McGill University professor wins CNIB award
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) will present the E. (Ben) and Mary Hochhausen Award to Dr Vincent Hayward, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, McGill University, for his efforts in developing an affordable, computer-driven braille display.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) will present the E. (Ben)[LM2] and Mary Hochhausen Award to Dr Vincent Hayward, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, McGill University, for his efforts in developing an affordable, computer-driven braille display.
The presentation will be made January 23, 2003, at 10:00 am, at the McConnell Engineering Building (room 437) at McGill University.
Braille displays, or "cells," convert text on a computer monitor into lines of raised braille dots, allowing users who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind to read data and access information. However, today's braille cells cost between $9,500 and $17,000 -- well above the cost of most computers and out of reach for most braille readers. Dr Hayward hopes to develop a model at one-tenth the cost.
Dr Hayward's braille cell is based on the concept of placing one's finger along the teeth of a comb. When the teeth are stroked gently back and forth along the length of the comb, the result is an embossing effect easily detected on the skin's surface.
Though a simple concept, Hayward's research could dramatically increase accessibility to vision-based print data for those with vision loss.
"The price of computers has steadily declined over the years, while their capabilities have increased," said Dr Hayward, who is also the director of McGill's Centre for Intelligent Machines. "While the same can be said of voice-based assistive technologies, it's sadly not the case for braille computer displays." In fact, braille cells have hardly changed in 25 years, he noted.
Established by Eugene and Mary Hochhausen, this $10,000 annual award supports research in adaptive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. Past awards have helped fund research projects, study at centres of excellence in technology, fellowships, development of prototypes, and development costs for bringing important new products to market.
The CNIB is the nation's primary provider of vision loss support services to over 100,000 Canadians. A new client walks through the CNIB's doors every 10 minutes of every working day. Seventy-nine per cent of the CNIB's annual revenues are received from individuals, foundations, and corporate donors, with the balance contributed by government. For more information, please visit the CNIB web site.