There are over 25,000 blind and partially sighted children throughout Europe, the majority learning and using braille. Being a skilled braillist is a significant step towards independence for visually impaired individuals.
Aiming at specialists and families, the Braille Bee will be used in the home and in educational environments. I have designed the toy to encourage independent learning, while also being a sociable toy that can be used in pairs or groups not dependent on their visual abilities.
The main function of the Braille Bee is to write a braille word. The toy will be used alongside a braille machine which cost upwards of £1,000. The Braille Bee will be a cheap alternative for the child to learn on, before the specialist or carer invests in an appropriate braille machine.
Using ball bearings to replicate the six dots used to create braille letters, six keys connect to six internal levers. When the keys are pressed, the corresponding ball bearing is then raised to the surface by a lever and held with a friction fit. The slider located at the top pushes an internal carriage left and right, allowing up to 10 letters to be written.
As a desirable extra, the toy includes a magnetic pen. Drawing over the ball bearings with the pen pulls the bearings to the surface of their drafted holes where they are fixed with a friction fit. As the balls are trapped in place, the user is able to brush their fingers over the ball bearings to feel what has been drawn: letters, braille, shapes, objects.
As the toy is so adaptable, it remains suitable for the user from the age of three up until they have fully developed their braille skills.