A free service allowing people to convert documents automatically to and from Braille and synthetic speech, accessed by email, is receiving some 15,000 to 20,000 new requests per month, E-Access Bulletin has learned.
The ‘RoboBraille’ Service, funded with 560,000 pounds from the European Commission, is run by an international consortium led by the Danish national body for young people and children with impaired vision, ‘Organisation Synscenter Refsnaes’.
Users, who do not need to register, send in documents as email attachments in Word, rich text, html or plain text formats. A specialist piece of software translates the documents into contracted Braille or mp3 files in up to five languages. Documents are returned electronically and must then be rendered on a Braille embosser or displayed on a Braille display, where a Braille format is requested.
“We do not register users but expect to have a core user group of more than 1,000 people at present,” RoboBraille co-ordinator Lars Ballieu Christensen told E-Access Bulletin. Languages currently handled are Danish; English; Greek; Italian; and Portuguese. The team also plans to add French, Lithuanian and Norwegian.
“RoboBraille was the logical next step after having developed Braille translation software for decades that users found very difficult to use,” said Christensen. “With RoboBraille we are capable of automating processes that are otherwise rather complicated and at the same time maintain a system that is always up-to-date with the latest fixes.”
The development consortium comprises The Royal National College for the Blind in the UK, the Associazone Nazionale Subvedenti in Italy, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland in Ireland, the National Association of Housing for the Visually Impaired in Ireland, Pagkypria Organozi Tyflon in Cyprus and the Centro de Inovacao para Deficientes (CIDEF) in Portugal.
The team plans to expand the service, enabling users to convert documents to DAISY books, Braille maths and Braille music; and introduce a service for banks and tax offices to send electronic documents to print-impaired customers.