The Backpacking SMART Brailler Event!

cartoon brailler with eyes, arms and legs walking on grass

Mr SMART Brailler (first name: Marty) has packed his bag and wants to come visit YOU so he can show you what he can do!

You’ve probably heard the news about the new Perkins SMART Brailler and all of it’s super cool features (if not, click this link to learn more). But is this brailler right for your family? Would you like the brailler to come visit you so you can play with it and find out?

We’re introducing a fun SMART Brailler event!

Perkins Products and are teaming up to send one SMART Brailler out to six families in the United States. Each family will get to hold on to the brailler for two weeks to play with it and find out if it’s right for them. When the two weeks are up they’ll send it off to the next family (in a postage paid box provided by Perkins).

Each family will have the chance to let the world know about the SMART Brailler and what they think of it. They’ll write about it on their blog, post videos and share their thoughts on Facebook (check out this blog post by Emily on FamilyConnect for an example of a good post). They’ll also receive a handy brailler backpack from Perkins Products full of awesome goodies (the backpack and goodies are theirs to keep). At the end of the event all readers will get a chance to VOTE for one of the six families to receive the SMART Brailler as a gift! That’s right – one lucky family gets to keep the brailler!

Do you want to be one of the families visited by Mr SMART Brailler?

We’re going to choose six families to be a part of this event and we want YOU to apply to be one of them! In order to be eligible, you’ll have to:

  • have a school-aged child who is learning braille or is expected to learn braille
  • have a blog or website where you can post your ideas and comments about the brailler
  • be prepared to shoot videos of your family using the brailler and post the videos to YouTube or Vimeo
  • share a photo of your family and a short bio explaining who you are and why you want to try out the brailler
  • sign a media release form allowing us to share your photos and videos

Send an email to with the subject line “Backpacking Brailler” to let us know that you’re interested!

Marty the SMART Brailler
line break

Who’s Mr SMART Brailler Visiting Today?

  1. The Kovacs Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on March 8th
  2. The Duffy Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on April 19th!
  3. The Porter Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on May 10th!
  4. The Corman Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on June 3rd!
  5. The Derderian Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on June 20th!
  6. The McNew Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on August 6th!

Voting is now closed. Congratulations to Abby for winning the SMART Brailler! Click here to see the final vote count. And thank you to Perkins Products for offering a very generous $500 discount on the brailler to the other five families! Let’s help all the families raise the money they need to get SMART Braillers! Visit their donation pages!

The Kovacs Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on March 8th

family photoFamily Bio: Meet Jessica, Derek and Thomas Kovacs. Jessica created the blog Thomas Marshall Does it All to share the journey of raising her son Thomas, who is blind. He was born with detached retinas due to Persistent Fetal Vasculature Syndrome (aka PHPV).

Tom had five vitrectomy surgeries and three glaucoma surgeries. Tom is using everything the world gave him to become the most dynamic blind kid you ever met. He is a rowdy little man who loves Jazz music and Bob Marley. Jessica points out on her blog that she is not a doctor or a blindness professional – just a well-informed and motivated Mother. But isn’t there so much to be said for being well informed and motivated?

What is the Kovacs Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

    • Guess Who Showed Up?: Jessica announces the arrival of the SMART Brailler in the Kovacs home. She writes: “We are just the first stop on a little tour the SMART Brailler is taking as he visits several families around the country. He is on a mission to make literacy fun!”

Graco Jumper

  • Jessica writes about the perks of being a mom blogger: “Food bloggers get invited to fancy events and tastings, fashion bloggers get free clothes, and bloggers like me get to try out Braille machines!”
  • A SMART Girl: Tom’s friend, Ava, came over to try out the SMART Brailler. Jessica says, “This product really helps bridge the gap between sighted parents and blind children. I think it would make homework a lot less intimidating for parents. Ava’s mom Megan remarked that she wished she would have had this when Ava was first learning Braille.”
  • Typing Tommy: Tom is having fun with his SMART Brailler! Jessica says, “Tom loves the different sounds that signal the end of the line or other changes. The dings and beeps were hysterical to him. He managed to hit quite a couple letters in his typing. Since Tom knows his alphabet this is significant to him. He was making connections as he had his fun.”
  • Wrap Up: Jessica looks back at their time with Marty the SMART Brailler. She says she learned that Tom is not a chicken: “He explored the SMART Brailler with interest and when he got the keys to make noise he was hooked!”

Why Should Tom Win a SMART Brailler?

Tommy is turning four in September. This is his second year of preschool at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and developing pre-Braille and Braille skills will be a big focus. Tom has light perception only and was slow to develop language. He is now talking in short sentences and making his needs and wants known. We are so happy with his progress! Having Marty with us this year would be a tremendous boost to his blossoming literacy skills.

It’s very simple: Toys that make noise get Tom’s attention. Marty’s auditory feedback was engaging and fun for Tommy. He needs that extra bit of stimulation to keep him engaged. The auditory component of the SMART Brailler is more than a bonus – it is a vital tool for engagement. I am excited about the possibility of making Marty the SMART Brailler a permanent member of the family and I’d love to chronicle Tom’s experiences with Marty at school and at home on his blog.

Vote for the Kovacs family to keep Marty!

line break

The Duffy Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on April 19th!

family photoFamily Bio: Meet the Duffys. Penny lives in New Hampshire with her two children Sam (10) and Abby (9) and husband Chris. Abby became blind when she was about 6 years old. She lost most of her central vision due to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare mitochondrial disease.

Abby has adapted well. She is a mainstreamed public school student in 3rd grade. She is a proud braille reader and uses a white cane. She loves to do all the things her sighted friends do. She is active in her school’s dance club, loves to ski with her dad, collects American Girl Dolls, and shopping. Penny started a blog to share with other parents what her family’s adventures have been since Abby became blind: It’s a Happy Story

What is the Duffy Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

  • It’s Smart!: Penny writes about their first impression with the new SMART Brailler. Her daughter, Abby, says, “It’s cool!”

Watch Abby playing with the Brailler right out of the box:

Abby with her backpack

  • Sibling Time: Abby’s sighted brother, Sam, gets to try out the SMART Brailler. I love his quote, “Well the Perkins Smart Brailler is cool and stuff.” Ah, sounds like my brother at that age!
  • Mom’s Turn: Penny gets her chance to play with the SMART Brailler and uses the new APH Building on Patterns app preinstalled on the brailler. Click though to watch a video of Penny mastering the app!
  • School’s Turn: Abby takes the SMART Brailler to school with her where it competes with her other devices, like her braille display and iPad. Abby enjoyed carrying the SMART Brailler in her brand new Perkins Products backpack!
  • A Fond Farewell: Penny says goodbye to Marty the SMART Brailler and looks back at their time with him. She reflects on how the brailler is a good tool to have for beginning braille learners.

Why Should Abby Win a SMART Brailler?

We would give Marty the Smart Brailler a good home. We would provide Marty a steady diet of lots of braille love so he should thrive in our home environment. My daughter promises to use Marty often so he would get lots of proper exercise. Please know Marty would be given a comfy place to sit and he would never want for anything. Please pick us to be Marty’s new home!

Vote for the Duffy family to keep Marty!

line break

The Porter Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on May 10th!

Porter family photoFamily Bio: Meet Robert, Misty, Trent (10), and Alden (6) Porter. In 2009 they moved to sunny St. Augustine Florida to be closer to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB). The Porter family enjoys riding roller coasters at the theme parks in Orlando, playing in the sand and sun, camping, and hosting back yard cookouts.

Alden began attending FSDB as a pre-schooler at age 3. It was an amazing Montessori program with both blind, visually impaired, Deaf and hard of hearing students enrolled. This program helped foster his love for learning and he graduated as the “Braille Specialist” of his class. Alden is wildly independent, determined, and always has an endless stream of questions that need to be answered.

Alden’s big brother, Trent, is the most amazing brother in the whole world. He provides the perfect blend of stoic support and brotherly rowdiness. He loves reading, participating in cub scout events, and anything scientific. Trent is the pack winner of both the rain gutter regatta and pine wood derby races!

When Alden was about 7 months old he was diagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). His Ophthalmologist explained that, though this diagnosis usually presents with varying degrees of vision loss, Alden would be a braille reader and cane user as there was no discernible functional vision. At this point the Porter family set out to ensure that he had full access to the world around him. Misty tries to remind herself that this is a positive result as he runs completely uninhibited full speed down the beach or leaps into the air above the trampoline to turn a summersault.

The Porters lead busy and fun lives and they look forward to sharing a little more about themselves once their visiting friend Marty the Smart Brailler arrives. They will be posting their adventures at the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind Parent’s Blog and A Glimpse Beyond Sight.

You can meet Alden in the short video below:

What is the Porter Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

  • WooHoo! We’re Super Excited! The Porter family is getting ready for Marty’s arrival. They are excited!Alden and Ryleigh brailling together
  • See for Yourself: Alden receives his new backpack in the mail – and Marty the SMART Brailler will be arriving soon too! Watch the video of Alden opening his box (and be prepared for cuteness overload)!
  • Magnificent Marty: Alden gets going on the new SMART Brailler right out of the box. He’s doing great! Misty says she particularly likes the view screen on the brailler:“When a letter is keyed it shows up in both print and visual braille on the screen. The letter is also spoken out loud, brailled by the braille head on the paper, AND saved electronically! Super Cool Crazy Awesome Stuff! (I think this is probably the feature with the most impact because it allows sighted parents/caregivers/teachers to know what is being brailled and also promotes them learning braille by sight.)”
  • ABCs: Watch Alden braille the entire alphabet!
  • Alden and Marty, Showing off their skills: Alden takes the SMART Brailler to school and lets the other kids try it out.
  • Introducing Our Sweet Friend Ry: Alden has his friend Ryleigh check out the SMART Brailler. According to Ryleigh: “The best thing about him his that he talks.”
  • Touch & See: Alden takes Marty to school and all his friends get to visit! They tried out four different braillers and voted for their favorite. Guess who won?

Why Should Alden Win a SMART Brailler?

It sure looks like our old friend “Marty” the SMART Brailler had quite the adventure. I know Alden really loved the two weeks that Marty was here visiting us in sunny Saint Augustine. After Marty finishes up his cross country adventures, one of the lucky host families will be selected to receive him as a gift.

We’d sure love it if our family was selected and Marty could come live with us forever. Alden is now in 1st grade and is brailling more than ever. He’s quickly surpassing me in braille knowledge. Having access to a SMART brailler, on a permanent basis, would allow him to be a more independent learner. It would also provide my family with the opportunity to work on our own braille skills. Our family is very unique in that we are connected to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. Because of this we are both personally and professionally connected to a wide array of students, family, staff and professionals that would benefit from Marty as well.

Please vote for Alden so our family can be the lucky new permanent home to Mr. Marty the SMART Brailler!

Vote for the Porter family to keep Marty!

line break

The Corman Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on June 3rd!

Corman family photoFamily Bio: Meet the Cormans from New Jersey: Mike, Faye, Camille (8) and Jon Paul (5). They’re very excited to receive a visit from Marty!

Jon Paul is blind due to a variety of conditions including retinoblastoma, which claimed his right eye, and aphakia and microophthalmia of his left eye. Jon Paul attends public school and is enrolled in services with the comission for the blind. He is beginning Braille and already an avid cane user. He’s an active little boy who enjoys adaptive sports like Challenger Baseball and TOP Soccer.

Jon Paul’s father, Mike, is also totally blind due to Congenital Rubella syndrome. Mike was the first blind person to obtain a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School with just a classic Perkins Brailler and a manual type writer, so he’s excited to meet Marty! (Technology sure has come a long, long way since he was kid!)

Camille is a typical third grader who loves to dance and is an awesome advocate for her little brother. The Cormans enjoy travel and trips to the Jersey shore. You can follow their story at their blog, For Love.

And you can watch Jon Paul brailling his alphabet on the SMART Brailler below:

What is the Corman Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

JP and the SMART Brailler

  • A Good Sign!: JP got his new backpack in the mail and is excitedly looking forward to his visit from Marty!
  • Marty the SMART Brailler has arrived!: And he’s out of the box. Faye writes about setting up the SMART Brailler.
  • Jon Paul in Action: JP brailles the alphabet and gets mad at Marty when he makes a mistake! Well, that’s what happens when your brailler can tell you how you’re doing.
  • Marty’s Q&A: Faye and husband Mike answer reader’s questions about the SMART Brailler.
  • Marty goes to the mall!: To meet a little girl named Lily who is also learning braille.
  • Marty the SMART Brailler… Making Homework Fun!: JP gets to use his visiting SMART Brailler to do his homework and guess what? It’s fun! Faye says, “JP was happy, engaged and actually ejoyed completing his homework! I hope his TVI can appreciate that, tonight, homework was engaging and FUN, with the help of the SMART Brailler!”
  • A Sister’s Chance: JP’s older sister, Camille, gets her turn with the brailler. She is sighted, but picks up on the braille pretty quickly! Her mom says, “See? ANYONE can learn Braille! Camille, age 8, especially enjoyed the APH learning module. She enjoyed the games that challenged her to learn the braille letters!”

Why Should Jon Paul Win a SMART Brailler?

Literacy is fundamental for learning in school. It has an impact on an individual’s ability to participate in society and to understand important issues. And it provides the foundation upon which skills needed in the labor market are built.

Jon Paul is at the very beginning of his schooling. He’s entering kindergarten this fall. The SMART Brailler would introduce him to a world of literacy, a world he simply does not have access to without it. The SMART Brailler will keep Jon Paul engaged in his education for success for many years. Your vote will have a positive impact on one small boy for the rest of his life.

Vote for the Corman family to keep Marty!

line break

The Derderian Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on June 20th!

family photoFamily Bio: The Derderian family includes J.D., Mary, Grace (10) and Clay (7). They live in Arlington Virginia and both children attend public elementary school.

Clay was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 3 and he has been fighting this tumor since then. He has had multiple chemotherapy treatments and he is currently doing very well on a clinical trial. In August of last year his tumor hemorrhaged and he lost his vision at age 6. He is in first grade and is learning braille as well as cane skills.

Clay is a wonderfully verbal, funny, and happy boy. He is taking swim lessons and learning how to get around without sight. He is very excited to have been chosen to test out the SMART Brailler! So are his TVI and teachers and they are hoping that he will have this last week of school to take Marty along before the summer break begins.

Grace is in 4th grade, and is a kind sister who wants the best for her little brother. They are good friends and she is looking forward to working on the brailler with Clay. They have a family blog that Mary started when Clay was first diagnosed four years ago and they will be blogging about Marty there: Following Clay.

What is the Derderian Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

    • Marty the SMART Brailler Arrives! Clay gets his bag of goodies and Marty arrives in the mail! Clay gets started right away with the brailler. His mom says, “I was amazed to see him type his entire name without one error. Of course I only knew there were no errors because the brailler announces each letter as you type, and then at the end of the word it speaks the whole word.” What a great way to get the whole family involved!

Clay with the SMART Brailler

  • Marty Goes to School: Clay takes Marty to school and all of the TVIs from his county come out to see him! What a welcome! Mary has also posted a video of Clay using the SMART Brailler in school.
  • Marty is Now a Baritone? Clay plays with Marty’s voice settings and decides on the deep male voice. I think that makes sense if his name is Marty, don’t you? And Mary writes about how the braille alphabet is starting to “make sense” to her.
  • Goodbye Marty! In this post Mary looks back at what they learned about the SMART Brailler and what both she and Clay liked most about it. She sums their experience up really well: “In just a few weeks Clay has really adjusted to having a brailler with audio feedback. It will be difficult to give that up and go back to the old style non-verbal brailler in September…. It will also be difficult for me to not have Marty around, as I have been using the brailler for my course, Introduction to Braille. It’s been great to have something everyone in the family can use.”

Why Should Clay Win a SMART Brailler?

When I asked Clay why he wanted to win the SMART brailler he told me “because it tells me what I am writing and it has an eraser if I make a mistake and my other brailler can’t do that.”

If you ask me, his Mom, why he should win I would tell you because he is at the most beneficial age to have the SMART brailler. At 7 years old he is trying to learn to read and write and Marty makes both of those much more straightforward. Since Clay lost his vision at 6, he had knowledge of the written alphabet but not the ability to read yet. Learning Braille, while learning to navigate the world without vision are both dauntingly difficult tasks. Marty is the first thing to come along that has seemed “easier” for Clay in almost a year.

Clay’s sister Grace wants him to win Marty “because it makes it easier to communicate with him. For example I can write letters to him and put them in his backpack on the first day of school.”

Finally, my husband said, “Clay never really talked about wanting to do braille until the SMART brailler arrived. When we had it at home Clay began to act like this was something he could tackle one day. That was nice to see.”

Vote for the Derderian family to keep Marty!

line break

The McNew Family: Visited by SMART Brailler on August 6th!

family photoFamily Bio: A brief bio on The Crew – how can that be brief? Goodness, not much about the McNews is brief! They are a country family who loves livin’ life. Dad, Mom, and 7 kiddos ranging in age from a still-kiddo-at-heart at 36 years old down to a kiddo who thinks she is much older, but in reality is still waiting to turn 8.

They are honored to have “virtual” triplets as their youngest, who have joined this crazy adventure through international adoption, Chloe, Adelyn and Inara (pictured to the left).

Their eldest of the youngest three, Adelyn, has been home just one and one half years and is a whirlwind, soaking up love, attention, affection and life just as fast as she can. Mom Donna says that Adelyn is learning “a new language – ha! Learning to read and write in braille – ha ha! Now if we can just convince her that her cane really can be her friend instead of something that slows her down, THAT will be an accomplishment!”

Adelyn with the SMART BraillerAd’s sisters love to write secret notes back and forth in braille, so this will be a perfect opportunity for the whole family to be able to write to each other and learn in a fun way.

Donna will be blogging about their time with Marty at The Crew.

What is the McNew Family Doing with the SMART Brailler?

  • Mr. Marty meets The Crew: Adelyn is super excited to have Marty come visit. I mean it. Super excited! You’ll have to click that link and see for yourself!
  • Spelling Words & Marty: The Crew is getting ready for their first 2nd grade oral spelling competition and Adelyn has a special trick up her sleeve – she’s studying her words with the help of Marty!
  • Gettin’ it Done: The girls compete in their first 2nd grade spelling bee. Don’t cheat by listening to Marty spell the words!
  • Chick-a-Dee Has a Turn: Adelyn’s sister writes her a note in braille using the SMART Brailler and a braille code reference card. Isn’t that adorable?
  • The Six of Clubs: How’s this for smart? The Crew used Marty to braille a deck of cards for Adelyn so she can play along! Great idea!
  • B.I.N.G.O.: Brailling a deck of cards is nothing… how about brailling a BINGO game? Marty is working overtime at the Crew house!
  • Chore Charts: Donna has a great way to get her three littlest involved in house work – rotate between them for first, second and third place. The kid who’s “first” for the week gets to go first when taking turns, make a first choice… and is in charge of keeping “area one” clean. They’re so excited to be first for the week they don’t even seem to notice the cleaning part! And now, thanks to Marty, the chores list is brailled!
  • Boo Hoo Boo Hoo: Donna tries to take a picture of Adelyn pouting because she’s sad that Marty the SMART Brailler is leaving them… but Adelyn is just too cute and she keeps smiling anyway! They do miss Marty and really really want to win him in the voting!

Why Should Adelyn (JiJi) Win a SMART Brailler?

We were honored to have been selected to participate in the traveling SMART Brailler event. Now that we have had an opportunity to get used to having “him” around, it will be a boring chore to go back to using the clunky old-fashioned Perkins 🙁

Perky is certainly dependable and does the job, but he is nowhere near as fun to use! Miss JiJi and The Crew hope that you will cast your vote for Mr. Marty to return to his forever home with us. He is lightweight enough that JiJi can tote him to our homeschool co-op each week. He has fun with JiJi’s sisters – Miss Chick-A-Dee and Miss Zabi-Chu – teaching them how much fun it is to learn braille in order to write those secret sister notes to each other.

MamaD, me, L.O.V.E.S. Mr. Marty and how easy he makes my life as JiJi’s primary teacher. He helps me prepare worksheets, games, spelling lists, chore charts, stories and oh so much more. We hope that Miss JiJi and Mr. Marty have a long and happy working relationship for many years to come!

Vote for the McNew family to keep Marty!

Marty the SMART Brailler images by John Kane Studios

Related Posts

Cameron sitting in the grass and smiling


Finding Comfort on the Special Needs Journey

Find out how one mother turned her grief and search for support into a best selling book and an online community.

Off to the Park open pages


Off to the Park & Getting Ready Giveaway!

Enter to win the touch-and-feel book Off to the Park! This book was designed specifically for children who are blind or have low vision. Contest ends March 2nd 2016.

Taptilo braille starter kit


Taptilo Braille Starter Kit Giveaway!

Enter to win a braille starter kit. Each kit comes with one braille block keychain and a set of braille learning materials in both print and braille.