Versatile Braille keyboard

Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles have developed a more versatile Braille computer keyboard.


Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles (ONCE) have developed a more versatile Braille computer keyboard.



The new keyboard, which connects to the PC through the USB port, will make using a computer much easier for blind people who are accustomed to using Braille typewriters. It combines the function and movement keys of a conventional keyboard with eight Braille keys that allow the user to write in any language.



Users can also select between a cumulative and a corrective writing mode. In the cumulative mode, the dots of a Braille symbol are selected by pressing the keys one after another; in the corrective mode, this is done by pressing the necessary keys simultaneously.



The keyboard can be updated when upgrades to its firmware (software stored in the Read Only Memory) become available.



The keyboard is the first to allow blind people to work unaided with mathematical formulae and score-writing programs.



The project, initiated in March 2004 by ONCE, was coordinated by the UAB Department of Microelectronics and Electronic Systems researcher Jordi Roig, who has been visually impaired for three years and is a member of ONCE. Teachers from the UAB School of Engineering and the UAB School of Computer Science in Sabadell participated in the research.



The group is currently working on other projects that will enable blind people to work autonomously with technological applications. These projects include developing an automatic conversion tool for websites that are not currently accessible to blind people and creating a touchable screen that raises the information so that it can be felt.