Despite the fact that screens of the well-known tablets are flat and have nothing that can create sensations in the fingers, they will no longer represent a handicap for those with a visual disability. Engineers from the United States have managed to take a step forward towards electronic accessibility. What is a Braille word processor like for touchscreen devices?  It is a system similar to the virtual joysticks located under the user’s thumb which are used for tablet videogames.


Adam Duran is a student from the University of New Mexico who last year visited the University of Stanford to participate in a two-month summer course organised by the Army High Performance Computing Research Center (AHPCRC). The aim of the course was to develop great ideas that are new and Duran can feel proud of having reached this objective. Together with professionals like Adrian Lew, a professor of mechanical engineering and Sohan Dharmaraja, a mathematician, he thought up a simple system for improving interaction between people who are blind or partially sighted and the touchscreen devices they use.

The first idea was to create a Braille text recognition system for tablets which makes use of the cameras that these devices normally have. But, what if blind people could write in Braille straight onto the touchscreen?  There are already computers which have been adapted to writing in Braille, but as Duran himself says, a standard tablet has many more functions for a tenth of the price. In essence, this would be a cheaper and more comfortable way of bringing those with a visual disability closer to the latest technology.

The solution chosen in the end was that the Braille keyboard of a conventional word processor, which consists of eight keys, would be adapted to touchscreen devices. The key to this solution is that it does not consist of a solid set of keys – instead the keys are created wherever the user wants them to be. This means that the user does not have to search around for a key that they cannot feel with their fingertips. The team from Stanford has thought up a keyboard design which adapts itself to each individual. The application can be fully customised and it even adapts to different finger shapes and sizes.

“Smart, isn’t it?”, Professor Lew proudly says. Charbel Farhat, member of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Stanford and Executive Director of the summer program, said, “no Braille writing machine can do this.  This is a real step forward for the blind and partially sighted.”

Source: Europa Press /  Gizmag

Este artículo está también disponible en Spanish

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