Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) president Marc Maurer announced that the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the NFB will work together to test a prototype technology developed by NIST that provides the blind and visually impaired with access to electronic images in the same way that Braille makes words readable.

NFB members will field test the new device, known as a tactile graphic display, so that NIST researchers can get firsthand input on how the technology may be improved for future commercialization. The Federation put an early version of NIST's rotating wheel Braille reader (that converts electronic text such as e-mail into Braille characters) through its paces and gave the designers valuable ideas for making the device more user-friendly and effective. Today, the Braille reader is ready for licensing by the company or companies that can bring this low cost, powerful tool to the market place. The announcement came in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month and NFB's National Meet the Blind Month. This work to foster the development of simple to manufacture, low cost and easy to use alternatives will open opportunities for learning, exploration and growth to blind children and adults in the home, school and workplace.

For a detailed description of NIST's tactile graphic display device, go to: factsheet/visualdisplay.htm. For more information on NIST's rotating-wheel Braille reader, go to: