Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#MediaWiki is used by the visually impaired

#Wikipedia edited by the blind? How do they do it and, particularly what tools do they use?

The first thing that comes to mind is the use of systems based on Braille. Braille was originally developed for the Latin script but there are implementations for other scripts.

There are Braille implementations for Indic scripts, they are using a common system called Bharati Braille. A transliteration where Roman letters with specific diacritic marks i.e., symbols written above or below a letter, is used to write text in Indian languages. This Roman transliteration had been in use for many years and the idea behind Bharati Braille is to use 63 cells as a special script to represent text uniformly in all the Indian languages.

Bharati Braille Reference : Oriya

Braille systems for computers are expensive so there is a need for alternative technologies. Enter eSpeak, a compact open source software speech synthesizer that works for many languages including Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil.

The quality of the system varies per language; there is often a lot more that can be done to improve the quality and make it more understandable. It does however provide a tool that works and is freely available as it is open source.

The video below is a presentation that explains how eSpeak is used to edit the Malayalam Wikipedia.

Spreading awareness of tools like eSpeak is important as it enables people to use computers, it opens the Internet to them and as you can see it allows them to use MediaWiki to the fullest.

1 comment:

Graham87 said...

I think you mean 63 combinations, not 63 cells! Standard braille is composed of 6 dots, and they can be combined in 63 ways to form a cell, since 2^6-1=64 (the 64th cell combination is an empty cell). For example, in languages that use the Latin alphabet, A cell containing only dot 1 represents the letter "A".

ESpeak is a very worthwhile project and I'd strongly encourage everyone to test it out and note things that need improvement in the languages that you know. In my experience, ESpeak's author is very responsive to feedback about the various languages that the synthesiser supports.