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Graphical World Opens for Visually-Impaired People

From: Harvey Bingham <hbingham@acm.org>
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 09:00:29 -0400
Message-Id: <7.0.1.0.2.20060420085441.024e2240@acm.org>
To: "wai-eo" <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>


The IST-funded Interactive Tactile Interface (ITACTI) project has 
developed a new device that will use a graphical display to open the 
world of images to the visually impaired, just as Braille makes text 
accessible. Today's Braille displays use electro-magnetic or 
piezo-electric forces to raise and lower the dots that form Braille 
letters, but they only show one line at a time, while the new device 
employs electro-rheological fluids. Historically, price has been a 
barrier to graphical interfaces for the visually impaired, though the 
new device produces an entire screen at a time, which keeps the costs 
low, said Sami Ahmed, managing director of the Smart Technology 
Group, which developed the electro-rheological fluids that change 
from liquid to semi-liquid when stimulated with a charge, the central 
challenge that the project faced. "We use these types of fluids in 
other applications, but it took quite a lot of work to get the 
specification we required for this device," Ahmed said. The device 
also contains system controls and software that enable the dots to 
raise and lower so that users are presented with a complete page of 
text or graphics. Reading even single lines could become easier with 
the device, as current displays replace text once it is read, making 
it inconvenient to go back and reread passages. The main advantage of 
the new device will be graphics, however, as the visually impaired 
will be able to absorb spreadsheets and the meaning of icons, which 
could open up a host of new job opportunities. The device also 
incorporates input and output, so a user could read a Web page and 
then follow a hyperlink. Users can also trace the screen with their 
fingers so the interface functions as a mouse.
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Received on Thursday, 20 April 2006 13:01:04 GMT

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