ELIA Is An Alternative to Braille That Wants To Change How Blind People Read

photo shows a person's right hand tracing letters on a paper printed in ELIA

Braille is the de facto language when it comes to printing documents for blind people. This dot based system has been around for more than 200 years, and has proved to be extremely crucial in bringing literacy, independence and employment to blind people. However, one problem with Braille is that less than 1% of blind people can read it. Moreover, people who lose sight later in their lives either don’t learn Braille or struggle to learn it.

To curtail the limitations that come with Braille, Andrew Chepaitis, a former equity research analyst, has created ELIA (Education, Literacy, Independence for All), a new system/font for blind people.

ELIA Formation

ELIA has two basic components to it – an outer frame that’s made of circle, semi circle, square and house, and interior elements that form the characteristics of standard alphabet letters. A-D are in a semi circle, O-S in a circle, and the rest are boxed in a square outer frame. These letters look very similar to the standard English alphabet letters, and a new user can learn this system in less than 3 hours, as compared to months of rigorous learning that Braille demands.

Availability

ELIA is available as a free download, and can also be  used as a tactile keyboard cover so a user can learn it easily and type faster. It is also in talks with Hewlett-Packard to develop a printer that will allow users to print tactile text on paper.

ELIA tactile keyboard cover shown laid over a regular keyboard.

However, not everything is rosy for ELIA. The US National Federation of the Blind thinks that ELIA will slow people down especially because tracing the outer frames will require more time. Chepaitis is not too worried about this concern though, and thinks that eventually the NFB will warm up to ELIA. Whether it’s a practical system or not is a different story but one must applaud the efforts of Chepaitis and his team to overhaul an existing system to make learning and independence available to a much larger audience.

Watch the video below to learn more about ELIA.

Interested in quickly learning this new system? Try it out yourself!

See how ELIA compares to Roman and Braille letters:

photo shows comparison of elia, braille and roman letters. LEtters from all three systems are placed under each other.

Source: 99U, Kickstarter

Website: http://www.elialife.com/

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