Braille converter eases web use

RoboBraille, a free service currently in the testing phase (ending this year) that provides automatic Braille conversion, was started by a Danish organisation and now has partners in five other European countries. Anyone wanting to use the service, which is partly funded by the EU (£500,000 during the testing phase), can send plain text, rich text, html or Word documents (PDF support is on the way) by e-mail – which the recipient then receives either as an MP3 audio file or as electronic Braille. Electronic Braille can be sent to a Braille printer or read by a tactile display, a device connected to the computer with a series of pins that are raised or lowered to represent the Braille characters.

"About two or three years ago we came to the conclusion that it's simply too complicated for the average user to produce Braille. You need to know far too much about Braille conversion, Braille characters and layout. We wanted to set up a system that was entirely automated, where the user didn't need to know anything apart from an e-mail address," said consortium leader, Lars Balieu Christensen, who also runs a Danish assistive technology company. The RoboBraille service is currently processing about 400 requests a day but the system has the capacity to deal with up to 14,000 a day. Mr. Christensen, who has been working on Braille conversion for 20 years, thinks this will be sufficient to provide a viable service for the first two years, which will cost around £135,000 a year to run. It is hoped that the service will be fully implemented next year, and that it will remain free to individual users and non-profit organisations.

News source: BBC News

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