There is a direct correlation between Braille literacy and employment among the visually impaired. However, even in developed countries, Braille literacy rates are extremely low. It is only 4% in the UK, 10% in the USA and less than 1% in India. The pedagogy of braille education has not seen a change in a very long time. Current primary education tools include wooden blocks, marbles and plastic slates, with continuous 1:1 teacher supervision. Owing to the ridiculously low number of teachers qualified to teach visually impaired students, these methods fail to penetrate a vast majority of the 285 million visually impaired.
Annie addresses the pain point of low braille literacy among the visually impaired by helping them learn how to read, write and type in Braille. Annie can be used directly by CYP (children and young people with Visual Impairment) to learn Braille on their own and be monitored by teachers or parents. The technology will enable self-learning (which is completely missing in today’s methods), enable efficient classroom teaching, introduce collective and competitive learning, ease homework delivery and evaluation, and bring in easy tracking of progress. The hardware device is complemented by a content creation platform to help teachers and other content producers create interactive educational content for the visually impaired. This content will be directly delivered to Annie and refreshable braille displays, allowing for greater exposure to educational content.
How it works
Annie runs on a Raspberry Pi and consists of three major modules - a refreshable braille display, a digital braille slate, and a Perkins style braille keyboard - in one device.
1. Writing module: The digital Braille slate is the first of its kind in the world and is unique to Annie. Writing braille on paper using a slate requires the user to emboss the mirror image of each letter combination which can get extremely confusing for a beginner. With audio feedback, and tactile input and output, the digital Braille slate is a foolproof method of teaching Braille writing.
2. Typing module: The Braille keyboard is designed directly in line with the ubiquitous Perkins Brailler, thus adhering to international standards, and training for real-life usage.
3. Reading module: The refreshable Braille display consists of 2 large Braille cells and 6 standard sized Braille cells. It works in conjunction with the typing and writing modules, thus helping the user learn in real-time to read and write/type Braille at the same time, ensuring better learning outcomes.
4. Data analytics: Continuous data capture of the children's usage pattern helps the teachers and parents track the learning progress of the child. This also digitizes the process of identifying support required by a student based on their proficiency which is a massive value add for governments that struggle with laborious, subjective disbursement of special needs education payments.