Hey guys! Welcome to another blog post!


Apart from all the technological tools discussed here before, braille has long been the main way of reading for blind people, and still remains very important today. That’s why the main focus this time around is going to be a simple, but cleverly thought out tool to teach braille to young children. Why would you need an extra tool especially marketed towards children? Well, the problem lies in the fact that apart from learning a language, a child still has to learn about the world. As a comparison, most non-visually impaired readers have probably had, when they were toddlers,  some books with pictures of animals and objects, with the names of them spelled out underneath it.

Learning to read

Fittle, a concept that sprouted from an MIT workshop, tries to do just that, but by replacing the medium of vision by the medium of touch. And this does not only count for the letters, but also for the pictures themselves. It is an interactive learning tool that consists out of sets of blocks in particular shapes that fit together. If you fit all the blocks of a set together, the result will be a block shaped like an animal/tool/object, much like the way the pictures are portrayed in the children’s books. On the blocks, a braille symbol indicates a letter of the name of the object you’re building. After building, you’ll be able to read out the entire word.

Fittle blocks portraying the word “Fish”

This makes for a fun and interactive way of learning how to read for children, and it gives you a much more (literally) tangible idea of what the object you just read is. Fittle even made the models of the blocks available for download on their site, so everyone can use a 3D-printer to create them themselves. If you have a printer in the vicinity (like Fablab for my co-students at KULeuven), you can head over there right now and create these for very little money. They had a Indiegogo fundraiser a little while ago, that only raised a fraction of what they strived for, but it is still being worked on.

This is one of those few tools that is beautiful in its simplicity, but extremely powerful and empowering tools. It is unfortunate that I didn’t learn of it sooner, I would definitely have backed it.



Braille e-book

Nowadays, you will think that everyone has easy access to a good book. But you’re wrong, for a part of the population, it is not so easy to find a book to read, let alone to find a good book. For blind people who read in braille, the amount of books translated in braille is very limited. With the technology these days you will think that it should not be difficult to make a braille e-reader, that translates books very easily, when they already have braille smartphones. The problem is not that nobody thought of it, on the contrary, you can find some concepts, that date back from 2009, here and here.

So why can’t we find the braille e-readers yet? Because it is not profitable enough for companies to make it.

Do you think that there should be more invested in the development of such an e-reader? Will you sponsor someone who wants to buy such a device?



Braille Smartphone

Another TED talk this time.

In this one, the prototype of the first Braille Smartphone is discussed by its Indian inventor, Sumit Dagar.

He started this project as part of a bigger goal: to make modern technology accessible to everyone. He got this, and other ideas while travelling around India, where he noticed that even though the newest technology was readily available to the average city-dweller, a large portion of the population had no benefit from it whatsoever.

Dagar describes a smartphone with a screen made so that it can display buttons, braille and even pictures by elevating or lowering parts of the screen. The finished final product will even be able to convert text, viewed by the camera, to braille on screen. Some of the techniques used in the phone are closely related to the ones we use in our thesis, but with a different goal. Whereas our final product will be all about using another sense to replace vision, his will bring all the benefits of a certain technology to people without vision, without sacrificing another sense.

It serves as a reminder that, although widely considered so, vision mightnot be the most important sense. And, that it is not per se necessary to replace vision itself, if you can make everything accessible without having to use vision.