Michael Elliot King bio photo Michael Elliot King

Newport, RI

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Braille University iPhone Application

Supervisor: Professor Jeremy Cooperstock

Collaborators: Anne Jarry, M.Ed. & Natalie Martiniello, B.A.

Started as a project in a Human Computer Interaction course, Braille University is an iPhone application that allows braille instructors to teach using an electronic medium, and have their students practice lessons at home.

The challenge in the course was to create a product that would aid the visually impaired, with the design focused on the user interface. After speaking with Anne Jarry, a professor of braille education at the University of Montreal, and doing our own research, we found there to be a major decline in braille literacy, and a push to get people learning it again. The statistics show that it is nearly mandatory for a visually impaired individual to know braille to hold steady employment, yet many are reluctant to learn. This is due to the shift from books and paper to computers and phones, and the improvement in audio and speech technology. Learning to read bumps from a large heavy book has become very unappealing, and requires feedback from the instructor to practice.

Our product uses an iPhone, because most visually impaired people are familiar with them and Apple makes a great VoiceOver application, and requires a refreshable braille display to read from. It then simply allows the instructor to create their own custom lessons to teach the language and saves the lessons to the phone for the student to practice on their own. Using a user-centered design approach, we made prototypes and conducted user tests to create an interface optimized for blind users.

Professor Jarry, of University of Montreal, and her masters student, Natalie Martiniello, were interested enough to want to collaborate and continue the work we started. The project is ongoing, as we plan to translate the application to French for further testing, and then put it into the App Store for use by other Braille educators.