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Tactile typeface

New typeface for the visually impaired can be learned in three hours

Work & Lifestyle

A new typeface for visually impaired readers uses a design led approach to maximize learning efficiency.

Following on from our recent coverage of an attempt to create signage equally readable by sighted and non-sighted people, we bring news of a novel set of characters for the visually impaired.

Braille, first developed in the early nineteenth century, is often reported as being too difficult for many to learn. Indeed, reportedly less than one-percent of adults in the US with a visual impairment can read braille. Further, braille also takes an average of ten-months to learn. With these statistics in mind, ELIA set out to make a more intuitive system that takes users three hours to learn.

Called ELIA Frames, the typeface is a tactile system based on the Roman alphabet. It uses a design led approach to maximize learning efficiency. The ‘frame’ defines the system used to group letters together based on visual cues that refer to the shapes of the letters. These circles, squares and triangles, the outer frames, are read by running a finger clockwise around the shape. Further tactile cues are then provided via gaps in the frame or internal markers. The system works equally well for numbers.

ELIA believes that the use of a more intuitive system will make ELIA Frames easy to learn for family members and education professionals. The startup also believes that other alphabets could use the same design approach. ELIA is currently crowdfunding the project on Kickstarter. ELIA Frames will be freely available for personal and educational use.

As well as new methods to improve literacy and inclusivity amongst visually impaired people, there are also new assistive technologies in development. Recent examples include this device that combines haptic tech with a guidance system, and haptic VR gloves that enables users to ‘feel’ artworks. How else can technology make life more inclusive for more people?



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