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Reading & Writing Aids

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      The Iowa Department for the Blind has a varied collection of tools and technology that blind Iowans have utilized to work and live in a sighted world. Items such as Braille writers, maps with raised lines, and Talking Book Machines illustrate the alternative techniques blind people use to access print and visual information; allowing them to compete in the workforce and keep current with cultural trends and ideas. Many of the items in its collection have been donated. These items demonstrate how alternative techniques have been applied and reveal advances in technology. For instance, for years blind persons were restricted to using only a slate and stylus to write in Braille.  Later, machines and computer software were developed to produce Braille documents quickly and efficiently. Advancements in audio production have also made it easier for blind and visually impaired persons to access all types of print information, from novels and magazines, to recipes and classroom materials. The Department's artifact collection includes a number of these audio technologies, including one of the first Talking Book long playing record players, cassette players, and the new digital talking book player.

      From something as basic as a slate and stylus designed to mark playing cards with Braille to an Optacon, an electromechanical device that allowed blind individuals to read printed text, each artifact tells a story about a different time in history and teaches us how tools and technology can be used by the blind and visually impaired to obtain information in an alternative, effective way.  

      The Department's collection includes sixty artifacts related to reading and writing. Please follow the links below for more information on these artifacts.

      Slate and Stylus, including examples of slates used in countries around the world.

      Mechanical Reading and Writing Aids

      Samples of Texts in Alternative Media, including Embossed Type, New York Point, and raised line drawings.