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TacRead, or Tactile Readout Device, is an electronic system for refreshable display of Braille. Braille is a script used by visually impaired individuals around the globe to read through touch with characters of various languages encoded as distinct sets of raised dots. TacRead displays text from various digital media like computers in Braille, thus enabling the visually impaired to access these devices. Further, it is free from the demerits of both auditory devices and traditional paper-embossed Braille. It has been developed primarily to solve challenges faced in education, and especially those in inclusive education, by the visually impaired.
Education for the visually impaired demands students to rely on their ability to perceive sound and touch to receive information. The practice and process is challenging, as it may sound, but technology has helped in overcoming this challenge. Implementation of computers with speech synthesizers has given students access to larger banks of knowledge than that given by Braille embossed on paper. Braille books are usually bulky, short-lived and expensive, while digital media is fast, agile and inexpensive. However, replacement of traditional Braille is detrimental in the long run, owing to its benefits in occupational spheres. Further, auditory reception is not always reliable, convenient and safe. Electronic display of Braille overcomes the demerits of both media, giving the user a choice to access digital media by touching Braille. Further, it makes inclusive education a reality, allowing blind students to attend regular schools with sighted peers as equal individuals.
Currently available electronic Braille displays are exorbitantly expensive, thus being unaffordable in developed countries and impractical in developing countries like India. TacRead is a low cost refreshable Braille display developed using a novel actuation technology in place of the expensive piezoelectric actuators used in currently available devices. It has been designed to be functionally equivalent to current devices and to be fulfilling on user-defined requirements. The technology development process has been in consultation with industry experts, and has been carried out with parallel user interactions. User demonstrations and field trials for TacRead are currently in the nascent stage.