For nearly 200 years, braille has been vital in aiding the blind and visually impaired engage with the world. Learning braille is fundamental in helping legally blind children reach literacy levels so they can compete with their sighted peers, but over the last 50 years braille usage has dramatically declined, primarily due to a lack of teaching resources. To address this, a team from the Harvard Innovations Lab has devised an innovative system that allows someone to independently learn braille without the guiding hand of a trained teacher.
One of the challenges educators face in teaching more people braille is the time-consuming nature of the process. A teacher shortage crisis has led to many blind students simply being unable to receive the continuity of education necessary in becoming properly braille literate, and currently there is no system that can teach braille to students independently of a teacher.
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A team of teachers and technology specialists from the Harvard Innovations Lab has tackled this problem by developing a deceptively simple device called The Read Read. It's the first time a system has been devised that allows someone to learn braille on their own.
The tool consists of a set of capacitive-touch letter tiles, each of which contains a braille letter and triggers an audio file of the sound that letter makes when touched. When multiple tiles are placed next to each other, the user can swipe across the braille letters to hear the word phonetically sounded out.
The development team recently completed a 12-week trial of the device at the Perkins School for the Blind and are reporting positive results. One blind student on the Autism spectrum previously unable to grasp the language of braille managed to learn the letters A through J after only two 20-minute sessions.
With the majority of blind students in the United States currently illiterate, this could prove to be an incredibly valuable tool. After the initial trial, Kate Crohan from the Perkins School remarked that The Read Read could, "change the course of history for kids who are blind."
Currently the team is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to offer this tool to at least 400 blind or visually impaired students. The campaign is also offering individual units for US$495.
Take a look at The Read Read pitch video below.
Source: The Read Read