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.
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:
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.
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
Braille is used by few visually-impaired persons because few of them are born blind or become blind in very early childhood. In previous eras, such children would be educated in “blind schools,” where Braille was actually taught.
With the trend toward “mainstreaming” in the last 30 years, blind children go to regular schools and rarely get intensive training in Braille. Sighted administrators figure that blind kids can just listen to all the printed matter they would ever need throughout their entire lives. (Funny how they never say that about sighted kids.) As a result, Braille literacy, and general literacy and ability to spell and punctuate, among blind and visually-impaired adults have cratered.
You are attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, or, if it exists, has been solved already. What you are responding to is Braille’s universal left-to-right direction, which offends you morally.
There isn’t going to be a second form of Braille just for Farsi. Among other things, Unicode will never encode this script, and no transliteration software will ever support it, and the overlapping Venn diagrams of Farsi-speaking blind people who don’t know Braille but wish to learn it is smaller than the attendance at TypeCon every year.
Further, if you were really committed to encoding Farsi in tactile dots, you would encode initial, medial, and terminal forms. But you subconsciously recognized that Braille characters are unconnected, hence that would be pointless. So much of this project is.
You have an experimental project. It is worthy in and of itself as an experiment. It isn’t a solution to anything, least of all a set of problems you barely understand.
The claim I am most skeptical of is that their systems is significantly easier to learn than Braille. I don't think that similarity to latin characters is going to be a major advantage to learning a tactile alphabet — after all, there are only ~40 symbols to learn which isn't a difficult feat.
Much more difficult is learning to read using an entirely different modality (touch vs. visual) and the fact that a given pattern might be easy to discern visually does not necessarily translate into be easy to process tactilely.
I think a major reason that the Moon Alphabet (which is only slightly less old than Braille) hasn't caught on is precisely for this reason -- dots are probably the simplest form to learn to process tactilely, whereas I suspect more complex shapes require considerably more effort.
I would suggest, therefore, that you're really putting the cart before the horse here — if you feel that traditional Braille is not adequate, then a fairly major research programme would be required to confirm this and to identify strategies which might be preferable. Proposing an alternative to Braille should be the absolute last step in this process. The focus really should be on determining which sorts of tactile patterns are easiest to recognize, both individually and in running text.
And if all of these are all lies, maybe you're right. But about braille and dots being the simple solution, I wrote that only 10% of blind people could read braille, how come it is that simple that the rates are this low?
From this detailed post about Elia: https://www.fastcodesign.com/90136975/the-complicated-quest-to-redesign-braille
With respect to the fact that Braille has a low readership, that doesn't necessarily indicate anything about the difficulty in learning Braille (and if it did, even fewer people know the Moon alphabet which is based on principles similar to Elia). This may simply indicate a lack of available educational opportunities for many people with visual impairments.
I think the reason for "a lack of available educational opportunities" is in fact braille being a hard learning script. If it was a simple or logical one, you could easily train new teachers and also educate more blind people. Imagine it didn't take weeks to learn braille, it didn't need software/hardware or reverse writing system,...
In any case, I agree wholeheartedly with André. It is not that we think there’s anything wrong with Elia; we just have a high standard of evidence. Strong claims are being made, and they need strong evidence. I won’t be surprised if the evidence does materialize, it certainly sounds as if it exists. But I do want to see it.
But I bet if only 10% or less of Iranians (or Afghans and Tajiks) could read or write Persian script, we certainly would do something about that, wouldn't we?
Elia is very new to me too, but I thought it has a good concept. I hope it can be used some day and even if it never will, it could be a step to remind us all that maybe sometimes there are more important things in the design community worth trying. Maybe not Moon, not Elia, but someday something rise up and can fix the horrible usage rate of braille.