An Add-On To This Tablet Makes It A Game-Changer For Blind And Visually Impaired Users

"The shock that my friend couldn’t perform this simple task stayed with me."

For Kristina Tsvetanova, a Braille tablet reader is more than just helping those who are blind or visually impaired to read — it's about helping them accomplish so much more.

In 2012, Tsvetanova realized a gap in the market after a blind friend at school asked her to help him sign up for an online class, according to The New York Times.

"'The shock that my friend couldn't perform this simple task stayed with me,'" Tsvetanova told the publication. So after earning a bachelor's degree in industrial management and a master's in engineering, Tsvetanova went on to co-found Blitab in 2014 alongside Slavi Slavev.

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Blitab is motivated by wanting to help "blind people [be] independent at school, at home, and at work and to enable them to maintain gainful employment," it says on Blitab's website. It aims to launch its first portable tablet in the fall, also called a Blitab, for the blind and visually impaired. It is "designed for universal literacy and [an] inclusive future." 

The Blitab features touch navigation and text-to-speech output, and "it is a platform for all existing and future software applications for blind readers. So we do not compete, we integrate and collaborate," Blitab explains, adding that it can be used to empower children and students learning new skills as well as adults who may need the tablet at their office or at home. 

"On the top half, the tablet's glass is perforated into a grid with holes, which allow Blitab's liquid-based technology to create tactile relief — or 'tixels' — that outputs content in the Braille alphabet — the touch-reading system that has been the literacy tool for blind people since 1824. The 'smart' liquid alters the surface of the tablet to convert text, maps, and graphics into Braille, by creating a rising sensation under the user's fingertips," The Times reports.

"Blitab can translate any type of content into Braille using our cloud-based software and displays one page of content at a time," Tsvetanova adds in the article.

Users can read, write, surf, and connect on their Blitab, which features a full-page Braille display. The Times points out that there are portable Braille readers that exist, but they "typically offer only single-line displays." 

"Can you imagine reading Harry Potter one line at a time?" Tsvetanova says in the article.

Finally, Blitab points to four global problems that it aims to solve: digital exclusion, poor literacy, social exclusion, and unemployment issues within the blind community. 

Regarding the latter, the National Federation of the Blind reports that in 2015 in the United States, only 28 percent of non-institutionalized persons aged 21-64 years with a visual disability were employed full time.

"Therefore, for working-age adults reporting significant vision loss, over 70 percent are not employed full-time," the federation says.

In 2017, Tsvetanova took home the Rising Innovator award from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which recognizes female entrepreneurs 30 years old and under. In a video from the event, Tsvetanova says:

"In Europe, there are many strong role models, but many [are men]. Perhaps I will be a role model for someone, who knows."

Hopefully, the forthcoming Blitab — to be released this fall — does exactly what it aims to do, and we look forward to seeing how it can benefit those who are blind or visually impaired. 

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