Is there a tactile alternative to braille?
It’s a valid question. I mean no disrespect to Louis Braille or the braille code and all its worth. I love braille, and I love innovation. I’m not one to get stuck in the idea that we can’t always strive for more, especially where advances are needed - where things can be better in some way, shape or form. My experience is that braille fits into this category.
Straight off, one reason I believe there could be an alternate solution to braille is the fact that a wide range of visual impairment diagnoses exist. From people with low vision in need of large print & varying color contrasts to those who are completely blind, and everyone in between. To accept that there’s only one valid solution for so many variations is close-minded, to say the least.
And yes, other solutions have existed for some time but have failed to make a widespread impact for various reasons. Heck, how hard have we had to fight for braille and large print rights? Perhaps many people think that by having too many options, none of them will gain necessary traction. And maybe they’re right in thinking it will be tougher, but by only advocating for one solution, we’re leaving out a large population whom could greatly benefit from a different solution.
So now you’re probably wondering how exactly could a new idea benefit a particular group of people with visual impairments?
Enter ELIA. The ELIA idea is a tactile font for people with visual impairments and most effective for people who have lost their vision later in life after having learned the print alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet has a unique ELIA Frame that was designed based on the Roman Alphabet, and not surprisingly, sighted individuals find it intuitively easy to learn because of it.
What’s interesting to me is the basis of each ELIA Frame design is constructed of an outer frame (circle, square, house) and various interior markings that combine to form the main characteristics of standard alphabet letters. At first glance, they may seem rather random, but if you look again at the equivalents side by side, you can definitely see how the similar characteristics stand out between the Roman alphabet and the ELIA Frames. (Or touch and feel them, of course!)
Now, of course, we’ll need to print hard-copy ELIA Frames as well as access digital content, so ELIA is working on a prototype ELIA Touch Printer and refreshable display.
The ELIA Touch Printer prints like a standard inkjet printer and raises any black line. It can print ELIA, braille, and tactile graphics all in one. Their plan is to finish the remaining research and development this summer in order to mass produce the printer in the fall.
Their refreshable display is in development and sounds promising as it will be able to present ELIA Frames, braille, or raised graphics, similar to the printer.
ELIA is getting a big push by backers in their Kickstarter project, no doubt. You can donate $25 or more and receive a really cool thank you gift from ELIA so go check it out! Their Kickstarter ends on May 20, 2018.
I am excited to follow along with ELIA’s efforts as more people who have lost their sight learn about ELIA Frames. ELIA Frames will definitely be explored in our home as soon as we can get our hands on them!