SOURCE: Product Development Technologies

October 15, 2008 11:14 ET

Perkins School for the Blind and Product Development Technologies Improve an Icon

The Next Generation™ Perkins Brailler

LAKE ZURICH, IL--(Marketwire - October 15, 2008) - Imagine a product that can determine the difference between a life of literacy or illiteracy. A life with or without employment. A life full of productive independence or codependence. This is a very real scenario for the blind in the US and around the world. In fact, in the United States, 70% of citizens who are blind are unemployed or underemployed. However, 80% of those who use braille are employed. In other words, literacy reverses the numbers.

Fifty seven years after the original Perkins Brailler® was introduced by Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, where both Helen Keller and Laura Bridgman studied, Perkins Products partnered with The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and Product Development Technologies (PDT) to vastly improve this life-changing device for the individuals of all ages in over 170 countries that depend upon it. Its name is the Next Generation™. The first version available in the U.S. is the Next Generation Perkins/APH Brailler, in APH Blue, in recognition of the financial support provided by APH. "The collaboration between Perkins and PDT was absolutely instrumental in the success of this redesign and development effort," says David Morgan General Manager of Perkins Products.

The redesign process began with exhaustive international user research. The teams spoke directly with those who know the brailler best from children in India who struggled with dirt and dust jamming the precious machine, to teachers for the blind in Malawi who had to pass the brailler around to students all day because they could only afford one per school, to senior citizens and students in the US who needed a lighter machine so they could carry it with them.

The development of the new brailler was uniquely challenging, given there were around six hundred parts. The original brailler took over ten years to develop; the Next Generation™ took a fraction of that time. This was made possible largely to the cooperation between the Perkins and PDT teams who worked together throughout the entire project; from research to industrial design, engineering and sourcing in both the US and Asia.

"Some projects just rise above the rest in the positive impact they can have in people's lives," says David Carhart, PDT's prototyping manager. "This was one where the motivation was always there to go the extra mile when facing a difficult technical challenge. The thought that we could be helping open a door to literacy for a person with a disability was a huge inspiration."

The challenges with the iconic machine -- the most widely used Braille writer in the world -- were varied, but in the end, the Next Generation™ had a team of people develop it who were endlessly passionate about getting it right and giving those at a disadvantage a new advantage... a new vehicle for communicating, learning and expressing themselves.

"The original Perkins Brailler fundamentally changed the lives of tens of thousands of people who are blind or visually impaired. It is our greatest hope that the Next Generation Perkins Brailler captures the best of the original while offering new features and functions that inspire a new generation of children and promote braille literacy efforts around the world," says David Morgan. Few products can have such an impact so as to change the course of a person's life. The Next Generation™ truly does hold that power.

About Perkins

Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, the nation's first school for the visually impaired, provides education and services to help build productive, meaningful lives for more than 90,000 children and adults who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired with or without other disabilities in the U.S. and more than 60 countries worldwide. Founded in 1829, Perkins pursues this mission on campus, in the community and around the world. Learn more online at www.perkins.org

About The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky, is the world's largest non-profit organization devoted to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind or visually impaired. Products include books and periodicals in accessible formats as well as educational, recreational, and daily living products. Now celebrating 150 years of building independence, APH is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. For more information, call (502) 895-2405 or visit www.aph.org.

About PDT

Product Development Technologies, Inc. (PDT) is a global, full-service product development firm with over 100 employees in eight offices worldwide. Team members have expertise in a vast range of product development disciplines, including design research, industrial design, user interface development, electrical and mechanical engineering, software development, laser scanning, and tooling. PDT's award winning product designs have been recognized by BusinessWeek, the Industrial Designers Society of America, The Consumer Electronics Association, Inc. Magazine, Chicago Athenaeum of Architecture and Design, and Parametric Technologies Corporation. www.pdt.com

About TZ Limited

TZ Limited (ASX: TZL) is a publicly listed intellectual property and technology development company with design and engineering operations throughout the US and Europe.

The company is a leader in the integration of intelligence and software control into everyday objects to enable new levels of functionality. Supported by a full product development capability, TZ Limited brings innovation to market through the creation of winning new products and solutions.

Through innovation partnerships with industry leaders, TZ Limited creates opportunities for new product participation and business growth via proven capabilities in developing, licensing and commercializing proprietary technologies. www.tzlimited.com

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts:

    Tanya Sillitti
    Marketing Communications
    Product Development Technologies, Inc.
    847.821.3048
    Email Contact

    Christina Newman
    Marketing Communications
    Product Development Technologies, Inc.
    847.821.3033
    Email Contact

    Marilyn Rea Beyer
    Media and Public Relations Director
    Perkins School for the Blind
    617.972.7478
    Email Contact

    Laura Matz
    Director of Marketing and Sales
    Perkins Products
    Perkins School for the Blind
    617.972.7317
    Email Contact