The blind and partially sighted will be able to listen to documents without the use of a PC thanks to speech software and will also be able to print them as Braille by using a free service developed in Denmark called RoboBraille.
The site allows the user to send documents as a mail attachment and get back either an MP3 version or receive a notepad file containing Braille code which can be converted into a Braille document using an embosser.
Aisling Lowe, IT manager for the National Braille Production Centre at St. Joseph’s Services for the Visually Impaired in Dublin said that this free service would be of great benefit to students in educational establishments that generally have one Braille embosser as standard.
Although not many organisations are using it yet because it has not been officially released, the first test period which finished before Easter of this year was very well received said Lowe.
The second testing period in Ireland involving 100 Braille and audio participants is in conjunction with the Irish National Council for the Blind (NCDI) and is happening right now.
Participants will meet at the end of September to discuss the results and implications.
Lowe said that there are several possible applications for this tool, not just for use with the visually impaired but also for the elderly and dyslexic.
It is also hoped that the service could be introduced to organisations like the ESB or Telecom Eireann, perhaps for a nominal fee, with eventual adoption by the government.
“The conversion of electronic documents into contracted Braille or speech was either handled de-centrally by individuals using complex and expensive software installed on their computers or handled through centralised production facilities”, said the EU commission.
The commission went on to state that the advent of RoboBraille has improved the situation for the visually impaired or blind.
By Marie Boran