A Brief History of Papenmeier Reha Technology


Picture of first BRILLEX

In the beginning of the 1970's, Papenmeier undertook a development program with Prof. Dr. Werner Boldt of Dortmund University. The outcome was, in 1975, BRAILLEX, the first electronic device in the world that made use of a refreshable Braille display. This was the beginning of the Papenmeier Reha division.

BRAILLEX was a stand-alone information storage and retrieval system. You could write an information and store it with a code name. This code name was then used to retrieve the information again. BRAILLEX was very popular; the people who owned it liked the ease of use and the fast retrieval of their information.


Picture of the name Louis Braille in Braille

In 1979, Papenmeier was awarded the Louis Braille prize, in recognition of its commitment to helping blind people to get access to today's technologically oriented world. Today, the BRAILLEX prototype can be seen in the Munich German Museum of Technology, as a milestone in technology for the blind.

BRAILLEX sold for more than 10 years. During its lifetime, it was modified several times: Floppy disk drives replaced the data storage on audiocassette. A serial port was introduced to meet the first interfacing requirements. You could connect BRAILLEX to a memory typewriter, a Braille embosser, or to one of the upcoming home computers.

Later on, increasingly specialized user's needs lead Papenmeier to the adaptive technology in the very sense of the word. BRAILLEX which was the name of a device in the beginning, became the brand name for Papenmeier's refreshable Braille products.


In the beginning of the 1980's, blind typists used an off-the-shelf memory typewriter where the LCD display was translated on a Braille display (called BRAILLEX Control). Those people with advanced needs rather used the first freely programmable computer with integrated Braille output (called BRAILLEX PC).


In 1985, Papenmeier introduced its first Braille display for the IBM PC and compatibles, called BRAILLEX IB 80. With its hardware interface it allowed to access virtually any PC type computer with virtually any software available, as long as it worked in text mode.


In 1991, the screen access technology was still pushed forward with the introduction of BRAILLEX 2D Screen. This revolutionary new device allowed, besides the traditional Braille output, a global overview over the data available on the complete screen at once.

The introduction of the graphical user interfaces meant a new challenge for the Papenmeier Reha team. They were used to provide Braille readers with almost equal access to Pcs as sighted computer users, and thus almost equal opportunities in job places. The highly sophisticated visually oriented programs threatened to become a step back in the technological proficiency of those with disabilities.


In 1994, Papenmeier introduced its acclaimed WinDOTS program that translates the Windows graphical screen into a format that blind people can easily work with: a text screen. The intuitive learning of the new environment and the ease of use made WinDOTS a best seller.

Recently, Papenmeier made sure that their Braille displays work with all major screen reader programs offering Braille support, amongst which Jaws for Windows, HAL/Supernova, and Window-Eyes.


A new era in Braille access was introduced in the spring of 1999, with the introduction of the new BRAILLEX EL displays with their patented Easy Access Bar allowing to use the thumb of the reading hands to navigate through the screen pages — or through PC applications — without ever taking the hands off the Braille display.


Papenmeier introduced the revolutionary Linux-based Braille notetaker BRAILLEX EL Braille Assistant (ELba) offering for the first time the possibility to network a Braille notetaker and to access Internet and Email.


A redesign of the Easy Access Bar allowed to build very small and flat Braille displays, the smallest of them being the very popular BRAILLEX EL 40s.


Introduction of BRAILLEX Trio, a stand-alone Braille notetaker and at the same time a universal terminal for both PC and PDA connection via Bluetooth or USB with a very attractive housing and a number of interesting features, such as seamless concave Braille display with paper-like feel, battery power with off-the-shelf rechargeable batteries, and the like.


Papenmeier offers a complete range of refreshable Braille products. In addition to our acclaimed hardware and software we offer a variety of other products and services designed to meet our customers' specific needs, whether in the workplace, classroom or home.

The Papenmeier Reha division works with a network of selected dealers and distributors around the world to deliver our products and services. We provide excellent after-sale technical support, a distinction for which we are renowned.