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BrailleEasy

A more efficient alternative for blind access to touchscreen keyboard
Qatar
Accessible Product

Category: Assistive Technology,

Nomination Details

Organization name: Qatar Computing Research Institute

Launched Date: 2015-11-15

Who has created it: Aejaz Zahid

Problem statement and how the Accessible Innovation solves the problem.

The evolution of mobile technology is moving at a very fast pace. Smartphones are currently considered a primary communication platform where people exchange voice calls, text messages and emails.

The human-smartphone interaction, however, is generally optimized for sighted people through the use of visual cues on the touchscreen, e.g., typing text by tapping on a visual keyboard. Unfortunately, this interaction scheme renders smartphone technology largely inaccessible to visually impaired people as it results in slow typing and higher error rates.

Apple and some third party applications provide solutions specific to blind people which enables them to use Braille on smartphones. These applications usually require both hands for typing. However, Brailling with both hands while holding the phone is not very comfortable. Furthermore, two-handed Brailling is not possible on smartwatches, which will be used more pervasively in the future. Therefore, we develop a platform for one-handed Brailing consisting of a custom keyboard called BrailleEasy to input Arabic or English Braille codes within any application, and a BrailleTutor application for practicing.

Our platform currently supports Braille grade 1, and will be extended to support contractions, spelling correction, and more languages. Preliminary analysis of user studies for blind participants showed that after less than two hours of practice, participants were able to type significantly faster with the BrailleEasy keyboard than with the standard QWERTY keyboard.

Tell us who is the target audience and how the accessible innovation will benefit them. Please specify the different target audiences groups and provide numbers and statistics of your current clients as well as what is the potential number of people that the innovation can impact and empower:

Blind individuals who wish to access mobile devices and who have a basic level of Braille knowledge

How is the accessible innovative solution different from current practices or ways of solving the problem?

Apple and some third party applications provide solutions specific to blind people which enables them to use Braille on smartphones. These applications usually require both hands for typing. However, Brailling with both hands while holding the phone is not very comfortable. Furthermore, two-handed Brailling is not possible on smartwatches, which will be used more pervasively in the future. Therefore, we develop a platform for one-handed Brailing consisting of a custom keyboard called BrailleEasy to input Arabic or English Braille codes within any application, and a BrailleTutor application for practicing.

How is the accessible innovative solution new, different or unique in terms of the technology or implementation?

This application makes interaction with touch screen based mobile devices more natural and efficient. Standard accessibility options in Android or iOS for example, does not support single handed input and the two handed input is a lot slower than what BrailleEasy enables.

How do you get the innovative solution to reach the target audience? Please elaborate on the your go to market strategy and which geographies do you currently work in and what are your future plans for marketing your innovation.

The development group has worked closely with visual impaired users in Qatar and with all the main community based organisations, educational institutions and assistive technology services throughout the product development process. In addition, there has been major interest in the product from researchers at renowned institutions such as MIT and the Perkins Institute in Boston. The geographies are therefore, not simply restricted to the Arab world but anywhere in the world that Braille in English is used. QCRI will continue to work with user groups and organisations directly to promote and disseminate the product.

What is the potential impact of the innovative solution on the lives of the target audience? Please elaborate by providing statistics of the current impact and the potential impact.

We are still gathering statistics and will reports on this at a later stage.

Stories of how the Innovation has touched lives.

The application has been used by a number of "power users" of iOS who are visually impaired and have been very impressed by its ease of use and low learning curve.

Links to a few videos about the innovation:

Videos currently being edited