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Assistive Technology for Blindness and Low Vision, Reimanaged! 

The BrailleDoodle


National Federation for the Blind- “44 percent of the Braille-reading group, as compared to 77 percent of the print-reading group, were unemployed. Despite the undisputed value of braille, only about 10 percent of blind children in the United States are currently learning braille. Society would never accept a 10 percent literacy rate among sighted children; it should not accept such an outrageously low literacy rate among the blind.”

          The BrailleDoodle is a device for making tactile drawings, and it is a braille teaching tool. The BrailleDoodle will allow for the independent practice of braille and the creation of tactile art on a surface that is able to be refreshed repeatedly.

          It will also be very affordable and easy to maintain. Because the cost to manufacture such a device is low, it would not be unreasonable to imagine the BrailleDoodle retailing for under $50!

Detailed description - The BrailleDoodle's surface, as illustrated above, is covered with an array of hundreds of holes placed tightly together. Each hole contains a tiny metal or magnetic sphere or small cylindrical element that can be pulled to the surface by a magnetic stylus and locked into place to create a tactile effect.

              The close-up above is a cut-away of three of the holes. It demonstrates how each metal sphere can be held in an up position using a 'friction trap' or 'lock' or stay in a down position with gravity. A stylus with a magnet pulls the spheres to the surface, allowing users to draw and make letters in either braille or print and feel the work as create it. Learners may also gain a better understanding of shapes and graphs. The magnet in stylus could also be an electromagnet that is activated by a button. The power of the electromagnet may be adjusted with a switch or dial. An electromagnetic stylus may improve the user's ability to be more accurate as to which sphere the user wishes to raise.

               The ‘friction trap’ or ‘lock’ will be strong enough to allow users to gently touch what they have created without the spheres dropping. However, the user will erase a creation by pushing the spheres back down with a satisfying "pop." One can 'erase' with a finger or the top or side of the stylus.

Another essential feature of the BrailleDoodle is the stylus connected to the device by a retractable cord. It is easy to drop something like a stylus, but it can be challenging to find. The device also has a storage place for the stylus on the side to increase convenience and portability.

The Braille Cover - As shown in these pictures, the BrailleDoodle will also feature a thin plastic sleeve or cover made to the device's exact dimensions so that the BrailleDoodle will fit snugly inside. Dozens of evenly-spaced rectangular cutouts will now cover the device's surface.

The Braille Cell - A braille cell consists of six "dot positions" that are arranged two by three. A different combination of raised dots can represent all letters and numbers. Hence, each rectangle will represent a braille cell. The user can then use the stylus to raise the metal spheres to create the raised dots in any combination to represent a letter or number. It may be preferable to lift all six spheres and push down those that don't belong in a given braille character—thereby allowing them to feel their way to the correct combination. 

             Six or more rectangles, cells, will comprise a row, and there will be four or more rows. In each row, a word can be spelled out and felt by the user. Since the BrailleDoodle is intended to be used by beginning braille learners, namely children, spelling out short words or small sentences, is useful. For example, a student can spell out a short sentence like "Now braille is fun!"

A device for creating and erasing art has always made for a fun and educational toy. We all remember children spending hours with an Etch-A-Sketch or a Magna Doodle.  Now, an art toy will be explicitly designed for those who are blind, deaf-blind, or low vision. The BrailleDoodle will be helpful both in and out of the classroom. There is nothing like a motivated child who is learning as they play.

Image description - A set of three pictures above are of the Prototype of the BrailleDoodle. It red with silver spheres and has a white stylus. In the first picture, on the surface, there is a tactile picture of a house. The second picture demonstrates how the braille sleeve slides over the device. The final picture is with the Braille Sleeve in place. It shows for rows of six braille cells with the braille letters ‘a’ through ‘f’ on two of the rows.)

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