Monday, February 15, 2010
Special Exhibit: Reviving the Braille Slate
Slates for Special Purposes
With only minor exceptions, the primary manufacturers of braille slates in the U.S. produce the same slates today that have been produced for more than forty years. With modern materials and modern manufacturing methods, it would seem that newer, better slates could be designed that would alleviate or eliminate some of the major drawbacks of present slates and make writing by hand as quick and efficient for blind persons as using a pencil is for sighted persons.
This exhibit examines many aspects of slate design and structure and presents examples of slates that have incorporated a feature that is illustrative of the point. Many of these slates are no longer produced and many were not produced under ideal manufacturing conditions so simply acquiring some of these items to improve the variety of available slates is not a viable option.
Limitations of Current Materials:
Sturdy metals are heavy;
Light metals bend easily;
Light anodized metals generally have a slight texture which reduces writing speed and comfort;
Many plastics become brittle;
Some materials can contribute to slate noise; and
Hard materials are slippery on writing surface.
Goal for Materials: To select and combine materials to achieve economy, comfort, and stability.
A. Heavy metal front, light metal back
Photo -- Slate 111 from France shows a solid brass front providing stability and allowing for smooth, fast writing and a lightweight aluminum back reducing the overall weight. This pocket slate was manufactured by Association Valentin Hauy, Paris and has 8 lines of 18 cells. Other features include: two pairs of Dymo slots on back, top-hinged, and offset pins to produce interpoint braille.