Photo of the Orbit Reader 20 on a white background.
After months of ongoing negotiations between the Transforming Braille Group (of which APH is a member) and Orbit Research (the manufacturer of the Orbit Reader 20), American Printing House has removed the Orbit Reader 20 from its catalog and shopping site. This comes after discussions have stalled regarding the terms of distribution to TBG partners. The global nonprofits that make up the TBG collaborate as a group to purchase Orbit Reader 20s as part of an effort to keep costs low.
“Working with the TBG, APH has negotiated in good faith for many months, balancing the needs of our customers and organization, our interest in driving a low-cost braille market, and our valuable partnerships with TBG members,” says APH President Craig Meador. “Despite our best efforts, we have not found alignment on the issues at hand. APH must now move forward, and focus our energies on our mission to support students with braille literacy and adults in their independence.”
The Good News
The Orbit Reader 20 started with a question: “how do we make refreshable braille more affordable?” To that end leaders in the field of blindness from around the world, including APH, gathered to create the Transforming Braille Group. Creating low cost refreshable braille is a difficult task, and there were a lot of setbacks throughout the process. Thankfully the effort had an impact.
“APH was proud to be the company that stood up to be the first to bring this ground-breaking technology to market,” says Meador, “It was all worth it to be an innovator, and show that we could bring prices down. That part worked. We now have competition in the low-cost braille market that wasn’t happening five years ago. Sometimes you have to take a risk – that’s what we did.”
The drop in prices created more access by showing what can be possible. For example, the National Library Service has announced they plan to offer free refreshable braille devices to their readers in the coming years.
On the Horizon
APH will continue its efforts to support low cost braille. “Braille cells cost a lot of money to manufacture, and the demand isn’t high enough to drive that price down – we’ll keep trying. Although it’s not an easy journey, we believe everyone who needs braille should have access to it.”
APH and the TBG are continuing to negotiate with Orbit Research in hopes that a resolution can be found. In the meantime, APH is looking at other possible low-cost refreshable braille options to include in its catalog. They will complement new premium refreshable braille devices built for students and educational use now and soon available from APH through a partnership with HumanWare.
Orbit Research is expected to honor the warranty and continue repairs for already purchased Orbit Readers. Any requests for repairs should continue to come through APH. Supporting documentation, like the Orbit User Guide and user videos, will remain available to customers who have purchased an Orbit Reader from APH.