A provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which will, as of July 1994, affect businesses with as few as 15 employees (see "Preparing for the Americans with Disabilities Act," Managing People, January 1992, [Article link]1), holds that public signs must be embossed with braille in addition to printed lettering. That provision suggests that eventually many businesses will need to be able to execute the six-dot format of braille on their computer systems, not only for signs but for all types of printed documents. In response to the ADA, Duxbury Systems (508-486-9766), the country's oldest software manufacturer involved in braille translation, has come out with a translator dedicated to braille's compressed alphabet (in which the st in stairs, for example, is a single character).

Duxbury's Braille Board ($295) requires no knowledge of the complex rules of the braille alphabet. At the same time text is being laid out for print, the software translates it into six-dot arrangements. The dots can be raised by outputting them directly through a commercial braille embosser (low-end price: $1,500), or they can be punched out by hand with a special braille-writing labeler such as Dymo's model 1011-05 ($252), from Esselte/Pendaflex, in New York City.

Duxbury also has a line of software that translates word-processor files, transcribing text into braille through a commercial embosser. Because the software can handle input from any ASCII source, including optical scanners, a company can process printed documents such as news clippings, incoming faxes, and memos, and make them available to sightless workers. Starting at $295, such software runs on both MS-DOS and Macintosh platforms.

-- Robert A. Mamis