Progress in the eBraille Pilot Project

The innovative eBraille project is revolutionizing education for learners who are blind or have low vision.  Launched at Athlone School and Pioneer School in the Western Cape in 2013, the eBraille Project has already seen incredible successes and has begun to take shape in Gauteng.

The eBraille Project began when the Western Cape Department of Education sought out technology to assist in making learning and teaching support materials (LTSM) accessible in the schools for the blind – where braille is the primary means of reading and writing.  Electronic braille has already become the norm in most first world countries.  South Africa is now beginning to adopt this technology through the eBraille Project.

The Braillenote Apex is a uniquely designed computer-like device that uses a braille keyboard for writing and navigation and a refreshable braille display for reading.  The refreshable braille display consists of metal pins that rise and fall to form each braille character.

Athone School Leading the Way

Mr Fletcher Fisher, Principal at Athlone School, is a great champion and supporter of the project – recognising that this technology provides opportunities for his learners that were never before possible.

Possibly the most exciting feature of the Braillenote Apex for the learners themselves is that they can now access the internet instantly in braille.

Edit Microsystems have employed Junior Project Managers, Kyle Williams at Athlone School and Thando Ngada at Pioneer School (both former students of Athlone School), to support the project and provide hands-on training and support to the users.  The project is managed by Gerhard Erasmus, Blindness and Low Vision Project Manager at Edit Microsystems’ head office.

Kyle Williams reports that the learners are so eager to learn the new technology, that his office door is frequently kicked down during break times and he is bombarded by questions and requests for more practice.

In June 2014, learners at Athlone School wrote their examinations on the Braillenote Apex for the first time – a momentous occasion.

Watch the video by organisers of African Education Week below for more details and footage of the learners writing exams

(Gratitude to Spintelligent and African Education Week for the footage)

 eBraille Project Enables Inclusive Education

The eBraille Project is also making it possible for blind learners to attend mainstream schools!

Pieter-Jans Dürr (14) is a grade 9 learner at Swartland High School, a mainstream school in the Western Cape.  Instead of textbooks and writing books, Pieter-Jans is armed with his Braillenote Apex.

When Pieter first lost his sight, he transferred out of his mainstream school to attend Pioneer School for the Blind in Worcester.  After learning braille at Pioneer and aquiring a Braillenote Apex specialised braille computer for the blind, he was able to go back to his hometown and attend Swartland High School alongside his sighted school friends.

Watch this video of an interview with Pieter-Jans to see how this technology has changed his life

For more news stories on the eBraille Project visit our “As Seen On” Page