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ATU680 – Replay: Braille Doodle with Daniel Lubiner


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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Special Guest:
Daniel Lubiner – Founder and CEO – The TouchPad Pro Foundation
Matthew Bullis – Chief Experience Officer –
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—– Transcript Starts Here —–

Hello. This is Matthew Bullis, the Chief Experience Officer of the Touchpad Pro Foundation.

And I am Daniel Lubiner. I am the CEO and Founder of the Touchpad Pro Foundation, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Hello, and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments of the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 680 of Assistive Technology Update. It is scheduled to be released on June 7th, 2024. Listeners, a little over a year ago, we were lucky enough to have the folks from the Touchpad Pro Foundation on to talk about the BrailleDoodle. And I’ve seen some information that looks like this product might be coming out here very, very soon. So we decided to go on back and replay that episode for you this week and we’ll be back next week with more content. So thank you for listening. Let’s get on with the show.

Listeners, anyone who works with individuals with vision loss and blindness knows the importance of learning braille and how it can open doors to education and employment. Well, our guests today are from the Touchpad Pro Foundation and they’re here to tell us about the BrailleDoodle and how it can assist individuals with creating art and learning braille. Matthew, Daniel, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having us.

Thank you so much, Josh, for having us.

Guys, I am really excited to get into talking about the BrailleDoodle, the Touchpad Pro Foundation and everything else. But before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourselves?

Yeah. Sure. Matthew, you want to go first?

Okay. This is Matthew, again, the Chief Experience Officer of the Touchpad Pro Foundation. I found out about this product and I was very intrigued about the possibilities. As a longtime braille reader of over 40 years and a teacher of blind adults of assistive technology, it really excited me about what it can do for the lives of people learning braille and who already know braille. I contacted Daniel and we started talking and had several hours of stimulating conversations about what this device can provide.

Awesome. And Daniel, what about you?

Again, my name is Daniel Lubiner. I’m the CEO, Founder, and crazy inventor, and [inaudible 00:02:31] person. I’ve been a teacher for over 25 years. I taught all types of different special education students. I taught autism and learning disabilities, a lot of reading. So going from non-readers to readers, and that was really rewarding. Then the last five years of my teaching, I got into teaching art to the blind and low vision. I’ve always been into art and this opportunity seemed tremendous except I was really nervous because I was like, “I’m going to say the wrong thing. I’m going to do the wrong thing. How do I do something that everybody could use and be tactile and everything?” But really quickly, they made me feel like right at home and the blindness thing just went into the background. And it was more about being there with kids and teenagers and young adults who have crutches and who want to play and who want to learn and grow. So that’s sort of my background. I started thinking of these devices pretty quickly because I’ve always had this brain that just goes, “Well, what if we had all the money in the world and we could build the ultimate device for these guys? What would it be?” That type of thing.

For the blindness community, the ultimate device I’ve always thought would be multi-lines of braille, refreshable braille. And for 40 years it’s been one line of braille across and now that’s starting to change. So this device that we’re talking about today is going to be one of those that’s going to help it along as well among others.

Well, and Matthew, you just led me straight into my next question because one of the main reasons we have you on here today is to talk about the BrailleDoodle. So go ahead guys and tell me what is the BrailleDoodle?

Well, let me describe it to you. So it’s about the size of a laptop. Like an old school big laptop. About an inch thick and on one side it has hundreds of holes that are in an array just equidistant apart. And you use a magnetic stylus and pull up these little metal balls. So when you drag the metal stylus across, the balls just click into place, click, click, click. And then you could feel as you’re going along. The balls just stay up just right so you’re able to feel them and even scrub them a little bit. When you want to, you push them back down and they fall. So it’s a really nice size drawing surface that gives you a lot of possibilities of what you could do. Originally it was going to be some type of cover or something that we would be able to teach braille. Now we turned it into a two-sided thing. So if you flip it over to the other side, it has all the letters and some site words and some symbols to go on and have anybody start learning braille right out of the box.

I look up to Apple a little bit because they’re like, “Okay. We want it to be intuitive. We want it to get out of the box and people be able to work with it.” So that’s the way I kind of saw this. And I also saw it as a reading teacher because a lot of products out there, it seems like whenever you hear somebody teaching braille, the first products that you think of are one letter or two letters, maybe five if you’re lucky. So you get these letters where you take the pegs out and stuff like that. But really when someone is teaching reading and learning reading, you have to go right to multiple letters. So you learn the C, you learn the [inaudible 00:06:39] sound, you do phonics. [inaudible 00:06:43], T, and then you do cat, and then you follow that with cat, sat, fat, and then you make sentences. The fat cat sat on a mat. So it follows that progression. So underneath all the examples for braille are lines of like 19 braille cells across where you could write sentences and words. So it’s going to be really cool. A lot of people are pretty excited about it. I’m pretty excited about it.

No. And I’m pretty excited about it too because I do know as someone who’s worked in employment for individuals with disabilities for a long time, that being literate in braille can really be just kind of a precursor to success in work and life. I know there’s statistics out there and everything else, but I know a lot of individuals I’ve worked with, if they’re literate in braille, it seems to open so many doors.

This is Matthew speaking again. Without braille, I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the other jobs that I’ve had in my life. Booking for Best Western International with the guest in one ear, the screen reader in the other ear and the braille underneath my fingertips to read the hotel script. I booked or tried to book during Hurricane Katrina, for instance. And so that was a big, I hope, a good contribution where braille is something I would not be without.

Well, I know here in the States there are schools. There’s probably issues and everything, but there are ways and resources to kind of learn braille, but across the world, I’m sure that’s very, very different. So being able to have a tool to be able to use has to make just a giant difference for folks.

The thing is, right now we’re focused on children, but this is going to be incredibly useful for adults as well. But having the beginning readers like kids as young as four years old, five years old just get a head start. And I was surprised. I would think everybody had the opportunity to get materials or teachers if they needed them. But the truth is, Josh, in the United States, only around 10% of kids who need braille or should be getting braille are getting braille, and that’s absolutely ridiculous. If we said we’re only going to teach 10% of kids who are sighted, there would be riots in the streets. So people don’t want to talk about it. It sounds better when people say, “Oh, it’s only 10% that aren’t learning braille.” Poor blind kids and everything. How about a 90% illiterate rate? And in India or … I happen to go over to India, beautiful country and everything, it’s 1%. So it’s less than 1% of kids. So what kind of chance do they have really of going out to an education if they don’t even have a base of learning some letters and reading and stuff like that?

No. You’re completely right. And I know we’re focusing a whole lot on the braille side of the tablet, but I also love the drawing, the being able to do it. I know there’s different ways to kind of make tactile graphs, pictures and things like that, but there wasn’t really much of a way to create that as an individual who would be blind. So I love that you can kind of do that. And Daniel, tell me just to dig in a little bit more to the device because I know we’re kind of pulling up kind of the balls with the magnets and everything. Does this require power charging, anything like that in order to work?

No. That’s the beauty of it. You think about it like the Etch-a-Sketch for the blind. So it’s no power or nothing. It’s all mechanical. So you just take out a little magnetic stylus, you can’t even lose the stylus because the stylus will be right on there, and you go to work. As far as drawing, it’s so much fun to put this in front of kids or adults and they start drawing and they try to make hearts and different things. It’s just wonderful to watch them, their faces light up and some touching moments like, “Oh, I’ll be able to draw with my daughter again.” It’s just really nice. The other great thing about this I think that really sets us apart is how the repeatability of it. You can erase it in two seconds. So you just wipe it down with the side of the stylus and everything goes away-

Oh, nice.

… and you could start again. If you make a mistake, you just push that section back down and you do it again.

Growing up-

Yeah. Go ahead.

Growing up in school, they had to use, I believe it’s called capsule paper or sometimes you could get the braille embosser to do braille diagrams, but it was very seldom. And of course if you made a mistake, if maybe the teacher put up the wrong graph or something, then you had to tear it up and start again. But this would eliminate that issue. Though I’ve been blind my whole life, the issue of feeling 3D images is hard to do with a flat piece of paper. I still can benefit from something like this because it’s under your fingers. And it’s also the tactile feeling of the whole device that gives the sensory feedback. So this is not only for braille enthusiasts, but art enthusiasts and for people who need to do diagrams really quickly.

Well, Matthew, you brought up some really good points there. Even kind of talking about the braille embosser maybe to kind of make pictures. That takes time. That takes a whole lot of time. So if you’re quickly trying to convey some information, it’s much quicker to just put, for lack of better terms, pen to paper. But I guess it’s a stylus to magnet to balls, I guess, on this kind of case, but so much quicker to relay that and get that information through to the individual that needs it.

I remember one year I had taken a high school science course and the material was incomprehensible to me because I didn’t have the diagrams. Well, I finally got the diagrams for the final exam and that was way too late, and I barely passed that exam. So if the BrailleDoodle had been around at that time in 1994, I would’ve had a better chance.

Yeah. It’s like a snowball effect of all the things that use case scenarios that have opened up with this because just the graphing, going from mathematics to different types of graphs, there’s nothing out there like this. There’s nothing where you could create graphs and erase graphs as you go along. If I’m doing a graph with a child and say, “Okay. On the farm there’s seven donkeys, six horses, five pigs, and now the pigs have three babies.” So how can we show that in the graph? Normally I would have to go print out another graph and show them the graph, but now they could do it just by counting. And then it came across like well, if we put an X, Y-axis across the middle going across horizontally and vertically, then you could do X, Y graphing like that. So now we’re graphing equations. So now we just went from children, little kids to high school and college applications where we could graph equations as you go along.

Daniel, I’m really glad you mentioned that because it was going to be the next thing I brought up. I know in talking to teachers to students that graphing, once you kind of get to that point, can be a huge challenge because Even if they try to make it accessible and maybe send it to someone’s computer, it doesn’t always relay the information correctly. If you really think trying to describe it in words, it’s not real easy. I don’t think it comes through. It’s kind of hard to get out. So just being able to, again, quickly kind of show, hey, this is what it is. Be able to tactile feel it and get that information. And Matthew, maybe you can speak to this a little bit more. I imagine that has to help drive the point home or just make it a whole lot more understandable and probably be able to grasp concepts a whole lot quicker.

It would. And especially if someone can say, “No, it’s not that. It’s this.” And they can quickly make a change on the right-hand side on the bottom because I remember carrying around this rubberized kind of push pin graph board years ago. And even with that, we still had to use our own string and thumbtacks to make the Y-axis and then use other thumbtacks for the plotting points and more string. That was fine, but it was … It’s like with a lot of things in education. Whether it’s special or otherwise, teachers have to make up their own things and there seems to be no standard.

Another thing I came across, I was talking to Judy Dixon, very famous in the braille world, and she collected every braille slate they are and everything. Anyway, so she was telling me about the mathematical cubes. I’ve seen them before. We’re given 100 cubes and you turn the cubes into different positions and they become numbers, and then you put the numbers into this array of rubberized thing in a grid so you can make addition, multiplication, division questions. They have all these pieces, and this was invented 120 years ago. So at the time it was thought to be like this great invention 120 years ago, but now we could just put a cover on the BrailleDoodle that’ll divide up the whole surface into squares. And there you go. Now you could do exactly what you were doing with the cubes with the BrailleDoodle. You can make any number, you could erase it, you could put it back, you could do the carry over, whatever you need to do.

So like I said, it’s pretty exciting the way people come up with new and interesting ways to utilize this technology. I have a guy on the team. He is a blind O&M instructor and he decided to find out how he could use this to help just with his O&M instruction going down. So here’s the hallway. The hallway branches out into two directions and you just make a right over here and here’s where the girl’s room is and here’s where the men’s room is, go. So it’ll open up those doors too. So you could just go take this on the go. Put it in your backpack and take it with you so you could explain things as you go.

Another thing that I wanted to make disruptive in this industry is when you look at these devices, how expensive they are. There’s even a braille cell that you could buy. Just one cell with six pegs that’s $80. You go online and you buy this one thing that there’s like a cell that opens up and it’s essentially blocks of wood. And all these other devices … So when I brought the BrailleDoodle along, people are saying that could be $300, $400. I’m like, “No. We’re going to sell this originally for $70.”

Oh, nice.

So the early bird price is going to be $70. And that gets people really excited because we’ll be able to mass produce this. And so making 100 units, we’ll make thousands of units and get that price down for everybody.

That is awesome. Yeah. Sometimes you make something that’s amazing and it’s really great and it’s going to open up the world of accessibility. But if you can’t afford it, well, it’s not accessible in and of itself. And Daniel, kind of along those same lines, can you tell us a little bit … I know we’re almost to the end of May here, but can you tell us a little bit about the Kickstarter campaign?

Yeah. Sure, Josh. Right now we have a Kickstarter campaign going on. So if you Google BrailleDoodle and Kickstarter, you should be able to get right to the page or you could go to So what the Kickstarter is is you go on there and you could pay much less than what you’re going to pay retail. I think it’s going to be twice as much when it gets to retail because that’s what they have to do to make their margins and everything. So it’d be a great time to buy it now and get it at a very low price. And it will be shipping out probably at least before Christmas. We’ll get that before Christmas and make a great Christmas gift. But it’s really a lot of fun because you’re also part of this family. You’re part of this inventive family who is putting in the ideas and putting in … because I love to hear feedback, I love to hear user feedback.

When you’re doing a Kickstarter, you become part of the mission to get this to fruition because it’s a really big, long process. Very difficult process going from an idea on a piece of paper to actually making it. And sometimes I wanted to take the BrailleDoodle and throw it against the wall and just say, “Forget this, okay? I’m done. I just want to teach whatever.” But to get to manufacturing, it’s a big leap. It’s a lot of money. So when everybody’s putting in, it lessens the burden and we could all carry this through. And also, one more thing, Josh, I’ll say real quick, is because we’re a 501(c)(3), I set this up as a nonprofit. You can donate BrailleDoodles to other people. So you could buy 10 BrailleDoodles and say, “I want them to send to Chicago to the Lighthouse.” And we’ll send them to Chicago Lighthouse and you will get a tax receipt and you could write that off your taxes.

So anytime you want to do that as well, you’ll be able to get tax writeoffs. So we put together this foundation so eventually we could keep the prices low and also get these out to kids who can’t afford them. That was really one of the dreams I had. So real quick, this started out as came to fruition during the pandemic. So all the students went home. Our students had nothing to work with. We couldn’t do art, we couldn’t do any type of instruction with them, pretty much like braille instruction stopped. So how can you get them something that they could use? And my kids were from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens. So they didn’t even have a lot of money to go on Amazon and just buy a bunch of things. So part of this dream, part of this vision is to go down to the Bronx and start handing these out and say, “Here you go. Here’s one. Here you go.”

Even beyond the US market, it would even be more important if people wanted to donate to other countries because in other countries, as they visit us from time to time in my work as a technology teacher, even a white chain to blind people in other countries is a luxury.

Well, guys, I’ve got just a little tiny bit of time left. So Daniel, if you could, can you tell our listeners again how they find out more or maybe find out about the Kickstarter, find out about the BrailleDoodle as well as the Touchpad Pro Foundation? What’s the best ways for them to do that?

So is our website. And there you could follow our journey and join our journey, sign up for the newsletter, et cetera. But that’ll also have links to the Kickstarter. And you should be able to find the Kickstarter out there too or just Google Kickstarter with BrailleDoodle or go to Kickstarter and put in BrailleDoodle or braille and we should pop up. So it’ll probably be very easy for your listeners to find us. And it is just really exciting. Like I said, when we get together like a team like this, like a mission, when I met Matthew and I heard about the work he does and what he’s been doing and how excited he was about the possibilities of the BrailleDoodle, I just thought it’s a great fit because he’s been able to talk to podcast people like yourself, he’s been able to reach out to users and really already do really good work for our foundation.

Well, Matthew, Daniel, we will put the down in the show notes so folks can really easily get to that as they might like. But thank you both so much for coming on, for telling us about the foundation, about the BrailleDoodle, and just about all the great things that it can do to help folks, not just with literacy, but with art and probably with tons of other things down the road that we haven’t even thought of yet. So thank you so much, guys.

Well, you’re welcome. And as the Chief Experience Officer, I definitely want you to experience the BrailleDoodle. I’m Matthew at Thank you very much.

Again, I am Daniel Lubiner. I’m the CEO and Founder of Touchpad Pro Foundation. You could reach me at And like I said, I love to hear from people. So please reach out. Any questions, any comments, I’d love to hear them. Thank you.

Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at or shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the I Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or InTRAC. You can find out more about InTRAC at A special thanks to Nikol Prieto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect Those of the INDATA Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners, or this host. This was your Assistive Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

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