Disabled users take advantage of computers

We all love e-mail, but for some people, technology really does change their lives. Those who are both deaf and blind are using computers and the Internet to communicate with speed and accuracy never thought possible. People are now using devices that convert computer text into Braille, and as a result can now surf the Net and read email at their leisure.

A U.S. research project based on new technologies that synthesize speech into computer text promises to give the disabled an even greater degree of portable communication. Users will be able to attend lectures or have spontaneous conversations without an interpreter.

Designed by two students at the University of Delaware, the system will use a laptop computer (with off-the-shelf components) to convert speech into Braille, and Braille back into speech The project won a student design competition award from the Rehabilitation Engineering Society and received a $98,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to build and evaluate a working prototype, and this work is now underway.