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I would like to know what braille input alternatives exist for blind users who do not have all of their fingers. I am interested in both software and hardware methods implemented in assistive technologies in mobile phones, computers, and braille devices.

I was thinking that perhaps, a device could be configured to use two buttons, one to accept and one to reject dot x, where x goes from 1 to 6, so that a character can be input with a single finger with six presses. Further buttons could allow the user to navigate back and forth between letters, delete letters, before or after the cursor, and send. Ideally, the device can be configured to the number of fingers that the user can use. Can a Braille device be configured to work in this manner?

What alternatives exist, and what are some of the ways in which this can work. These configurations could probably also be good for blind users memorizing the braille patterns corresponding to letters in a blind braille app on Android, or on TalkBack braille input.

I don't know if TalkBack braille input, or perhaps even Google Assistant, when asked "teach me Braille", can provide such functionality in a tutorial.

I think it would be nice. Students could first learn braille with one finger, and then, only if possible, using multiple fingers.

The tutorial would first teach about the existence of dots one to six, and, only then, in a second tutorial for people with three fingers or more per hand, teach about the dot positions, such as dot 1 is in the upper left, dot 2 is in the upper right, dot 3 is in the middle left, for 4 is in the middle right, dot 5 is in the lower left, dot 6 is in the lower right. This is the braille configuration the dots use, as far as I know. So then the user can proceed with left ring finger for dot 1, right ring finger for dot 2, left middle finger for dot 3, right middle finger for dot 4, left index finger for dot 5, and right index finger for dot 6, and proceed (possibly using the index fingers ad control fingers).

How would braille input work if less fingers were available?

Thanks you for your responses.

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    I haven't really looked into the practicality of Braille and what the digital experience is like, but I wonder if we can move beyond standardized ways of communicating and utilize technology better to come up with personalized ways of communicating like handtracking.io
    – Michael Lai
    Jan 6, 2022 at 0:20
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    What is the goal of the input device here? I know several blind people that never use any braille input, and never have, and yet work as programmers. So I don't really understand why one would need braille input when there are other solutions that seem to be more usable for blind people already which don't rely on having multiple fingers.
    – JohnGB
    Apr 14, 2023 at 14:37

1 Answer 1

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I was thinking that perhaps, a device could be configured to use two buttons, one to accept and one to reject dot x, where x goes from 1 to 6, so that a character can be input with a single finger with six presses. Further buttons could allow the user to navigate back and forth between letters, delete letters, before or after the cursor, and send. Ideally, the device can be configured to the number of fingers that the user can use. Can a Braille device be configured to work in this manner?

The easiest method likely is going to be speech recognition of some kind. Voice memos have been a thing for over a century, and "home assistant" devices are have been marketed as the next big thing (though got overshadowed a bit by the massive crypto and now AI hype - though chatgpt-like functionality would naturally play into this).

If we strictly want to stay hand-based:

  • With your implementation, every character requires 6 keystrokes. An easier method may be to have 6 keys which don't all have to be pressed, and an entry key, so a symbol like ⠊ would require only 2 keystrokes + 1 confirm stroke.
  • Another method may be a full traditional keyboard with braille bumps on them.
  • Another method still would be something like an OrbiTouch or a game controller input, where a joystick positioned in one of 8 directions narrows down the set of letters while the other hand makes a choice from within the set, depending on which one of 8 (or 4, that often is enough) directions the other joystick is held.

NB: most of the implementations I show here are really latin letter/word input. That generally is preferable as letters are read out by screen readers anyway and can be easily converted back into braille when using braille displays or printers.

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  • I think the first solution you describe is desirable. Your second solution also. As for the first solution, the user could drag the finger around the six-cell-grid to enable/disable each specific cell. The device could also pronounce the letter or symbol entered if one corresponded, for each configuration, if the user dragged the finger over a speak cell at the bottom left and released it. At the bottom right you would have an enter key for entering the character by hovering over and releasing. Dec 21, 2023 at 9:42
  • This however does not take care of handling how one would navigate back and forth. Perhaps other on-screen TalkBack buttons would be needed. Dec 21, 2023 at 9:43

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