A study on blind and visually impaired young people’s use of refreshable Braille displays (BrailleTech)

This research project is associated with the existing Velux funded research project BlindTech, led by Brian Due.

Research shows that the use of special aids in school amongst blind and visually impaired children, has a positive effect on their ability to complete higher education. In recent years we have seen a number of refreshable Braille displays on the market, that allows the blind and visually impaired user to read, write and work digitally in the same way as their sighted peers. This study aims at investigating what factors and which semiotic resources the blind users draw on, in the practical use of refreshable Braille displays. This will contribute with insights on how to support the blind user’s motivation for maintaining their Braille literacy skills in the future. The research will be based on video ethnographic methods in combination with semi-structured interviews and observation.

In preschool blind and visually impaired children train their preliteracy skills through different games, activities and training of their tactile skills. They also get acquainted with the Perkins machine and begin understanding basic Braille. When starting in school, blind and visually impaired children are presented with refreshable Braille displays. There are two kinds of displays, that both makes reading and writing in Braille possible; one that needs to be coupled with another digital unit, for example a computer - and one that has the full functionality of a computer or tablet in itself, with a separate control system and harddisk. The computer version of the refreshable Braille display allows you to handle the same apps and platforms like you would on a laptop. By mastering Braille, you can thereby work, write, read and be present on the same digital platforms as your sighted peers.

There is so much potential in these various ways of maintaining and expanding one’s Braille literacy with help from the newest technology, and thereby being able to work the same systems and tasks as sighted people - but little do we know about how the practical use of the Braille displays looks. And how does the surrounding network of family and teachers affect the blind and visually impaired young person’s motivation for maintaining the use of Braille?

The results of this study will contribute with important knowledge in the continued work of making it easier for blind and visually impaired people to take part in the digital development in the educational field.


The aim of this research project is to investigate which semiotic resources blind and visually impaired young users at the age of 14 to 19 years draw on in the practical use of digital braille displays, both at home and in school settings. Furthermore, we seek to investigate what factors that are essential in maintaining the use of the digital Braille displays among blind and visually impaired young people.

The research project is designed as an in-depth qualitative video ethnographic study of a small group of blind and visually impaired people at the age of 14 to 19 years. The project is situated within ethnomethodology (EM), multimodal conversation analysis (CA) and video ethnography in combination with interviews. There will be both focus on the participant’s accountable multimodal actions and their reflections upon their actions through interview data.

Central questions:

  • How is the practical use of the digital Braille displays organized, and how does the displays connect with other electronic aids and devices?
  • How is the practical use of the digital Braille display experienced by the blind and visually impaired young users?
  • What challenges need to be addressed in order to maintain their use of the displays in the future?



Phase 1: Research and gatekeepers

State of the art, researching, data management setup, communications.

Phase 2: Participants and planning

Agreements on data collecting.

Phase 3: Data collecting and -processing

  1. Video ethnographic studies of the blind young people using a refreshable Braille display in a school setting and B) at home.
  2. Semi-structured interviews with the blind young people, their parents, the consultants, their teachers and school friends.

Phase 4: Data processing and analyses

Transcribing, analyzing and establishing findings.

Phase 5: Reporting

Publication, impact, reporting and workshops.



Name Title Phone E-mail
Due, Brian Lystgaard Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4535335929 E-mail
Juul, Holger Associate Professor +4535329132 E-mail


Rosa Marie Aarslev, Nota

Dorte Larsen, Synscenter Refsnæs


 Nota logo

Funded by Nota

Project period: August 2021 – May 2022

PI: Brian L. Due