It was 179 years ago when the revolutionary Braille system of reading was invented for the visually impaired. Created by Frenchman Louis Braille — who was blind at the age of three after he accidentally stabbed his eye with the awl used by his father for puncturing holes into leather goods — the Braille system was inspired by Frenchman Charles Barbier’s “night writing,” embossed dots used by Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers to communicate in the dark.
Braille’s version, which employs raised dots and no more than five dots per letter of the English alphabet, changed the lives of blind people forever. By skimming the tip of their index finger over raised dots representing letters of the alphabet, the visually impaired can read, giving them access to a wide range of information — from current events to documents that allow them to make informed decisions about their life. They are also able to pursue cooking, board games, music, and other interests enjoyed by their sighted counterparts. (Read: PWD Painter Shares His Daily Hustle Amid the Pandemic)
Celebrated since 2019, World Braille Day (which coincides with Louis Braille’s 212th birthday on January 4), “is observed to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.” In the Philippines, a 2017 report by the Department of Health says that, 2,179,733 Filipinos have bilateral low vision, while at least 300,000 Filipinos are bilaterally blind or are totally unable to see.
Nearly two centuries after Braille’s invention, developers continue to push boundaries and come up with remarkable tools that make life easier and more inclusive for the visually impaired. Here are five of them. (Read: Get to know the Life of St. Lucy, the Light Bearer Saint)
Gadgets for the Blind: Seeing AI
Developed by Microsoft, the free camera app provides you with a spoken, detailed description of short text, people, documents, currency, surroundings, products, and others. Simply aim your smartphone at a person or object and you’ll know exactly what’s in front of you.
Gadgets for the Blind: OrCam My Eye
Snap on a small device on the temple of your eyeglass frame, and it instantly reads text that you point to or command it to read. The wearable AI can also tell you what’s directly in front of you—including the names of people, products, and currency.
Gadgets for the Blind: JAWS
Short for Job Access With Speech, the screen reader allows the visually challenged to “read” what’s on their computer screen through text-to-speech output or Braille display. (Read: 4 Best Apps to Make Your Life Easier While Working From Home)
Gadgets for the Blind: BrailleNote Touch 32 Plus
Louis Braille would be blown away by this gadget that boasts the speed and efficiency of a smartphone or tablet. Send and receive email, download books and read them in Braille instantly, watch videos on YouTube, and do so much more on this helpful tool supported by Android 8.1
Gadgets for the Blind: Victor Reader Stream
Small, sleek, yet oh-so smart, this handheld media player stores downloaded talking books, magazines, music, and podcasts, and records lectures and important conversations. Virtual bookmarks let you resume where you last listened.