ObjectiveEd and Microsoft Help Students Practice Braille During Pandemic

Thanks to a grant from Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program, ObjectiveEd has developed Braille AI Tutor – an innovative system to enable students to improve their braille literacy through a combination of speech recognition and engaging games. The system is specifically geared to facilitate learning braille from home or in a distance learning environment.


ObjectiveEd is providing free access for schools and teachers to their entire distance learning system for students with visual impairments, and Braille AI Tutor is a highlight of this digital curriculum.

While hundreds of apps and online distance learning systems are available for most students, there are much fewer choices for students with disabilities, especially those who are blind or have low vision. ObjectiveEd is working to ensure that these students have the same educational opportunities and programs as their peers without disabilities.

According to Kim Charlson, Executive Director of the Perkins Library and former chair of the American Council of the Blind, “Braille AI Tutor is a great way for students to continue their braille literacy when they cannot meet face to face with their braille instructor.”

“Braille is essential to developing literacy and it levels the playing field; it allows students who are blind or visually impaired learn at the same pace as their sighted peers, so there are no limits on their potential,” said Dr. Kirk Adams, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). “With the Braille AI Tutor, ObjectiveEd has created an inventive, creative solution for students to continue learning this invaluable skill in a distance learning environment as a result of these unprecedented times.”

Marty Schultz, president of ObjectiveEd, noted that “Kirk and the AFB were instrumental in facilitating the relationship between Microsoft and ObjectiveEd”.

To use Braille AI Tutor, a teacher uses the ObjectiveEd web-dashboard to create a lesson, such as a short story.  Braille AI Tutor sends one sentence at a time to a refreshable braille display, and the student speaks the sentence as she reads it.  Using Microsoft AI Speech Recognition, the child’s speech is converted into text, and Braille AI Tutor compares the original sentence to the text.  If the speech and the text are the same, then the student has decoded and spoke the words correctly, and scores points in a Treasure Hunt game.  Braille AI Tutor is compatible with Freedom Scientific and HIMS refreshable braille displays.

“It’s never been more important to lean on technology to bridge learning gaps, and we’re thrilled with how ObjectiveEd is using Azure tools to ensure braille education is available to students from the safety of their homes,” said Mary Bellard, Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program lead.

ObjectiveEd’s distance learning system is free for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year for schools, and the digital curriculum includes Orientation and Mobility skills, Assistive Technology skills and Braille literacy skills.

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