Blind World Magazine

Software translates Braille to normal text documents.

December 09, 2005.
The Nation (Thailand).

To bridge the communication gap between blind and sighted people in reading paper-based documents, a group of students at Maejo University in Chiang Mai has developed software to translate Braille documents into normal documents.

It is called the Braille Document Translator and it has been developed using the C programming language.

Wanpaya Thanpanit, 24, the team leader, said that he and two friends spent two months last year developing the software when they were fourth-year computer science students at Maejo's science faculty, with the hope of giving the blind and severely visually impaired a broader view of the world, as well as to help sighted people.

The software requires only an entry-level scanner with at least 200-dots-per-inch capacity to scan Braille documents into digital form.

The program then makes calculations and analyses the Braille alphabet to turn the characters into regular alphabet characters.

Each Braille character is normally created with six specific points and the Braille Document Translator software uses these six points to determine what the Braille character is.

Wanpaya said the software could translate both Thai to English and English to Thai as well as being able to interpret numbers, all in the same document.

"We developed software to convert Braille documents into normal documents instead of developing software to convert normal documents into Braille because there are many software products already available to translate normal documents into Braille," he said.

The move is also to assist visually impaired students to write complete answers in examinations instead of being able to take part in only multiple-choice tests.

The software has been recognised in several contests.

It won second prize at the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre's 7th National Software Contest earlier this year.

It also received a special prize from the Ratchasuda Foundation.

It recently received second prize at the Thailand ICT Awards 2005, organised by the Association of Thailand Computer Industry and the Software Industry Promotion Agency.

Right now, the software is still at the prototype stage and needs further development. Wanpaya said it could currently translate only level-1 Braille documents, although both level 1 and level 2 are sometimes mixed in the same document. "We will pass the responsibility for the development of level 2 to our juniors at Maejo University," he added.

He said once the software is complete with the ability to translate both level-1 and level-2 languages, it would be donated to the visually impaired for a wide range of uses.

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