The specific aim of this proposal is to develop and implement a new type of technology for production of braille and tactile graphics that uses a system in which metal punch pins fire into a smooth polymer-coated shaft rather than into a machined metal die as with most current embossing technologies. The successful completion of this project will yield a new braille and tactile graphics embosser that utilizes a polymer roller based embossing system and prints full color ink on cut sheet paper up to A3/tabloid size. This new embosser will allow embossing anywhere on a page, permitting braille that meets specific national standards and smoother, more continuous graphics to be created together on the same page with full color print. The development of the new embosser will begin with finalization of the polymer roller design, if this is not accomplished prior to the end of the Phase I research, and selection of metal punch pins sized and shaped to produce the best quality dots. Next the embosser hardware and electronics will be developed, followed by the firmware and drivers necessary to control the hardware to emboss graphics and braille where desired along the smooth surface of the polymer roller. After this development is complete, braille translation and graphics editing software will be optimized for the new embossing system. The technical advancements implemented in the new embosser will improve and speed up access to graphical information by the visually impaired, providing a great benefit, especially to those studying or working in technical fields such as science, mathematics and engineering. The new embosser utilizing the polymer roller based embossing system will also be up to 20% cheaper to manufacture than a similar model based on the current technology, permitting better embossers to be sold at a lower price, allowing more customers to purchase them. This will lead to more people with visual impairments getting better access to tactile materials they need for education, in their professions and in their daily lives, which certainly has the potential to improve their mental health and quality of life. Mental health and quality of life issues for blind people are pat of the mission of the National Eye Institute.
This proposal is relevant to the mission of the National Eye Institute because it is expected to lead to faster and more widespread availability of braille and high resolution tactile graphics to the visually impaired. This could open up more avenues of study for those with visual impairments, especially in technical fields like science and mathematics that require the frequent use of graphics, and have a highly beneficial effect on education, professional opportunities, mental health and quality of life of blind people. Mental health and quality of life issues for blind people are part of the mission of the National Eye Institute.