A Braille(-ent) Idea for a Keyboard

Braille has given millions of visually impaired individuals the ability to read and write. However, Braille is hard to utilize in the world of mice, keyboards, and flat screens. And while Braille keyboards do exist, for a child who is visually impaired it can be challenging to get familiar with the layout of a keyboard. Due to these hurdles and the dependence on text-to-speech technology, Braille literacy rates have dropped to below 10% in children. Gary Peng, a high school student out of San Diego, hopes to expand Braille literacy with Knobo.

Knobo v2.5 (📷: Gary Peng)

Knobo is a human interface device (HID) that enables users to interact with their computers utilizing Braille. Similarly to how a user types with a keyboard or navigates with a mouse, a user can input Braille codes on the black tactile switches and navigate around the screen with the other buttons. Knobo is also compatible with two text-to-speech programs, Voiceover on Mac and Narrator on Windows. This allows Knobo users to receive audio feedback as they input Braille codes and navigate around the screen.

How Knobo works (📷: Gary Peng)

Peng sees Knobo as a tool that can be used in conjunction with text-to-speech programs to help the visually impaired improve literacy. Because while text-to-speech technology has increased accessibility for many visually impaired individuals, it is just one component when thinking about overall literacy. Being able to both learn/utilize Braille can give individuals who are visually impaired another avenue to read, write, and fight against the high unemployment rates for visually impaired adults.

“Audio can give you information, but it can’t give you literacy.” — Chris Danielsen, a member of the National Federation of the Blind

Knobo v2.5 (📷: Gary Peng)

Knobo is competing for this year’s Hackaday Prize and is currently one of the 20 finalists. Continue following along with Knobo’s journey on Peng’s project log.

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Author: Nick Engmann

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