Touchscreen style devices have dominated the technology industry of late, from wearable devices to smart phones and smart home appliances. It is, however, noticeable that such technology does not cater much to visually impaired individuals. Today a company is making this technology more accessible as a company releases a tactile tablet for the blind and visually impaired.
Blitab, a company based in Austria, is bringing new technology to reach out to visually impaired and blind individuals. On the tablet's lower half is a touch screen feature that runs on Google's Android software and has a screen-reading feature. It is the content on the screen that will be projected into the Braille upper half of the tablet upon pressing a button on the side.
With a single press of a button, the tablet loads a webpage in the form of bubbles at the top half of the device. The tablet translates web content into Braille 65 words at a time and the device's battery life is expected to last five days with eight hours of usage a day in one charge, providing excellent energy efficiency.
Though Blitab is still working on finalizing the tablet, they are planning to sell it for $500 when it hits the market, which is pretty reasonable compared to the usual $50,000 Braille equipment costs. Further, the significantly lower price tag on the tablet supports the company's aim of bringing visually impaired individuals into a digital lifestyle. A similar device is being developed by scientists from the University of Michigan using microfluidic bubbles that would cost around $1,000.
Braille is the most well-known mode of communication and reading for the visually impaired. However, the results of the Blind polls held by the American Printing House reveals surprising results. 38.4 percent of blind children ages 4 to 21 are identified as non-readers and only 8.5 percent are identified as Braille readers when over 50 percent of blind people were literate in Braille in 1960.
This brings a serious discussion on the literacy of blind people, especially after seeing the decline in numbers in recent years. What's more alarming is the number of unemployed blind adults at 70 percent. Further, 50 percent of blind high school students drop out before finishing their education.
Literacy is seen as the key to preventing the poverty experienced by some blind individuals, as it gives them access to better jobs, equality and civil rights. The more affordable access to Braille that Blitab is offering may prove to be one of the first steps to achieving higher literacy for the blind community.