Braille iPad

The Omnifer is an innovative cover for the iPad that transforms it’s flat surface into Braille, reflecting the contents of the page you are surfing. Essentially the idea is to make the iPad accessible to the sight impaired. If supporting technology for this does come around, then I’m sure it will be quite a revolutionary concept to be commercialized. Nevertheless, when not in the Braille mode, the jacket acts as a protective gear for the iPad. Lovely!

The Omnifer is a 2011 IDEA Award entry.

Designer: Jayson D’Alessandro


  • tom says:

    not sure if this is that useful..

    i think its like 10% of ‘blind’ people actually use brial..

    I take it from your design your aiming it at ‘visually impaired’ (as you have a screen) and i suspect that almost 0% of ‘visually impaired’ people use it.

    fully understand (and admire) your effort to make technology accessible to everyone but not sure if this is the way to do it.

  • rhe says:

    I agree with Tom. Besides, using iPad as a base device seems to be a bad idea from the start – the viusally impaired en user would have to purchase a useless GUI based device, and then buy another device which would make it slightly more usable. Would it be better to give such a person a independent device that is designed to perfectly fit such persons needs?

  • Senbossya says:

    Maybe blind people wants I-pad too, maybe they love apple too, for its geometry shapes or sence of materials 🙂 Or they want I-tunes with braile interface. I-pad its not just tablet pc its a lifestyle! And even visually impaired people could want it. And even screen could be practical in case blinds want to share something with someone who can see.

  • Angela says:

    The vision impaired children I know love using the iPad. Making this technology more accessible to Braille users is a logical next step.

    • Linda says:

      Senbossya and Angela. Totally agree great for the kids and some adults There are already totally blind adults I know able to use the iPad with voice over switched on. This could be the missing piece for some of them.

  • range says:

    Due to the extremely high price of brailled boards and displays, I don’t see much use coming out of this concept. It’s a nice idea, but unfeasible and it would be costly.

  • Eros says:

    I’ve read the comments and they are all spot on.

    But BLIND people are NOT DEAF! Text-to-speech software exists for quite a while now, even for free. Why would a blind person choose to struggle braille-reading, when one could simply hear the text?

    This is, I guess, the 5th or sixth idiotic design concept deviced around the same moronic idea. Get a life, people…

  • Martin Malins says:

    I think the idea has merit and potential.

    Beyond any quotes figures/assumptions stated in these comments, imagine utilising this device (or even the technology behind it) to create a braille learning app. The combination of these portable, audio, visual and interactive tablet devices (we’ve come to take for granted) WITH a reactive-touch surface like this could pave the way for a significant tool for people learning to read braille.

    Yeah I understand that many devices (esp iOS) have a wealth of built-in accessibility features, but I’m pretty sure touch-typing opens up possibilities that would make a difference to some people’s lifestyle and enjoyment of the platform.

  • Michelleja says:

    Well, first of all just because you are a braille reader, it doesn’t mean you can’t see at all. It just means that braille is a more efficient media for you –less fatiguing, faster, more reliable, whatever. So visually impaired individuals who use braille may also be using vision at times for reading or looking at youtube or photos, which the IPAD supports because you can magnify them right on the screen. Second, not everyone who is totally blind and needs braille to read can hear or enjoy listening to text read to them. Some have additional auditory processing disabilities, ADHD, etc. just like sighted individuals. And some just like to read it for themselves. Three–IPADs are cheaper, even with refreshable braille displays, than buying a braille note for reading/writing and internet, AND a desktop with jaws or a screen reader, AND an audible or braille refreshable device for navigation, AND a specialized MP3 player for listening to music, AND AND AND etc. While some “blindness” technology exists for navigation, it’s very expensive and doesn’t cover as much “ground” as garmin or navigon do. And no one device does it all. Right now the IPAD comes closest for the tech savvy consumer, blind or sighted. So instead of saying it’s not the tool for “them,” let “them” decide.

  • The key to this design is the dynamic screen/gas system not the Braille

    An affordable way of creating a haptic system for displaying maps and diagrams is very useful since it allows presentation of information that can link to text to speech systems. It is this linking of two forms of output that shows a real benefit to users.

    Acuity Design has already developed a non-dynamic tactile use of the iPad using an app called OverLay ( It could drive a dynamic screen like this concept.

  • Brian says:

    Double check the current research. It might surprise you. Try some of the ACM conferences like ASSETs or even CHI.

  • Brian says:

    Except of course text comprehension rates are as much as twice the rate in Braille as for text to speech (see below). I’m afraid reality is a little more complex than “Get a life”.

    Text Comprehension by Blind People Using Speech Synthesis Systems
    Luis González García

  • TTS-FanGurl says:

    Excuse me, but the last time I checked, Braille IS literacy for most visually impaired people. Or has anyone ever obtained a university degree via text-to-speech differential equations?

  • John says:

    the iPad is the most accessible touch screen device for blind and visually impaired. This design did not do any research into how blind people currently use the iPad, voiceover works extremely well and even better for apps that are developed with accessibility in mind.

    I feel this design is a step backwards because it did not involve the blind community that uses iPad. PLEASE involve the community you are designing for and do not force your ideas until you work with them closely and see how they are currently using them.

  • Vandigo says:

    So many people hating in the comments . . .

    Let the people this is designed for choose whether or not its right for them. Its not up to those of us who don’t need it, or want it.

  • Eros says:

    I gather I’d be the hater. Yes, I guess “get a life” was a bit too harsh. I still support my position though: I’d love it if all this welcome creative effort would be focused on what users actually need, more than on the sensational, wow factor.

  • Brian says:

    There are some good solutions slowly coming to market (I am a little biased of course), that are trying to take into account what visually impaired users want (we spent what felt like a lot of time building questions about their usage habits ;-b ).

    Also, this is just a design not a real prototype (like the ones on the other side of the wall I’m typing next to). I think it has real merit once a large question (which light reactive gas) in the design is answered. Take that with a grain of salt of course, I’m not an expert in the field…I just know a few ;-).

    To respond to an earlier comment. No completely visually impaired person has ever received a PhD who was not fluent in Braille. The numbers for Masters degrees and bachelors aren’t as stark, but still pretty impressive. Check out the work by Dr. Ruby Ryles if you are interested in the importance of Braille literacy.

    Oh and Eros, at least you care enough to have an opinion. For what its worth, that makes you a good guy in my book.

  • Leslie Ligon says:

    Eros, first actually, some blind people ARE deaf! Second, most braille readers do not “struggle” with reading braille, it’s print they struggle with.

    I’m techno daggy, and don’t know much about electronics and why they work, but instead of slamming ideas, why don’t you instead, try coming up with innovative concepts of your own!

  • Leslie Ligon says:

    Nicely put, John; thank you!

  • Leslie Ligon says:

    Brian, I don’t believe the blind/v.i. folks I know would rush right out to buy one of these, either, and as some here have said, absolutely be sure you really understand what the community you’re designing for needs before investing a lot of time/$$ into it. (I.e., the cool, but fairly funny guide dog harness, and the i-Stick.)

    It sounds like you’re involved, at least to some degree, in the braille arena, but one thing you said stands out – “No completely visually impaired person has ever received a PhD who was not fluent in Braille.” Sadly, that’s not true. My son’s own braille teacher worked with two v.i. students who went on to get their doctorate, but can’t read because they pushed against braille, and now their vision’s gone too much to read even a little print, and they never learned braille, sooo…

    they’re functionally illiterate.

  • Brian says:

    The quote I was paraphrasing was closer to no one who was completely blind and not fluent in Braille went on to earn a PhD by just using speech to text software. Granted the quote was over five years old and I’m just repeating what I read. If I understand what you are saying, these students were partially sighted but have gone totally blind somewhere in the process of earning a PhD or just afterwards.

    Honestly, I was just moving to defend the user from the obvious flames and trolls. Communication devices for the VI are so terribly expensive, something has to be done. We need to encourage developments. But, your implication of my knowledge is correct, I haven’t yet interviewed nearly enough VI people yet to have a great picture of wants and needs across the community. I have no idea how many VI people the inventor interviewed.

    I am becoming involved in the braille community but I have a long way to go .

    FYI, your jewelry is beautiful.

  • Debra says:

    Actually, the iPad is already accessible to people who have no vision or low vision. You can get a braille display from various companies to include equipment for students on quota from APH. This connects to the iPad via bluetooth using the Voice Over feature. The person with no vision can use the iPad like anyone else. I would rather use piece of additional hardware instead of a cover filled with a chemical to be heated for braille. That maybe a dangerous solution as well as the braille dots not being fully pronounced so it can be read correctly.

  • Jayson D'Alessandro says:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I’m glad some of you are able to see the potential in the gas pocket factor of this design. If this concept ever becomes possible, it would be only the first step to a much larger vision. From this I would develop the resolution of the overlay membrane, potentially not only using the third dimension for braille, but for raised images as well. This is just a goal milestone. Beyond that.. if a user could feel an image on the front of a internet linked device, the possibilities would change the way sensory impaired individuals perceive the world.

    Try to keep you’re minds open, y’all. Concepts are just that.

  • Eros Nicolau says:

    After a while I regret having said that his was an idiotic design. It does have its merits and, after all, it’s just an idea, doesn’t harm anyone. Sorry for my previous comment.

  • Jayson D'Alessandro says:

    No worries, Eros! Seeing the negative in a concept is a good skill to have. After all, how can we actively solve problems, if we can’t identify them? Constructive criticism.. Thumbs up!

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