Teaching any child to write can be a formidable challenge. When the child is blind and the script you're teaching is Braille, those challenges swell, especially in developing countries. Carnegie Mellon students and faculty are pioneering a solution called the Braille Writing Tutor.
The basic way to write Braille is by embossing letters in reverse so that they can then be read from left to right," said Nidhi Kalra, a Ph.D. student at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute and the primary researcher in the project. "In other words, a child learning a Braille letter must also master writing its mirror image. And the child has to learn without getting feedback about what she wrote until she turns the paper over to read it."
The tutor overcomes these challenges by speaking to children and letting them know what they are writing as they write it. Kalra recently took the tutor to the Mathru School for the Blind in Bangalore, India, for a six-week field study.
Fellow researcher and Ph.D. student Tom Lauwers observed, "The Braille Writing Tutor has made writing so much easier and more interesting for the kids at Mathru, no matter where they are in learning process."
This project is part of TechBridgeWorld at Carnegie Mellon University, a group that focuses on technology solutions that meet the needs of developing communities throughout the globe.