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Computer technology is becoming increasingly portable and compact. Traditional laptop computers are being replaced with more compact computers called “notebooks:” and “netbooks”.

A number of them are doing away with the keyboard and just comprise of a screen and these are called “tablets”. These devices are designed to be lightweight and portable.

Their accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision varies depending on the operating system and support of adaptive software such as customised screen magnification and screen reader software.

“Notetakers” are portable computers designed for people who are blind or have low vision that provide an all-in-one accessible solution that is easy to use.


Many electronic notetakers are based on customized software using a voice synthesizer in a purpose built device. These notetakers have either a typewriter style keyboard or a braille keyboard with each key representing a dot of the braille cell.

Most notetakers on the market have a voice synthesizer for speech output and may also have a refreshable braille display. Battery operation is available in addition to mains power.

Tasks that can be performed include word processing, telephone and address book keeping, diary functions, calculator, time/date, and data transfer to other devices.

They can also be used as an external voice synthesizer for a Windows screen reader and/or as a refreshable braille display, if this is available.

Since information in these notetakers is usually stored in the braille code, it is possible to back translate from braille to computer text. This allows the information to be accessed by another computer or printed out as text on a standard printer.

Instead of purchasing a custom device for notetaking, a portable computer can also be adapted using a screen reader, screen magnifier, or refreshable braille display. This then provides the user with notetaking and other facilities.

The main advantage of a portable computer is that it has more flexibility in its range of applications. The main advantages of notetakers is that they are ready to use in one or two seconds, often have far superior battery life, and are much more compact and easy to carry around.

For more information, pop into your local Vision Australia centre or visit our online Equipment Solutions shop.