Future Reflections Winter/Spring 2000, Vol. 19 No. 1



My Saturday with the Braille Writer Repair Man

by Lucia Hasty

Editor’s Note: The following article, originally titled “How I Spent My Saturday” is reprinted from an issue of the VIP Newsletter, a publication of the Visually Impaired Preschool Services of Louisville, Kentucky. As a service to our readers, I did some research and added the list of Braille writer repair individuals and agencies at the end of the article.


I recently spent a Saturday with John Ireland (a.k.a. Dr. Dot), Braille writer repairman extra-ordinaire, dismantling and reassembling a Braille writer. The process took over eight hours, which is typical, John says, of a good job.

We look at a Braille writer and think, “How old-fashioned-looking and simple this thing is.” You would probably be surprised to know, if you haven’t attempted this yourself, that there are a zillion parts inside, all with peculiar names, and with no obvious pattern of connection. In addition to the native parts, there are often some interesting “foreign” parts. John says that his typical finds include pencil parts, french fries, safety pins, chewing gum wrappers, labels wrapped around the rollers, paper chunks, and lots of dirt and grime.

As John took the Braille writer apart, he examined each part and its connection to the next, analyzing as he went. After the workbench was completely covered with thing-a-mabobs and doohickeys, he started the re-assembly. He carefully cleaned each of the zillion pieces, filed a few back into shape, straightened one or two parts, put only the slightest drop of oil in just the right spots, and replaced springs and missing screws. As he re-installed each separate piece, he carefully checked for smoothness of operation and alignment of parts. Seeing the dissected beast back in one piece and working properly was quite a delight! Observing the knowledge and skill needed to complete a cleaning and repair gave me a new understanding of what is required and evoked great admiration for the time, patience, and care that John gives to the process.

As I drove home, completely mind-boggled, several things John said during the process rang clearly. If we want to keep Braille writers working, we must teach students to 1. Keep the cover on them when not in use. 2. Store them away from heat and dust. 3. Do everything you can to keep foreign objects out of the Braille writer (which includes not brushing the dog near the Braille writer). 4. Do not attempt to take the Braille writer apart, and do not add oil or sprays. 5. When a Braille writer is shipped, always send it in the container especially designed for shipping. Wrap the Braille writer in a plastic bag to protect it from the Styrofoam inserts required for padding. (The Styrofoam breaks up, freeing little chunks to migrate into the most sensitive Braille writer parts.) 6. Mailing regulations under FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND do not allow anything to be shipped with the Braille writer. Send letters, money, etc. in a separate envelope, regular mail.

In addition to our local agencies, John repairs for people all over the country (individuals and other agencies). Always call him before sending a Braille writer for repair. He currently has a large backlog (as well as a full-time job and a family). Contact John Ireland at (303) 480-0706.

Braille Writer Repair Services


From the Editor: The following is not a comprehensive list, nor can I vouch for the quality of the services listed. I did contact each individual or agency to confirm that they were still in business and wanted to be listed in a national publication. I’m sure I missed some fine repair services, but such omissions were not intentional. The purpose of this list is simply to help parents and school districts locate repair services. The task of comparing and evaluating the quality of the services, costs, turn-around times, etc. I leave entirely up to the reader.


Phil Collins

Collins Business Equipment

4331 San Pablo Circle

Yorba Linda, California 92886

(714) 993-4568

Call and ask for price quotes. $30 flat rate for minor repairs and cleaning, parts and shipping additional.


Warren Layland

415 Peach Grove Lane

Santa Barbara, California 93105

(805) 687-5789


Ackley Appliance Service

4301 Park Avenue, #540

Des Moines, Iowa 50321-3400

(H): (515) 288-3931 (W): (515) 281-5102



The Selective Doctor, Inc.

P.O. Box 28432

Baltimore, Maryland 21234

(410) 668-1143

A repair service for all IBM typewriters and Perkins Braille writers. The service does work for the Maryland School for the Blind and other organizations in Maryland, but accepts Braillers for repair from all over the country. Please call before shipping a Braille writer. All equipment must be insured by the postal service.


The Lareau Braille Writer    Repair Service    Mary Ann Lareau    27 Gilbert Street    Waltham, Massachusetts 02453    (781) 899-3745

Please call or write for price quotes.


Bernadette Dressell    2714 Ruberg Avenue    Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-8118    (513) 481-7662;    e-mail: [email protected]

Cleaning and repairing Perkins Braillers since January 1998, Bernadette Dressell has been trained and certified by Howe Press where Perkins Braille writers are manufactured. She has all parts in stock, and she can normally guarantee a two-week turnaround. Please call or write for price quotes.


Howe Press of Perkins School     for the Blind    175 North Beacon Street    Watertown, Massachusetts 02172

(617) 924-3490; fax: (617) 926-2027

Howe Press, the manufacturer of the Perkins Braille writer, also services and repairs Braille writers, sells a repair manual and Brailler service tools, carries a complete line of parts and assemblies for repairing Perkins Braillers, and provides specialized training classes for qualified persons to learn Brailler repair. To use the repair service, send a letter to Howe Press Service and Repair noting your name, address, Brailler serial number (on bottom of machine), and nature of the problem. Return the machine in the original shipping carton if possible, but DO NOT ship it in the carrying case. Also, NEVER use Styrofoam peanuts for packing. You will receive an estimate of the repair costs. The average repair job is about $60. Upon receipt of payment your machine will be repaired and returned to you.


American Printing House     for the Blind (APH)    Repair Service    1839 Frankfort Avenue    Louisville, Kentucky 40206    (800) 223-1839

APH charges one flat rate, $150, for all work and parts for machine repair. However, if only cleaning and very minor repairs are needed, APH will refund an appropriate amount. Turnaround time, if payment is received with the machine, is about 3 days. Credit card number information may be called in to the toll number above, or mailed with the machine.


Arizona Perkins Braille Repair Service    The Foundation for Blind Children

1235 East Harmont Drive

Phoenix, Arizona 85020

(602) 678-5810

The Arizona Brailler Repair Service (ABRS) is a co-operative enterprise between the Arizona Instructional Resource Center of the Foundation for Blind Children and the Arizona State Prison. The cost for labor is $30, with a 6-month warranty on labor. Parts are extra. Usual turnaround time is under 4 weeks, somewhat longer if unusual parts need to be ordered from Howe Press. Special care should be given to safe packing, preferably in the original box and packing material. Any insurance is to be paid by the machine owner.

Picture of hands on a Braille Writer keyboard

Braille Writer