App to Help Visually Impaired Send Text Messages

According to World Health Organization (WHO), 314 million people across the globe are visually impaired, with 41 million people blind. 87% of the visually blind people live in developing countries mostly in Africa.

It is with this reason in mind, that researchers in at Georgia Tech produced an app to help blind people text using touchscreen mobile devices, based on the Braille writing system.

The application is six times faster than the existing methods for texting without sight. Currently, the number of cell phones designed specifically for those who are blind is very limited. Owaysys has the 22c, which is a screen less cell phone that works on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. It has a speaking interface and easy keyboard with widely spaced buttons.

Christened BrailleTouch to be released in the next couple of weeks, it uses a system that is controlled with six fingers and crucially, does not require any movement of the hands. Explaining how the phone is used, Mario Romero, the lead researcher in the project said, “Users who know how to type Braille well never move their hands.”

“When users hold the phone they hold the phone with the screen facing away from them in landscape mode. They wrap the index, middle and ring finger in each hand around the phone.” Marion added.

The most important fact is that BrailleTouch will be free and open-source, its makers say, and it is hoped it could even become an “eyes-free” solution for fully-sighted people who want to text while visually pre-occupied with something else, but not while behind the wheels.

This is seen as a big step towards aiding the blind, who “see things with their figure”. This may well increase the number of employed visually impaired people in Africa, since only 16% of them are employed, as compared to America’s 87%.

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