Orbit Reader 20: Making Refreshable Braille More Affordable

Braille is an incredibly empowering tool for people with sight loss, opening many doors to literacy, education, and employment. However, Braille on paper is costly because it takes up more space than the printed word. Braille displayed on an electronic display with dots that pop up and down to form characters is a less costly alternative. Since the release of first refreshable braille display in 1982, the downside to such devices has been the extremely high cost – too expensive for many braille readers to afford. With the advent of the Orbit Reader 20, however, the cost of a display has been reduced significantly.

Launched during National Braille Week in September 2018, the Orbit Reader 20 is a revolutionary and affordable refreshable braille display about the size and weight of single hardback novel. Equipped with a 20-cell 8-dot display, it is a unique 3-in-1 device that serves as a self-contained book reader, a note-taker and as a braille display through connection to a computer or smartphone via USB or Bluetooth.


As a standalone reader: the Orbit has the capacity to store thousands of books, allowing users to browse their own personal library while for example waiting a train, flying to a holiday destination or reviewing notes before an important presentation. It enables the user to read any file directly from an SD card, which could also allow students to have content loaded on to the SD card by teachers and use the unit without any live connectivity to a computer or the internet. The reader has features for easy navigation, inserting and editing bookmarks, browsing through folders, etc.

As a braille display: the Orbit Reader connects to PCs and Macs, iOS devices and Android devices. It provides Bluetooth and USB connectivity and can connect simultaneously to multiple devices. Using the screen reading capability on a mobile device, such as Voiceover, or popular PC screen readers such as Jaws or NVDA, the user can control the functions of their smartphone or computer, use their favourite apps, read and send text messages and email and browse the internet.

As a note-taker: the Orbit Reader offers all essential file creation and editing functions. A user can create new files, save them on the SD card and edit existing files. The Orbit Reader also includes file management features, allowing the user to rename, delete, copy, and create folders and files.

The development of refreshable braille displays over 30 years ago brought more braille to the fingertips of people with sight loss than previously imagined, but until now the cost of these refreshable braille products remained out of the reach of consumers whose equipment was not funded by employers or educational institutions. At €5,000 or more per unit, cost has kept refreshable braille out of the hands of many individuals with sight loss. The Orbit Reader, which is available to purchase from NCBI for €768.75, significantly reduces the cost of refreshable braille, making it affordable to those who may not have been able to enjoy this technology previously. Perhaps most importantly though, it further proves that technology is here to enhance the braille reading experience, not replace it.

More information

To find out more about the Orbit Reader 20 or to arrange a demonstration please call NCBI on 01-8307033.