What is Braille Paper?
Unlike traditional copy/printing paper, Braille paper is a thick stock paper used specifically with Braille printers / Braille embossers to print reading material for the blind and visually impaired. Braille paper holds the shape of the Braille dot better than traditional paper and lasts longer – ultimately making the reading process easier and more enjoyable for a blind individual. Braille paper should also generate less paper dust and minimize static electricity, which are generated during the Braille printing process – both of which can damage the internal components of a Braille printer.
While Braille printer manufacturers may say that printing on traditional copy paper is an option, in reality, this type of paper is not recommended, or preferred, by a Braille reader. When using traditional paper in your Braille printer, you are likely to see a hole instead of a Braille dot (note: in a proper Braille dot, there is a slight crease at the head/top of the dot called “crowning”, which is preferred amongst Braille readers), or a dot so weak that it is not legible to the reader. As the National Braille Association states, “it’s the equivalent of trying to read print that is just too faint.”
If you’re going through the time and effort to produce high quality Braille, or Braille that’s legible, it starts with using the correct Braille paper.
What are the standard Braille Paper formats?
Braille paper comes in three different formats – continuous (tractor feed/Z-fold/fanfold); rolls and cut Sheet.
Continuous Feed Braille Paper
Continuous Braille paper is what the name implies – it is one long, connected sheet with perforations at proper places in order to create individual pages. Continuous Braille paper is the most reliable and widely used option in Braille production, as it allows the user to simply load the continuous paper into the Braille printer, and minimizes feeding issues and paper jams. Additionally, most boxes of Braille paper contain 1,000 continuous sheets (2,000 pages when printing double-sided/interpoint), so there is not an issue with having to constantly load paper into the printer. As mentioned, continuous Braille paper has perforations on each side which were initially used to feed paper through the printer – these must be torn off, and then each sheet must be separated before binding the Braille pages into a book. This is easily done by hand, or by using a forms burster (a machine that automatically separates the perforated Braille paper sheets). There are pre-punched options available that have the binding holes already punched in the paper – these holes are punched on the left hand side and are to be used with standard binding rings.
Braille Paper Rolls
Braille paper rolls are often used by large Braille printing facilities, government agencies and libraries that print high volumes of Braille materials on Braille printers, such as those from Braillo. Using Braille paper rolls has become more popular in recent years, as it is cheaper than continuous and cut sheet options, and it allows for longer Braille printing durations. A roll of Braille paper equates to roughly 15,000 sheets (30,000 pages when printing double-sided/interpoint), so feasibly, a Braille producer could load a roll of paper into the Braille printer in the morning and not have to change rolls until the end of the day. Additionally, there is no need for a forms burster or operator to separate the sheets, and it produces a finished edge on all four sides of the paper. That said, a user will need to add their own binding preferences. It is also possible to print in magazine/book format when using rolls and Braille printers capable of this format, such as the Braillo 650SW and Braillo 650SF.
Cut Sheet Braille Paper
Cut sheet is the third Braille paper option. While the appeal of cut sheet paper is that there are no perforated edges, pre-punched binding holes are available and it is easily sourced; in actuality, the reliability and costs are higher for this type of Braille paper. In regards to reliability, most sheet fed printers need to be manually loaded frequently, and the paper can easily jam. In terms of cost, cut sheet Braille paper is more expensive per page than both continuous and roll options. While some encourage using traditional copy paper because it can be found at local office supply stores and is less expensive than actual Braille paper, it is not meant for printing Braille. Actual cut sheet Braille paper is specifically designed in a manner to produce the best Braille reading experience. If you are producing Braille on a printer that uses cut sheet Braille paper, it is important that you use a paper that’s intended for Braille – not something “off the shelf”.
Important things to consider when purchasing Braille Paper:
Quality of the paper. Braille paper should be acid and dust free, and manufactured from a single mill – this allows for the finest quality and most consistent paper product available. High quality Braille paper helps promote a positive Braille reading experience, as well as reduces the risk of damaging an expensive Braille printer. For this reason, and because it is a heavier-weight paper with finer tolerances, Braille paper is more expensive than traditional copy paper. Low-priced Braille paper is typically low in quality and is many times an “odd lot”, consisting of paper of varying thickness, texture and color.
Weight of the paper. Recommended Braille paper is 100lb or 140/150 GSM. As mentioned above, paper that is too thin will create holes instead of Braille dots when printed (note: in a proper Braille dot, there is a slight crease at the head/top of the dot called “crowning”, which is preferred amongst Braille readers), will spread excess dust through the printer, will increase the likelihood of paper jamming and won’t be legible to the blind reader. If the paper is too thick, it could damage the Braille printers’ pins.
The finished product. If using continuous paper, it is important to have clean tractor feed holes to prevent problems going through the embosser, as well as clean perforated edges for easy sheeting purposes.
If the Braille printer uses paper rolls, make sure that the rolls have been properly handled and stored so there will not be damaged edges or “flat spots”.
If using cut sheet paper, ensure that the sheets are cut true-to-size and that the paper is meant for actual Braille production.
Lastly, if choosing to have the paper pre-punched, make sure the paper is completely punched out to ensure proper printing, binding and a clean overall look.
It’s important to note that paper will always vary a bit, as not one tree is identical. That said, the goal should be to minimize any variations in color, texture and thickness by having extremely tight tolerances in the Braille paper production process.
Shipping & turnaround time. Braille paper should be shipped promptly in thick cardboard boxes or rolls wrapped in cardboard and either palletized or “roll on, roll off”, to help prevent damage to the product during shipment.
Lastly, make sure that the Braille paper supplier is knowledgeable in all shipping options – Free Matter, UPS, USPS, Air/Sea/Truck freight, containers, etc.
Where to Buy Braille Paper?
The largest world-wide supplier of Braille paper is American Thermoform Corporation (or BraillePaper.com). American Thermoform has produced Braille paper since 1988 and they are the only manufacturer of Braille paper who is actually in the Braille business. American Thermoform and Braillo Norway work closely together and have teamed up with paper specialists to develop a high quality paper made specifically for them, to be used in all Braille printers – whether it’s in a commercial facility or an individual’s home. Together, we offer world-wide shipping options, the highest quality Braille paper available and unmatched prices. Contact us today for a quote.