Qatar Computing Research Institute launches custom braille keyboard for people with vision disabilities

Middle East, November 16 2015

DOHA: The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), one of Hamad bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) three specialized national research institutes, has developed a custom keyboard for iOS that enables eyes-free, one-handed typing based on Braille and is suitable for both Arabic-speaking and English-speaking users.

The BrailleEasy keyboard was launched by QCRI on Thursday November 12th, alongside representatives of Qatar Social and Cultural Center for the Blind (QSCCB), Al Noor Institute for the Blind, and MADA (Qatar Assistive Technology Center), each of which played an important role in the development of the application. The app helps people with vision disabilities type quickly on touch-screen devices, a process that can otherwise be very cumbersome and slow.

In general, touch-screen devices, such as smartphones, create many inconveniences for people with vision disabilities. Although operating systems offer basic accessibility options that help them navigate through menus on devices, typing still remains very slow. Since the end of 2014, iOS has offered a Braille-like keyboard that can speed up typing considerably. However, it requires users to type with both hands.

HBKU’s QCRI have developed a custom keyboard that combines the comfort of one-handed typing with the speed of two-handed Braille-like typing. It is based on the original two-handed Braille writing system but has been transformed to enable one-handed typing, which results in a more comfortable use of a handheld device. With a simple adaption of transforming two-handed Brailling into two gestures, users can quickly learn how to use the BrailleEasy keyboard.

For users not accustomed to typing Braille or simply want to practice the use of the keyboard, a standalone application, the BrailleEasy-Tutor, offers instructions to master this new kind of typing.

The current version of BrailleEasy and its tutoring application run on iOS 8.0 or higher, are fully compatible with VoiceOver (Apple’s accessibility support for people with vision disabilities), and already support English and Arabic.

QCRI tackles large-scale computing challenges that address national priorities for growth and development. Its multidisciplinary computing research is relevant to the needs of Qatar, the wider Arab region, and the world.

Source: The Peninsula

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