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Mobile Text Messaging for those who are visually impaired

Replace the mobile phone screen with a one character Braille electronic sytem.
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The following two texts inspired three designers at Sheffield Hallam University to come up with a new concept for a mobile phone. We had been asked to look at how we could use a digital technology to create an idea in an area previously un-researched (?or is it?).

I am hoping to raise the theories we found, and I hope some of you can provide opinions and criticism. Or even better, pass the idea on.

We started with the following quotes:

"Worldwide there is an enormous group of visually impaired people that play or want to play an active role in our society." (Albert Jan van Weij, discussing if a mobile phone can be accessible for the blind. See www.rnib.org.uk)

"Thirty billion text messages are sent worldwide every month. Most of them are for personal communication reasons." GSM Association

Obviously, there is a market for text messaging, but why can't this area of communication be open to those with visual difficulties. This area of communication is important (even more for those with disabilities) it can help provide security and a sense of connection. It is true they have a different consumer culture, but with a few tweaks to the technology the text messaging services can be made available to them.

One of the main benefits of SMS is that it can be done anywhere, in private (under the table) and is cheap (-ish, mobile phone companies in Britain are now charging 10p a message).

The current solutions for delivering electronic text to the visually impaired was through the following: - Braille printers. - Brighter backlit screens (only for those with visual impairement) - Text to speach software only available on the 9210 (a very expensive Nokia phone)

Our solution is to replace the screen of a basic mobile phone with a ONE CHARACTER electronic Braille printing system (where the bobbles pop up to the finger for each character).

So, Good idea? Bad idea? Done before? opinions please.....

DRudge, Dec 04 2002

About TALX and the Nokia Communicator 9110/9110i http://groups.googl...zta.onet.pl&rnum=13
Scroll halfway down for English description "Alternatively, you can also attach a portable Braille display to your phone" ...blind users can: Write and read SMS and e-mail, Send out fax messages, Surf the Internet with WAP... [thumbwax, Oct 04 2004]

EVOLUTION OF TELECOM... http://www.tiresias...e_gap/chapter_2.htm
SERVICES AND EQUIPMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH LIMITED ABILITY [thumbwax, Oct 04 2004]

Braille PDA http://www.nytimes....ircuits/17brai.html
Doesn't seem to do e-mail, oddly enough. [Link requires free registration.] [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004]

GKOS keyboard for SMS http://gkos.com
How to type SMS with a keyboard capable of Braille code entry [tiptyper, Oct 04 2004]

[link]






       "the number of electronic calculators with Braille output is falling since the cost of synthetic speech output has reduced dramatically in recent years" - from a website for the impaired. Why do you need Braille if you've got a phone? The phone can just read out whatever it has to say.   

       Though I'm all in favor for anything that makes life easier for the blind.
DrCurry, Dec 04 2002
  

       Voice synth (obivously) involves sound - maybe not as discreet as one would like when using SMS (although I guess you could hold the phone to your ear or use headphones). If there was a kind of embossed surface it would be quiet and discreet.   

       I don't think that reading a message is the initial problem... I would think that inputting one is. Assuming that this braille interface could be feasible, I imagine that using the keypad and touch-reading the screen to see what has been done put in already would be very ticky indeed.
Jinbish, Dec 04 2002
  

       In the late 1970's or early 80's there was a machine called something like Opticon or Optikion. It combined text recongition with a finger pad which had six solenoid-driven pins to form the Braille characters. I seem to recall it was demonstrated on BBC TV's "Tomorrow's World" programme.   

       So the idea for "character - to - braille" is not new. I agree with the previous contributors that speech synthesis is probably easier to implement and could probably be implemented via nothing more that a chunk of software on a GSM-enabled PDA. Not very discreet, though - unless you use an earpiece.
8th of 7, Dec 04 2002
  

       [Rods_Tiger]: don't forget the vibrate ringer setting. ;)
XSarenkaX, Dec 04 2002
  

       So reuse the "A = 2, B = 22, C = 222, D = 3, E = 33" horrible input method by putting a minisolenoid under each button and thumping the appropriate number of times... OK, that's a terrible idea.   

       Voice synth is less discreet in the sense that you're visibly "taking a call" and not paying attention to the person you're talking with. A sighted person can just glance down at their phone and read (or at least skim) the message without missing a beat. That wouldn't be possible here, unless we come up with a tactile-only output.   

       Blind people have to make so many compromises already that I think just getting the synth software widely deployed would be welcomed. It would also be useful for people who are driving (with a handsfree kit) or otherwise have their vision and/or hands occupied, so they could still receive text.
egnor, Dec 04 2002
  

       People who are visually impaired, don't want to be outcast from society, they feel they should be able to fit into culture just the same as others.   

       Young people are the biggest users of mobile text messaging and enjoy "under the table" text messaging (it's privacy).   

       Using text to voice software would mean the visually impaired person would feel different (in that he or she would have to lift the phone to ones ear, to hear private messages) the whole idea of having to have things, that the percentage of people read, having to be spoken, spells out the differences between our cultures. It makes those with impaired vision, feel different.   

       But if text to voice is the solution, then why is it not available on the other ranges of phones. It's like the phone manufacturers are not interested in this area. Most visually impaired people have to use expensive phones to utilise this software.
DRudge, Dec 04 2002
  

       If it is just as easy to phone people, why do fully sighted people have text messaging. Remember, "30 billion text messages a month". World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 38 million people worldwide are blind and more than 110 million have low vision. Firstly, this is a large number of people that could benefit from a change in the system. A large market for the mobile company that produces a suitable phone. The big question is, would we accept a "text to voice" only option?
DRudge, Dec 04 2002
  

       texting is hugely popular in the UK and there must be many reasons to do that rather than a call. one of my sons works weird hours and I spend weird hours on line so it suits us to a T. a lot of young people send rather rude jokes and pictures via their mobiles that spread like wildfire - a mini internet almost. my american mate tells me that texting is not so widespread in the US and his mobile does not even have that facility. given my reasons to text, this seems a nice idea. +1   

       oh yes - and its CHEAP.
po, Dec 04 2002
  

       EXTRA RESEARCH FINDINGS:   

       The most common Braille system. Grade 2 braille was developed to reduce the size of books and make reading quicker. Other symbols are used to represent common letter combinations, for example 'OW', 'ER', and words such as 'AND' and 'FOR'. Combinations of two symbols are also used to represent some words, eg 'THROUGH'. Some characters may change their meaning, depending on how they are spaced. So it isn't in fact a single character system....
DRudge, Dec 04 2002
  

       An alternative that I haven't seen mentioned in the above annotations is modification of the braille pulser device to be a tactile morse code pulser with simultaneous sound effect and light effect. The redundancy of a system of pulses+clicks+flashes and pauses might make messages easier to understand at first transmission for both vision and hearing impaired users. dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit.
jurist, Dec 04 2002
  

       And the award for longest title goes to...
Parvenu, Dec 04 2002
  

       Just because:   

       //they are not blind//   

       doesn't mean they (in terms of fully sighted people) should have access to more and better facilities.   

       The visually impaired should be able to use all the services everybody else uses.
DRudge, Dec 04 2002
  

       Morse code, takes a long time to translate and isn't used by people who are visually impaired. It would need everyone to learn a new system. One that would probably be slower.   

       But the idea of using a different system is a good one. There is another system used by those with sight problems. It's called the Moon system, it uses shapes and curves embossed on a page to represent parts of words.
DRudge, Dec 04 2002
  

       We convert a lot of our output at work to braille and get a vast number of complaints about using grade 1 braille so a device like this would have to be able choose between the two forms.
oneoffdave, Dec 05 2002
  

       Output of a received SMS could be synthetic voice or a short line or two of Braille characters but typing in a message is still a problem for visually impaired people (and for others too!). There is, however, a solution for this: 6 keys on the back of the device. They can accept Braille code when set into Braille mode and normally use the standard GKOS character set. 'Keys on the Back' was proposed in Halfbakery a couple of years ago (http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Keys_20On_20The_20Back). See also http://gkos.com
tiptyper, Apr 27 2004
  
      
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