only
      text based information or text and graphics.  

 	- For text only packages, what does it do if it encounters graphics?  
          Does it revert to normal 1x size for graphics? Or does it lock the 
          program or do something else?  

    - Color - Some packages fully support color, others give the user limited 
      color choices, and others will present information in black and white 
      only, regardless of the colors selected in the application program being

   	- Is color important to the user?  

        - Are there any special considerations such as color perception 
	  problems, a preference for reverse video presentation, a need for 
	  high or low levels of contrast, or adjustments needed for brightness?

  	- Will the color setting options of the enlargement package override 
	  application package color settings, conflict with them, or default 
	  to the application package color selections?  

    - Screen review - Many of the enlargement packages, both hardware
      and software, allow for a screen-review mode that gives the user the
      ability to "wander" around the screen without actually moving the
      application cursor.  This is particularly important when using
      application packages that present a full screen of information, but
      do not allow the application cursor to be moved over the entire
      screen (e.g. instructional screens that keep the instructions
      "protected" and allow input and cursor movement in a small block).

	- How easy is it to move into the "review" mode?  

	- How is the review mode controlled - by arrow keys, other keys, a
	  mouse, etc.?

	- To review a large section of text, does the user need to constantly
	  hold down a key or can the package continue scrolling across lines
	  and move down the screen by itself?

	- As characters scroll off the screen is it done a letter at a time
  	  or a word at a time?  Is it a smooth motion or a "jump" on the

	- When exiting the review mode, is the user returned directly to the
	  cursor position?

	- Does the review mode provide a means for the user to spatially
	  orient the "window" of information currently being reviewed relative
	  to the entire screen display?

    - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations 

	- See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software Compatibility
	  Considerations" listed at the beginning of this appendix.

	- Can the screen output directed to a hardware enlargement product
	  also be directed to a standard PC screen? Alternately or
	  simultaneously?  Is simultaneous presentation needed to help with
	  system troubleshooting if problems are encountered?

	- Some software application programs do not use the system cursor,
	  but write directly to the screen to increase the speed of the
	  program.  The actual system cursor is then "parked" off the screen.
	  Some of the accommodation packages work by querying the system cursor
	  for the last updated screen position. If this combination exists,
	  then either the application program needs to be configurable to use
	  the system cursor instead of the software cursor, or the
	  accommodation package needs to be configurable to track the software
	  cursor instead of the system cursor.
Magnified Display of Hard-Copy Material

Some of the considerations mentioned above, such as the level of magnification 
needed, the need for text or graphics to be magnified, and the need for color, 
apply when discussing the need to see existing print or hard-copy materials in 
an enlarged format.  


    - Light requirements - Some closed circuit magnification devices
      require more light be directed at the hard-copy than others.  This
      can be an important consideration for an individual with a light
      sensitivity problem.  The brightness and positioning of the room
      lights may also need to be taken into consideration.

    - Portability - Several of the closed circuit magnification devices
      are quite large and not easily transportable.  There are also a few
      small devices that can be used with a small screen when traveling and
      then attached to a larger screen in the office.

    - Orientation - Some systems are able to "flip" or re-orient the
      image being magnified on the screen.  This is helpful when reading
      materials that have different print orientation on the same page,
      such as a flier that is fully opened or a document that is too large
      and must be flipped and viewed in segments.

    - Reverse video - Some systems are able to present the magnified
      image in reverse video so it is white letters on a black background
      rather than the more typical black letters on a white background.
      There is a strong preference for reverse video by some individuals.

    - Viewing table - Some magnification systems provide a manual or an
      automatic viewing table or platform for the hard-copy materials to be
      placed on, others do not.

	- Does the platform have a way to secure the hard-copy materials?

	- Is manual movement too uneven and jerky to provide easy reading of
	  the material in enlarged format?

	- For an automatic viewing table:
	   - What are the control options available - joy stick? foot pedal? 
	   - Automatic return at the end of the line? 
	   - Variable speed adjustment for the rate of movement?
	   - Ability to change the margins easily?

Enlargement of Computer Generated and Hard-Copy Material Combinations

Some magnification systems can be used for both viewing what is on the 
computer screen and for viewing hard-copy materials being magnified by a 
special camera.  Some of these systems will allow the user to toggle back 
and forth between computer input and hard-copy input being seen on the 
same monitor. Other systems will allow input from both the computer and 
the magnification camera to be seen simultaneously in enlarged format on 
the same screen.  This is referred to as "split-screen" mode. 

    - Does magnified hard-copy material need to be compared with
      magnified computer display information (e.g. reading a letter
      received and writing the reply)?

    - Does the user prefer seeing the two outputs on the same screen or
      would two separate screens side-by-side be preferred?

    - Can the entire screen be alternately set to computer generated
      enlargement and hard-copy enlargement?

    - How easily can the mode of use be changed?

    - In split-screen mode, can the user select how much of the screen is
      devoted to each, or is this preset?


Many visually impaired individuals can access the information shown on a 
computer screen by listening to the screen contents being spoken instead of 
reading the visual output being displayed.  This screen reading capability 
typically consists of a combination of a speech synthesizer working together 
with a screen reader package.  The screen reader portion of the system is the 
software that allows the individual to direct what portion of the screen 
should be sent to the synthesizer.  The speech synthesizer is the hardware 
device that converts the ASCII character code of the selected words and 
paragraphs into spoken output.  In most shared office settings, the 
individual using synthesized speech to access their computer will wear 
headphones to ensure privacy and minimize disruption. 

Speech Synthesizer

Speech synthesizers differ primarily in voice quality, size, and price.  


    - Speech quality - Some speech synthesizers have a very monotone and
      mechanical sounding voice output while others have a more modulating
      and human sounding voice.  Initially, the more human sounding voice
      may be more easily understood.  Within a short period of time,
      however, the less human sounding speech synthesizers can also be
      readily understood by most listeners.  The quality of speech output
      needed by the individual user is influenced by several factors.
       - How often and for what length of time is the person going to be
	 using synthetic speech to access their computer each day?

       - How familiar is the information that the person will be listening
	 to?  Is it routine or does it cover a wide range of unfamiliar

       - Does the individual have any hearing loss that would make a certain
	 synthesizer or voice much more understandable than another?

    - Speech buffer - Some synthesizers store a "buffer" of information
      before it speaks.  In some cases this will result in several lines of
      text being spoken even after the "speech off" command has been given.
      For some individuals this does not pose a problem, for others, it is
      one of the primary considerations in their choice of synthesizers.

       - If the synthesizer buffers the text to be spoken, is there an
	 option to allow the user to empty the buffer and have the speech
	 output stopped quickly?

    - Speech rate - Most speech synthesizers allow the user to change the
      speed of the spoken output by using their screen reader software.
      Some synthesizers have a broader range of possible speech speeds than
      others.  For experienced users, being able to adjust the rate to a
      very fast pace enables them to auditorily scan a document rapidly as
      they listen for key words or phrases to indicate they have found the
      desired portion of text.  To listen to the particular segment located
      by auditorily scanning, the rate of speech output is reduced.

    - Internal or external synthesizer - Speech synthesizers may either
      be a board placed inside the PC (internal) or a separate piece of
      equipment cabled to the PC (external).  The availability of a board
      slot for an internal speech synthesizer or the appropriate parallel
      or serial port for an external speech synthesizer may play a role in
      the final decision of which synthesizer should be purchased.  There
      are some laptop PCs with internal speech boards available for
      individuals who need that level of portability.

    - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations 

       - See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software Compatibility
	 Considerations" listed at the beginning of this appendix.

Screen Reader Software

In addition to the synthesizer considerations listed above, there are
several factors to be considered when choosing the screen reader software
that will direct output to the speech synthesizer.  Since there are several
screen reader packages to choose from, this can often be one of the toughest
choices for a visually impaired computer user.  Most of the commonly used
screen reader packages being used in Federal government offices are packages
that work with standard PC application software.  In the past, many of the
screen reader programs were self-contained word processing programs.  These
programs limited users in their ability to exchange information with their
coworkers in an office setting.  Now, there are many screen reader packages
available that work in conjunction with PC application packages to give
speech output.  Many screen reader packages offer similar capabilities in
terms of being able to direct output to the synthesizer letter at a time,
word at a time, a specific line, or screen at a time.  Although there may be
differences in the actual features of each screen reader package, one of the
biggest differences is in how these capabilities are controlled and accessed
by the user through the speech control keys.


    - Application package being used - One of the primary
      considerations in choosing a screen reader package is the
      application packages the screen reader package will be used with.
      In most Federal offices, everyone in the office is using the same
      application software so that files and information can be easily
      exchanged.  In most cases, the individual with a disability will
      receive the greatest benefit from their accommodation software if
      they are able to continue to use the same application packages as
      their coworkers.  Knowing the application packages being used will
      help determine which accommodation features are important.  The
      screen reader package chosen should be the one that has the
      features necessary to allow it to work best with the application
      software being used in the office.  Some of the things to know
      about the application packages are:

       - What keys on the keyboard are used to control the application package?

       - Is the application software word processing, spreadsheet,
	 database, communications, terminal emulation, or a special program?

       - Are any of the application packages or systems interface packages
	 graphic- based rather than text-based?
	  - Screen reader packages work well with most text-based packages,
	    but may not work at all with graphic-based packages.  Some
	    application packages allow the user to select text or graphics

    - Synthesizers supported - Not all screen readers will support all
      of the speech synthesizers currently available.  Before purchasing
      the screen reader software, the user needs to know which
      synthesizer they anticipate using.  Once this decision has been
      narrowed to one or two acceptable options, the screen reader
      manufacturer can easily confirm if their package will work with
      that particular synthesizer.  The screen reader packages often have
      different files that must be installed in the setup process
      depending on which synthesizer it will be working with.  This is
      similar to other PC software that needs to be properly configured
      to the type of printer being used with the software.

    - Speech control keys - Another consideration is which keys are
      used to control output being sent to the speech synthesizer.

       - Are the function keys used for screen reader control?  
	  - Some packages use the function keys on the standard keyboard.
	    This may cause some initial confusion if the application packages
	    being used by the individual also use the same function keys.  In
	    most cases, the screen reader package gives the user the ability to
	    remap the keys and develop alternatives to using the function keys.
	    The drawback then is that the manual no longer matches the users'
	    key combinations for commands.  The screen reader packages also
	    have methods to "share" the function keys with the application
	    package.  The user may have to hit a key that directs the screen
	    reader application to ignore the next keystroke and pass it through
	    to the application program.  In essence, this option would just add
	    a few keystrokes to execute application package commands, but
	    otherwise not interfere.

       - Are standard keyboard keys other than the function keys used for
	 screen reader control?
	  - Several screen reader packages use special keystroke combinations
	    from the standard keyboard to execute speech synthesizer controls.
	    The user would need to learn the combinations needed to execute the
	    functions they use most often.  
	  - Are the key combinations easy to perform or do they require 
	    awkward hand positioning?  

       - Is an additional keyboard or control interface used for screen reader 
	  - Some screen reader packages use a special keypad that
	    is attached to the computer in addition to the standard PC keyboard
	    for controlling the output sent to the speech synthesizer.  Users
	    that are new to computers and have limited keyboarding skills often
	    like this configuration because they feel it is "safe."  They are
	    comfortable making key selections from the add-on keypad because
	    they know they are not going to inadvertently hit a stray key and
	    destroy their data or cause a problem on the computer.  For users
	    that are good touch typists and comfortable with a keyboard, the
	    need to remove a hand from the standard keyboard to control the
	    speech output may slow them down and be a distraction.  In
	    addition, the external keypad will need a serial or parallel port
	    for connection to the computer.  
	  - Are the key combinations easy to perform or do they require
	    awkward hand positioning?

   - Review mode - Most screen reader packages offer a way to review
     the screen contents without actually moving the PC cursor.  This is
     particularly important on screens that have a portion "protected"
     and do not allow the PC cursor into that section of the screen.  It
     is important to look at how easily one can switch back and forth
     between the PC cursor tracking mode and the review mode.

   - Reading windows - Many of the screen reader packages have a
     method of setting up several reading "windows" that the user can
     control.  These may be useful if there is a status line that the
     user may need to periodically check or a specific part of the
     screen that is used for error messages.  In some cases, the window
     can be set up to speak its contents automatically whenever there is
     a change, such as an error message being displayed, or the insert
     on or caps on indicator showing on the screen.  Sometimes, the user
     will want the window to be read only when directed by the user.
     One example is the cursor location given in many word processing
     packages.  If the cursor location window was being read each time
     the window information changed, it would be read as each and every
     keystroke is entered and the cursor moves from position to position
     across the screen.  If a user needs reading windows, a few things
     to look at are:

      - How easily can windows be defined?  

      - How many different windows may be defined?  

      - How are the different windows accessed?

      - Can some be read automatically and others read only on command?

    - Identification of attributes - Most screen reader programs allow
      the user to choose whether they want things such as uppercase to be
      identified, punctuation to be read, blank lines to be read or
      skipped, line numbers to be read or not identified, etc.  There are
      several ways different screen readers may choose to identify
      uppercase letters.  Some screen readers actually direct the
      synthesizer to say "upper" and the letter, others have the
      synthesizer use a different tone of voice or pitch to identify
      uppercase from lowercase.  The user needs to determine which method
      they prefer and its importance when weighed with other
      considerations.  Some screen readers also use pitch variations to
      identify to the user when information is presented on the screen in
      reverse video or in specific colors.  This may be important
      depending on how the application packages being used display
      special information on the screen such as identification of text to
      be underlined, italicized, or bold.  This may also be important in
      determining how easily a spell checking program may be used.

    - Help mode - When first learning any new package, easy access to a
      help function is quite useful.

       - Does the package have an on-line help function?

       - How detailed is the explanation of each of the screen reader
	 functions and control of those functions?

       - How easy is it to access the help mode and then to return to the
	 active mode or review mode?

    - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations
       - See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software
	 Compatibility Considerations" listed at the beginning of this

Explanatory Note: 

    - Since the screen reader is always used in conjunction with a
      speech synthesizer, it is easy for the individual first exploring
      these capabilities to fail to distinguish the performance of the
      speech synthesizer from the performance of the screen reader
      program.  We often hear people comment they liked how screen reader
      A sounded better than screen reader B.  When commenting about the
      voice output or quality, the individual is really focusing on which
      synthesizer is being used at the time, not the screen reader.  In
      many cases, screen reader B may be able to direct output to the
      same preferred speech synthesizer as screen reader A.  When looking
      at the screen reader package, the user needs to concentrate on how
      the output is directed to the synthesizer and the features
      available for customizing that interface to their needs, not the
      voice quality of the synthesizer that may be in use at the moment.
      Although it is difficult to initially separate these two distinct
      decisions, doing so will result in a more optimal solution for the


Prior to beginning the more technical description of braille device
alternatives, a short discussion of the use of braille may be helpful.  As
mentioned in Section II, although many people assume all blind individuals
know braille and are proficient braille readers, this is not the case.  Only
about 10 percent of the adult blind population in the U.S. are braille
readers.  Many people who have lost their vision later in life may never
learn to read braille or may never achieve a level of proficiency with
braille that would enable them to easily access information in this format.
Some medical conditions that may eventually contribute to blindness also
cause sensory deficits in the fingers that prohibit the individual from
being able to discriminate the braille dots well enough to read brailled
materials.  For individuals who are proficient braille readers, braille
still may not be the format of choice for all materials.  For instance, a
college level dictionary may require several bookshelves to store the
numerous volumes of 3" binders once it has been printed in braille.  Each
page of printed text will roughly translate to three pages of braille
printed text.  Standard braille paper typically holds only 24 lines per page
and 40 cells, or characters, per line.

Many people also do not realize that there is not a single version of
braille.  There are several different types of braille that are used
depending on the subject matter being discussed.  The Nemeth code braille
used for mathematics is different from the braille used for standard text.
Some individuals may be proficient in one of the braille codes, but not
necessarily in them all.

Even when referring to the standardly used braille for reading text
materials, the individual may prefer what is referred to as Grade II braille
over Grade I braille.  Grade I braille refers to a direct translation,
letter for letter, of printed English text into a 6 dot braille character.
Special braille characters are used to indicate capitalization and numbers.
Grade II braille is a shorthand version of Grade I braille.  Grade II uses
contractions for commonly used letter combinations such as "tion" or "th."
For example, the word "nation" is formed by using the letter "n" and "a"
followed by the single cell contraction for "tion."  In Grade II braille the
letter combination "tion" would be represented by a single braille cell
rather than by four braille cells.  This is one simple example.  Grade II
braille translation rules are quite complex.  In addition, braille text
typically follows different formatting rules than printed text.  For
example, most braille paragraphs are indented only two spaces and no lines
are skipped between paragraphs.  These braille II contractions and format
differences assist the user in reading faster and reducing the volume of
printed braille output.

To further compound our discussion of braille, there is also a computer
braille version and a newer 8 dot computer braille.  Computer braille
includes new braille symbols used to represent the special characters unique
to the computer.  For example, a computer generated carriage return is
represented by two cells which indicate a "control M" which is the computer
code for a carriage return.  The 8 dot braille is gaining in popularity
among braille reading computer users because it allows special character
attributes such as uppercase or bold to be identified in the same cell as
the letter itself.  This is particularly popular with computer programmers
working with programming languages that are case sensitive.  The same word
written in uppercase letters vs lowercase letters may not be understood by
the computer at all or may actually execute a different command from what
was intended.

Now that there is a basic understanding of a few of the issues and
complexities involved when referring to braille, some of the technical
considerations for braille output devices will be addressed.

Braille Printers/Embossers


   - Speed - Speed of the print output is a primary consideration for
     many users and also one of the primary determinants of the price
     of the braille printer.  Many of the printers considered to be a
     personal braille printer average 20-40 characters per second
     (cps).  This is significantly lower than the speeds most computer
     users are accustomed to with standard text printers.  There are
     also medium speed and high speed braille printers available.  The
     price for printers that produce 120-170 cps is significantly
     higher than the personal braille printer.  High speed braille
     printers are typically used in an in-house braille production site
     for a number of users or for individuals having a unique need for
     a large volume of material to be brailled on a consistent basis.

   - Print quality - The formation of the braille character is
     different from printer to printer.  Prior to purchasing a braille
     printer, a sample of text produced on that printer should be
     obtained for the user to review.  Some braille readers may be more
     comfortable with the braille produced from one model than another.

   - Noise level - Braille printers can be quite noisy and may be
     disruptive in some work settings if proper noise abatement is not
     planned.  Many braille printers have a sound screen of some kind,
     but an additional noise hood may be useful.

   - Paper - Braille printers usually use a heavier weight paper than
     standard printers.  The heavier weight paper holds the dots
     longer, even after being read several times or put into a binder
     with other pages of print.  There are several weights and sizes of
     braille paper available.  When buying a braille printer, be sure
     to ask the proper size and weight of paper that should be used.
     Some braille printers can use standard weight form feed paper for
     draft printing.  This lighter weight paper will not hold the dots
     for very long like the heavier weight braille paper.  Using an
     improper weight of paper can cause some printers to jam.  Another
     consideration with braille paper is that it is less easily
     obtained than standard printer paper.  Some paper should be
     ordered when the printer is initially ordered and then proper
     stocks of braille paper should be kept on hand based on the usage

   - Portability - Most braille printers are rather heavy and
     therefore, not very portable.  There are a few smaller braille
     printers that may not be adequate for every day office use, but
     may offer a more portable solution for travel situations.  There
     are also braille printers available that are designed to be easily
     packed for travel or shipment even though they are still rather

   - Printer buffer capacity - Depending on the nature of the
     materials that will typically be printed on the braille printer,
     the size of the print buffer may be an issue.  Most braille
     printers have a relatively small printer buffer.  Many of the PCs
     in use today can send information at a much higher rate of speed
     than the printer can produce output.  This may result in the
     printer being unable to print the entire document if it is
     lengthy.  This problem can easily be solved by adding a printer
     buffer between the PC and the braille printer.  The buffer would
     hold the printer file information and feed it to the braille
     printer as it is ready to accept it, just like it would work with
     a standard text printer.

   - Maintenance - Braille printers, like any other mechanical
     device, can develop problems and should be covered by a
     maintenance contract.  The return or repair policy should be
     looked at carefully to determine what type of maintenance is
     appropriate.  The availability of a loaner printer and the
     estimated time for repair should be investigated since many
     facilities may have only the one braille printer available.

   - Printer status - As with standard text printers, the printer
     status needs to be conveyed to the user and the user needs to be
     able to direct the printer to change the status (e.g. off line to
     on line, form feed, line feed).

      - How is the status communicated to the user?  Braille, spoken
	message, tones?

      - How does the user change the status?  Toggle switches, software
	direction, control keypad?

      - Are status messages displayed in a format a sighted user could
	also understand?

   - Graphic output - Some braille printers are able to provide a
     tactile graphic drawing capability.  These tactile graphics
     usually are rather simple line drawings without a great deal of
     detail.  For some individuals, this feature may be important.

      - How easy is it to convert the printer from printing braille text
	to a tactile graphic?

      - How difficult is it to get the PC file into the proper format
	for producing a tactile graphic?

   - Connection to the PC - Some braille printers allow either a
     parallel or a serial connection to the PC.  Others are
     specifically one or the other, but do not allow the user a choice.
     Before purchasing the printer, it should be determined that the
     proper port needed is available on the PC.  The proper cables with
     the correct connectors should also be purchased.

   - Other considerations - Some individuals may need to have both a
     text printer and a braille printer attached to their PC.  Many
     braille users have a text printer sharing the PC printer port with
     the braille printer using a switch box.  This enables them to
     print text copy for dissemination to sighted individuals and
     braille copy for their own use.

   - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations 

      - See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software
	Compatibility Considerations" listed at the beginning of this

Braille Translation

Prior to a file being sent to the braille printer to be produced in braille, 
the file needs to be translated into braille.  


   - File format - Software braille translation packages typically
     need the file to be translated to be stored as an ASCII text file.
     Since most of the word processing packages used in offices today
     have the capability to save a file in ASCII format, this may not
     present any difficulties.  Some braille translation packages are
     available that can translate files directly from the word
     processing format of several commercially available wordprocessing
     packages to braille without requiring the intermediate step of
     converting the file to an ASCII text file.

   - Software or hardware translation - In the past, all braille
     translation was software-based.  Now there is also a
     hardware-based option for braille translation.  The hardware-based
     braille translation device may offer a relatively easy braille
     translation solution in both PC and non-PC computer environments.

   - Features - Some braille translation packages offer a number of
     different options to customize the braille document printing.
     Depending on the types of documents being converted to braille,
     the individual may or may not need all the customization features
     offered.  In some cases, purchasing a more limited, but easier to
     learn and use package may offer an advantage to the individual.

   - Document conversion and braille familiarity - The choice of
     braille translation devices may depend on whether the person
     actually translating and producing the braille document is a
     braille reader or not.  In some cases, the document is being
     produced in braille by a sighted, non-braille reader as a service
     of that organization serving clients that are braille readers.  An
     example would be production of a braille version of a training
     manual or the program for an agency-wide meeting.  The non-braille
     reader will not be familiar with all the complex rules for braille
     translation and will probably need a simple to use package that
     will produce acceptable Grade I and Grade II braille without
     significant user customization.

   - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations 

      - See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software
	Compatibility Considerations" listed at the beginning of this

Refreshable braille display  

In addition to printed braille output, there is also the capability for a
refreshable braille display of computer screen contents.  The refreshable
braille display consists of a row(s) of braille cells.  Movable pins go up
and down in each cell to change the dots used to form the changing braille
characters.  This capability allows a braille reader to access the
information being displayed on the screen in a more dynamic manner than is
possible by reading only printed braille output.


   - Number of cells - Refreshable braille devices may be purchased
     in configurations ranging from 20 cells to 80 cells providing a
     dynamic window of screen contents that is 20, 40, or 80 characters
     long.  Depending on the nature of the work being done, some
     individuals may need the full 80 cell display that would allow
     them to easily read across the entire computer screen without
     having to perform any additional manipulations.  Other individuals
     may find a 20 or 40 cell braille display to be adequate.  The
     price of refreshable braille displays rises appreciably as the
     number of braille cells is increased.

   - 6 dot braille vs 8 dot braille - In addition to determining the
     number of braille cells needed, the user must determine whether a
     6 dot braille format or an 8 dot braille format is preferred.  As
     mentioned previously, the 8 dot braille format may have several
     advantages for many individuals once they have adjusted to reading
     the new 8 dot format.

   - Cell formation - The formation of the braille cell and how it is
     presented may be different on various brands of refreshable
     braille devices.  This can be due to the way the pins move and
     change, the spacing of the pins, or the spacing of the cells.  One
     device may form braille characters that may be easier for the user
     to read than another device.

   - Cursor location - Refreshable braille devices vary in how the
     location of the application cursor is displayed.  In some cases,
     the cell where the cursor is located is indicated by all dots
     being raised.  This would then "hide" the letter being represented
     in that cell.  In other cases, the cursor is indicated by the pins
     of that cell constantly going up and down.  This allows the user
     to determine the letter in that cell and know the cursor location,
     but may contribute to earlier wear on the pins.  With 8 dot
     braille, the cursor may be indicated by one of the additional 2
     dots present.

   - Review mode - Most refreshable braille displays give the user a
     capability to review the screen contents without having to
     actually move the application cursor.  This is particularly needed
     when screens contain protected areas that do not allow the
     application cursor to be moved into a certain location.  In many
     cases, screen status information may be in one of these protected
     areas and needs to be accessed.  A review mode provides this
     capability and is also important when writing long documents.  The
     user may need to read and review material already written before
     continuing the composition of new material.

      - How easy is it to move in and out of the review mode?

      - In non-protected areas of the screen, is there a mechanism for
	moving the application cursor to the area being reviewed at that

   - Redundant visual notification - Many refreshable braille
     displays have a method of visually indicating the screen
     information being displayed in braille format on the refreshable
     braille display.  This is particularly useful for any sighted
     individual that may need to review text with the individual using
     the refreshable braille display.  The sighted individual then
     knows what information is being presented on the braille display
     and then can be sure they are both reading the same thing.  The
     visual notification can take several forms.  Some systems have an
     external device that will display in text format what is being
     displayed in braille.  Others will indicate on the computer screen
     by reverse video or a blinking bar, the section of screen contents
     being displayed in braille on the refreshable braille display.

   - Hardware configuration and software compatibility considerations 

      - See the "General Hardware Configuration and Software
	Compatibility Considerations" listed at the beginning of this

Braille Input Devices

Some braille users may prefer braille for computer input.  A few of the
options available are discussed below:

   - Braille note-taker - Small, portable devices are available that
     allow braille entry for taking notes.  These devices have their
     own local storage and built-in text editors.  Their input
     mechanism is a keyboard with six keys and a space bar which is
     used to enter either Grade I or Grade II braille.  In many cases,
     the information entered may be reviewed auditorily by having it
     spoken using a built-in speech synthesizer, the file may be
     transferred to a PC to be edited, or the file may be sent to a
     braille printer for printing.

      - What size is the portable braille note-taker?

      - How heavy is it?

      - Does it have a battery or must it be connected to a power
	source?  Is the battery rechargeable or replaceable?  How long
	will the battery pack last?  How is a low battery indicated?

      - Is there nonvolatile memory so files that have been saved are
	not lost during battery failure?

      - Can files from the PC be transferred to the note-taker device?

      - Can files from the note-taker device be transferred to the PC?

      - How easy is the file transfer mechanism?

      - How large is the file storage capacity on the note-taker?  Is it
	on micro- cassette, floppy disk, internal hard disk, or random
	access memory?

      - Can the note-taker files be sent directly to a braille printer?

      - Does the device have built-in speech output capabilities?

      - Are there any other functions the device can perform in addition
	to note- taking?  For example, some devices offer date, time, or
	calculator functions in addition to wordprocessing.

   - PC braille input devices - In addition to the portable braille
     note-taking devices that can generate a file transfer to the PC,
     there are other braille input devices designed to be connected to
     the PC for direct input.  These devices may either replace the
     standard PC keyboard or be attached to the PC in addition to the
     keyboard.  In addition, there are software packages available that
     will configure a PC keyboard so it can be used for braille input.
     Once the software is activated, typically the home rows key become
     braille dots 1 and 4 and the space bar becomes the chord key.
     Some packages allow both Grade I and Grade II braille input in
     this manner.  The software may be part of a package that is
     included with other braille devices, such as a refreshable braille
     display device, or may be purchased separately.

      - Can both the standard PC keyboard and the braille input device
	be active?  How easy is it to switch back and forth between the

      - How is the device connected to the PC? serial port? keyboard
	connection? Is the proper port or connection available?

      - If the standard PC keyboard is being used for braille input, how
	easy is it to switch from braille input to standard QWERTY
	keyboard input?