A new innovative device to encourage Braille literacy


42 out of every 1,000 Nigerian is blind, with about 3,000 optometrists catering to over 150 million people in the country. According to statistics, it is estimated that 1.13 million individuals aged 40 years are currently blind in Nigeria. A further 2.7 million adults aged 40 years are estimated to have moderate visual impairment and an additional 400,000 adults are severely visually impaired. 4.25 million adults aged 40 years in Nigeria are visually impaired or blind.

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exists. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.
— The Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB)

Visually impaired people in Nigeria barely even have enough aid sticks to go round, so to speak about braille literacy is going a little to far. While I remember seeing a few of them taking exams back in school, in the entirety of my university degree there were just about 3, do you mean only 3 blind people have the desire to be educated or are we relegating them to roadside begging and whatever treatments their family is able to bestow upon them?

However, in light of that, a new innovative device has been invented to help a dying culture of braille literacy. The Read Read is a Braille learning device that, simply put, teaches blind and low vision people how to read Braille. The simplicity of its purpose belies the complexity of the technology behind this new device, which was meticulously conceptualized and created to provide blind and low vision people with unparalleled instruction in Braille skills.  

Created by Alex Tavares, a graduate student at the Harvard Innovations Lab. The device has been six years in the making and was piloted extensively at the Perkins School for the Blind and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Read Read allows independent learning through the same manipulative-based instruction teachers use to teach children how to read Braille. The device's letter tiles feature sturdy Braille printed on metal, making it easier for those just learning Braille to decipher each letter by touch. It also offers sound for better reading flow. The Read Read's tiles also feature large-print letters, which help students with low vision learn Braille with the help of the limited sight they have.  

Up to this point, there hasn’t been a device that allows blind children to independently learn, and practice phonics and Braille using the same best practice that teachers use. Not only does the Read Read allow blind students to learn and practice Braille independently between meetings with a specialist, it also fosters independence, which is especially important for children who are blind.
— Alex Tavares

Tavares is currently running a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of equipping at least 400 blind or low vision students around the U.S. with a Read Read. Any extra money raised will go toward giving more units to children.  So far, the campaign has raised $11,000 of it $273,000 in the two weeks since its launch. Through the Kickstarter, supporters can pay $495 to receive a Read Read by November 2017.