New Qatar-made braille keyboard launches in App Store

New Qatar-made braille keyboard launches in App Store
A new app developed by researchers in Qatar aims to allow visually impaired users to type in Braille faster and more comfortably than the traditional way.
2 min read
01 Sep, 2016
BrailleEasy can be used by both Arabic and English-speaking users [BrailleEasy]

Researchers in Qatar have officially launched a new Braille application in Apple's App Store targeting members of the local visually impaired community.

BrailleEasy is a custom keyboard that combines the comfort of one-handed typing with the speed of two-handed Braille-like typing through the use of gestures, and it can be used by both Arabic and English-speaking users.

The keyboard, which can be used by both left and right-handed users, serves a variety of purposes, such as accessing the web or email.

Dr. Stephan Vogel, the project supervisor, told Doha News that the bilingual app also serves instruction purposes.

"The app has a tutorial mode for the user to learn Braille, plus an authoring mode for teachers and instructors to design lessons which are aligned to their other teaching material," he said.

BrailleEasy was developed by researchers Barbara Sepic and Abdurrahman Ghanem from Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) under the supervision of Dr. Vogel, the institute's Arabic Language Technologies Research Director.

Members of the local visually impaired community and volunteers from the Qatar Social and Cultural Center for Blind (QSCCB), al-Noor Institute for the Blind, and MADA (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) also collaborated on the app through active participation and testing.

Ikrami Ahmad, QSCCB’s activities coordinator and assistive technology specialist, described the app as "a great achievement".

"It comes with an extensive tutorial that walks the user through step by step, the set of gestures is easy to learn and execute, and being self-voicing makes it possible for those who do not depend on screen readers to use it fully," he told Gulf Times.

"It also paves the way for those with limited hand movement to type in Braille on their touch screen. I have personally heard from several people on forums and mailing lists that it enables them to use their working hand to type in Braille faster than the traditional way of typing."

The developers say that BrailleEasy will be open sourced to allow others to improve it and adapt it to other languages.