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IES Contract

Title: Artificial Intelligence Software to Tutor Literary Braille to the Blind and Visually Impaired
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Johnson, Benny Awardee: Quantum Simulations, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Type: Fast Track Award Number: EDIES11C0034

Phase I Amount: $150,000
Phase I Period: 6 months

Phase II Amount: $900,000
Phase II Period: 2 years

Product Video Demonstration:

Purpose: Braille is the primary medium of written communication for persons who are blind. Prior research shows that Braille literacy strongly correlates with stronger reading habits and the pursuit of higher education, whereas Braille illiteracy negatively impacts students' academic performance and ability to navigate the everyday world. A recent report found that there has been a dramatic decline in Braille literacy since the 1960s and that in the last two decades the literacy rate among blind children has persisted at just 10 percent. This project will develop a web-based tutoring system to provide on-demand Braille literacy support to the visually impaired.

Project Activities: The main technological objectives include designing and implementing a user interface for dynamic Braille input and output, designing a rules-based expert system for the Braille curriculum, and designing a rules-based expert system to analyze student work and provide feedback. To assess implementation feasibility, the usability of the technology, and to gather data on the promise of the product to support student learning, a single-case pilot study will collect data from 50 students over 15 weeks. Outcome measures will include items from the Minnesota Braille Skills Inventory.

Product: The web-based Artificial Intelligence Braille Tutor software will provide kindergarten through 12th grade students who are blind or visually impaired with on-demand support for understanding Braille code. Braille output will be accessible via a refreshable tactile display for blind users and will be visually on-screen for users who can see it. The tutor will either supplement existing curricula or be integrated within lessons, will support skills like spelling and vocabulary learning within existing literacy curricula, and will be for use in special or general education classes. Implementation will not require teachers to change lessons or materials.