Braille Featherwing

Assistive technology keyboard for transcribing books to Braille, with speed and comfort

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This featherwing is an HID keyboard via the USB interface of Feather of choice, that uses mechanical switches in the layout of old professional braille transcribing machines.

It is useful for transcribing books from roman alphabet to braille alphabet, which is the first step needed to publish a book that can be read by a visual impaired audience via tactile means.

The software for the braille-HID translation, is ready and using CircuitPython so it can be easily changed and adjusted for example for changing the pinout for a different CircuitPython enabled Feather, without the need for and IDE or external software, by just having a text editor to change the files.

This hardware replaces obsolete and hard to repair or new but ridiculously expensive, with hacker level hardware that can be built, modified and repaired by anyone with very little training, and it is a solution needed in multiple countries to translate current books and newspapers to Braille.

braille keyboard.sch

Eaglecad PCB design of the featherwing

x-kicad-schematic - 41.82 kB - 12/28/2019 at 22:08


  • 1 × Any CircuitPython capable Feather
  • 11 × Mechanical keyboard switches No LED, no capacitor version
  • 1 × Featherwing PCB Use the "sch" file from this project to order one from a PCB service or make one with a CNC
  • 1 × Male pins For the Featherboard
  • 1 × Female headers For the Featherwing PCB

  • As seen in show and tell

    Alvaro Figueroa12/28/2019 at 22:48 0 comments

    Back in October, I was in Adafruit's Show and Tell, to demonstrate the pre-featherwing version.

    As you can see in the video, the pre-featherwing has a lot of cables running around, so this was only valid for a prototype useful to develop the HID-Braille CircuitPython code.

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  • 1
    Get your parts

    After ordering the Featherwing PCB from a PCB service or making yourself one with a CNC, double check that you have the correct amount of parts by ordering them or by recycling them from another mechanical keyboard.

    To assemble, there is only one way to plug both types of parts used in this project, neither the Feather or the keyboard switch can be plugged in the wrong order so if you are new to soldering, this project is perfect for you. All of the soldering pads have a nice large size so it can be worked with any type of soldering station.

  • 2
    Solder keys

    Plug the mechanical switches without any particular order into the board and solder it's two pads to the PCB.

  • 3
    Solder headers

    Solder female headers on the side of the Feather board.

    You can decide if you would want the headers to go looking up on the same side of the keys so the Feather will be on top, but can also be attached to the bottom of the featherwing by connecting the headers in the opposite side of the keys.

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