Invention helps blind feel way

Jim, Rick and Val Tapscott have been developing a process to add braille lettering to public signs.
Jim, Rick and Val Tapscott have been developing a process to add braille lettering to public signs. Ron Burgin

THE painstaking process of adding braille lettering to public signs prompted Jim Tapscott to find a better way to do the job - an ambition that has landed him a spot on the ABC's The New Inventors tonight.

The South Kolan man said his invention, the BrailleOz, which places tiny balls into pre-drilled holes to create the raised lettering, had one definite advantage.

“It's automatic. While you could be sitting there with tweezers, instead you can push the button and it's all done,” he said.

Mr Tapscott said he and his wife Val went to Sydney earlier in the year to film the episode.

“It was good to see what the other inventors had done and get help from people who had been there,” he said.

Mr Tapscott remained tight-lipped about the outcome of the program, in which he goes up against a lightweight plastic rail system designed to protect jockeys, and a safety suction outlet cover for pools

Mr Tapscott, who owns JRT Industries, said the BrailleOz had been a labour of love for him, Val, family members and friends for the past three years.

“It fits in the palm of your hand and would cost about $1600 each,” he said.

That cost is just a fraction of what the invention has taken to develop which Mr Tapscott estimates to be in the tens of thousands.

Part of the development process included trips overseas to research what was needed worldwide.

The BrailleOz attaches to 95% of braille engravers and routers in the world and drops small balls of aluminium or steel into holes to give the lettering a raised effect.

Mrs Tapscott said despite the BrailleOz already being used, the product was a long way from finished.

“We have all the marketing and carry-on and we may have to go overseas again,” she said.

Mrs Tapscott said the group was doing its best to have the BrailleOz ready for full-scale marketing and distribution as soon as possible.

The Tapscotts said the product had created a lot of interest, with companies wishing to cut the labour needed to create braille signs.

The New Inventors airs tonight on the ABC at 8pm.

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