OCR helping the Visually Impaired

By Joe Budelli posted 09-08-2010 12:37


So what does Braille and OCR have in common?

Braille: A system of writing or printing, devised by L. Braille for use by the blind, in which combinations of tangible dots or points are used to represent letters, characters, etc., that are read by touch.

OCR: The mechanical or electronic translation of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text.

It’s accessibility. You see, while Braille is the traditional means of reading and writing for persons with visual impairment, OCR technology has become a high tech tool for helping visually impaired read documents that they didn’t have access to before.

I don’t believe that most people who work in the OCR industry or use an OCR product don’t even realize how OCR is used to convert the printed word into speech.  We know that OCR can convert the text on a PDF or a long forgotten written document, but it is making a difference to so many visually impaired readers.

Although not originally developed for users who are visually impaired, data capture technology offers blind and visually impaired persons the capacity to scan printed text and then have it spoken back in synthetic speech – giving them access to a greater number of written materials.

The process of inputting the material into the computer is fairly simple, and involves scanning, recognizing, and reading text. A printed document is scanned, and OCR software then converts the images into recognized characters and words. A synthesizer in the OCR system can speak the recognized text, and the information can be stored in an electronic form. By scanning print textbooks with OCR, visually impaired persons can easily convert paper pages into editable electronic format for further conversion. 

Over the years, I’ve heard of many examples of how OCR technology has been used to assist blind people on different occasions, such as this story from the Philippines, where Resources for the Blind used OCR software to convert scanned pages of books, magazines, newspapers, and images into searchable and editable electronic copies. They needed to convert some 5,000 volumes of textbooks annually and the manual process was too time consuming and resulted in typing errors and low productivity.  By scanning the print textbooks with OCR software, RBI now converts paper pages into editable electronic format for further conversion to Braille or audio format.

Do you have any personal stories of how OCR has been used to aid the visually impaired?

#blind #ScanningandCapture #DocumentRecongition #datacapture #OCR #visuallyimpaired