Can a New System Replace Braille?
Tom Spendlove posted on April 20, 2018 |
ELIA Frames have been developed as 'the world's most intuitive tactile reading system' - can they re...

Andrew Chepaitis’ grandmother began to lose her sight due to macular degeneration and found it difficult to learn braille. He learned that only one percent of people with visual impairments are born without sight, most lose their sight after they’ve already learned to read and write using conventional alphabets. Sighted adults need ten months to learn braille and even after five to eleven years of braille study can achieve a reading speed of 23 words per minute. Inspired both by the wish to help his grandmother and the desire to improve reading for the 8.4 million Americans with visual impairments Andrew worked over the next decade with his mother to develop an easier method of reading for people with visual impairments. A crowdfunding campaign for ELIA, what the group calls ‘the world’s most intuitive tactile reading system’, is currently running on Kickstarter.

ELIA Frames are based on the roman alphabet and uses a combination of outer frames in the shape of a circle, square or house, and interior pieces that create the alphabet and other characters. The group says that ELIA Frames can be learned tactilely in times as low as three hours and learned visually in a handful of minutes. After modifying an inkjet printer to make the first pages of raised type ELIA text, the group is now working a printing partnership with HP. Several other sponsors and partners are also on board, from the National Institute on Aging, to the National Eye Institute, to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, to NYSTAR.

The campaign page here is full of interesting statistics about braille, visual impairment, and the work that went into developing the new ELIA Frame system. The company’s website also has incredible insight into the design and current printing processes in their FAQ page. This is an awesome example of an engineering team completely redesigning a system after doing research into the needs of the customers. My immediate concern, however, is the staggering amount of braille material that’s in the world right now – the idea of replacing all of the signage and systems seems like a heavy heavy task. The campaign ends on May 20, 2018 and the keyboard overlays and posters offered through the campaign are currently scheduled to ship in September 2018.

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