Information Systems Frontiers

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 117–128 | Cite as

Design of a braille writing tutor to combat illiteracy

  • N. Kalra
  • T. LauwersEmail author
  • D. Dewey
  • T. Stepleton
  • M. B. Dias


Less than 3% of the 145 million blind people living in developing countries are literate (Helander, Prejudice and dignity: An introduction to community-based rehabilitation. New York: UNDP 1998). This low literacy rate is partly due to the lack of trained teachers and the challenges associated with learning to write braille on a traditional slate and stylus. These challenges include writing from right to left, writing mirrored images of letters, and receiving significantly delayed feedback. Extensive conversations with the Mathru Educational Trust for the Blind near Bangalore, India, revealed the need for a robust, low-power, low-cost braille writing tutor. We present an iterative and participatory process resulting in the creation and refinement of a prototype braille writing tutor system. This system uses a novel input device to capture a student’s activity on a slate using a stylus and uses a range of techniques to teach braille writing skills to both beginner and advanced students. We report on lessons learned from the implementation of this project and from a 6-week pilot study at Mathru, and outline future directions for improvement.


Developing nations Intelligent tutoring systems User-centered design Braille 



We would like to thank our partners at the Mathru Educational Trust for the Blind for their partnership, for their constructive insights and feedback, and for hosting us during the field trial; this project would have been impossible without them. We also appreciate the advice and support of Manuela Veloso and Sarah Belousov. We would further like to thank Illah Nourbakhsh, Jack Mostow, Chris Atkeson, and Roberta Klatzky for their invaluable advice during the design phase of the project. We would like to thank Jeremy Stolarz for developing the braille tutor installation program. This work was funded by TechBridgeWorld’s V-Unit program, the IFYRE (Intel First Year Research Experience) program, and the National Science Foundation’s IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) fellowship in assistive technology (DGE-0333420).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Kalra
    • 1
  • T. Lauwers
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Dewey
    • 1
  • T. Stepleton
    • 1
  • M. B. Dias
    • 1
  1. 1.Newell-Simon A504Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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