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Shahab Siavash

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Shahab Siavash
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  • SepidKhan: An alternate for Persian/Arabic braille

    After seeing the complexity of Persian braille and the great idea of Elia Life Technology for the English (Latin) braille, I have decided to do a Persian version of their work. I have contacted the CEO of Elia Life and I have sent some info, etudes and other stuff.

    Also I am trying to do it in Iran in collaboration with the only Persian braille newspaper (Iran e Sepid) and some charities. Really appreciated if you comment on this as well.

    But why an alternate?

    Braille is 200 years old and it is estimated that only 10% or less of the blind people can use braille! Why? Because it is very hard. Braille is based on some random dots, with no order or meaning whatsoever. So a blind person should memorize all of them and translate (or transliterate) them in their heads every time. For Persian it is worse, because it is backwards.

    Another interesting statistics is only 1% of all blind or visual impaired people are born this way. Why this is important? Because about 99% of them had already seen their mother language alphabet at least once. So if we could have had a script somehow similar to the original alphabet they could learn it much easier than braille.
    They did it!

    Elia Life Technology did this after years of research and analysis. The letters are based on the Latin alphabet. They used something named ‘frames’ to make it simpler for the blinds to recognize the letters.
    There are only 3 frames: Circular, Square and a house shape. They have explained it here letter by letter.

    So I started form here. I have designed non-cursive Persian fonts before which I discussed about them here, so I thought it is something that I should do.

    You can see the letters and their equivalents in below pictures:



    Dots!
    Half of the Persian letters have dots. Dots is very important in Persian alphabet, because unlike Latin we have some groups of totally identical letters that the only thing that separate them from each other are their dots. Persian letters could have one, two or three dots.
    So I thought we could minimize the letters that has dots to their dots with a little help from the ‘frames’.
    We not only preserve the groups of similar letters by making them look-alike, but also make the learning experience easier, because you learn ب for example and you can read پ, ت and ث.

    Advantages:
    I named this new script “SepidKhan” (=ReadingWhite). Other advantages of using SepidKhan is the fact that it’s LTR, which makes translating and transliterating much faster and easier.
    The next thing is the relation between blinds and their friends and families. People can’t read braille, even 90% of blinds can’t use braille, but this new script can be learnt in less than an hour and both of them can read it.

    You can see some other benefits of using a script like this instead of braille:



    Fonts or translators?
    Braille can’t be used as a font. (I think it could be if only they didn’t make it much harder than it already is by adding grades and abbreviations and… Remember the 10%?) So even if a braille researcher, a teacher, author… wants to write some letters in braille (especially Persian) they have to use graphics or a braille translator.

    But SepidKhan is a script and a font. And because it is not a different language with different grammar or vocabulary, it can do the translation by changing the font of a standard Persian text and everybody can write with it without the need to use a software/hardware. One could think of hundreds of books or articles that can be converted to a blind-friendly script by one click.

    Important: There is no need to throw away braille for good! All those 10% that can use braille, will be using it for sure. I don’t think that a solution to help blinds to read and write should be always one thing and inevitably using Unicode braille patterns or some current hardware/software.

    It is 21st century and braille was created in the 19th! Also there are a lot of scripts and typefaces, why blind people can’t have 2 scripts (sets of letters)?

    And finally to write with this new script the Elia group came out with a Touch Printer and a Tactile Display. I hope if the Persian/Arabic version got finalized, Persians and Arabs could use those too.

    So what do you think about Elia frames and SepidKhan?

    Read this in Persian here.


  • Re: Open source font tester?

    Is it possible to obfuscate a web font specimen, using simple cipher? A=G B=W C=X etc. I wouldn't propose doing that on the web for non-specimen use because that's awful. But if you're just using it to displaying a specimen, the words contained in the specimen don't matter in terms of search or comprehension. The quick brown fox becomes Plo kmijn uhbyg gbv. Every day, you scramble the cipher, change specimen text and regenerate the scrambled web fonts. Not unbreakable for sure but it might be more difficult for automated tools to keep up with new font releases. Even if the cipher gets cracked every day, sometimes it might fail on a letter. Unless there's a human checking that the letters are all in place, the automated ripping tool becomes unreliable since a font with a misplaced letter is essentially useless.
    If I understand that correctly, I did something similar once. It was an offline PC application and protecting the font was not the matter, but protecting the text was.
    So they didn't want to do encryptions and stuff like that. I proposed we could change the font and you type some gibberish things and they "see" it like a proper sentence. If they copy that it is not usable. 
    And because it was Persian, I had to replace an entire character glyphs (initial, medial, final and isolated) with another character glyphs so you can type easier.

    I don't quite remember, but I think we had some problems with ligatures cause the glyphs had changed. Altogether it was an easy and simple solution for that case.

    But if it is going to be used to protect fonts, I don't actually know how to decipher them to the correct glyphs each time. It is better for Latin fonts, I think.
    And the big problem is after all of that, the user would have the entire glyphs and he could edit the font and move the glyphs to the right spot and boom there is your font!

    Another Idea would be removing some glyphs. Is that so bad? I managed to remove enough glyphs so my own "invented" Persian pangram would show up correctly :)

    P.S: I have seen some strange scripting in Persian fonts, but they can't do that on the web, only with programs, I think Tasmeem from WinSoft is doing something strong to do this kind of "protection".