Ted Moallem’s Braille-It Labeler Prints Tactile Labels for the Blind

by , 11/30/11

Braille-It Labeler; Braille-It; blind technology; reused materials; repurposed materials; scrap metal; reclaimed materials; blind workshop; MIT; India; social design; humanitarian design; DIY; open source; need based design; developing country; Ted Moallem; A Better World by Design; student conference

Blind people have been long overlooked when it comes to social advancement and technological innovation, and Moallem’s labeler offers a simple, affordable solution that will have its largest impact in the developing world, where an estimated 90 percent of blind people worldwide reside. A former MIT graduate student, Moallem was originally inspired by the IDEAS Competition. He saw that, as a minority group, the blind have been long overlooked by the commercial sector leading to stagnation in the development of low-cost technology for their needs. Several technological advancements have been made but they cater to those in the first world who can afford the expensive, sleek products or electronics. Government subsidies and institutional purchases help maintain high prices making it highly unlikely these products will ever reach the majority of people who could use them. Rates of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty remain exorbitant in the blind community perpetuating the vicious cycle of social exclusion and neglect.

As an alternative, Moallem devised a tool that can be both used and produced by the blind. The design draws inspiration from Louis Braille’s original “slate and stylus” and involves a simple six-button system that crosses language barriers. However, unlike Braille’s design, characters are not formed backwards and hands are saved the tiring effort of punching one dot at a time. Moallem also plans to make construction instructions available as an open-source document on the web.

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