SCS Undergraduate Thesis Topics

2007-2008
Noura El-Moughny Bernadine Dias Assistive Technology for Learning to Write Braille
     

If they are to play a meaningful role in modern society, people who are visually impaired need to obtain information in an effective and timely manner. Accessing information requires the ability to read and write fluently. The Braille language provides a mechanism for the visually impaired to be fully literate participants in modern-day society. However, learning to write Braille is a non-trivial process that often involves long hours of tedious work. Learning to write Braille is even more difficult for young blind children due to many factors such as the required physical and mental exertion, and the delayed feedback on what was written. To address these needs, the TechBridgeWorld program at Carnegie Mellon University (www.techbridgeworld.org) developed an Adaptive Braille writing Tutor (ABT) that uses audio feedback to provide guided practice for young children learning to write Braille. Through extensive interactions with the Al-Noor Institute, a school for blind children! In Qatar, we extend the capabilities and potential impact of this Braille tutor.

This honors thesis in Computer Science enhances the ABT in three important dimensions: Relevance to the Arab world, methodology of software design, and motivational factor for the students. Our interactions with Al Noor revealed a need for expanding the vocabulary of the ABT to include Arabic Braille,and also a strong need for increasing the enthusiasm and learning-efficiency for blind children learning to write Braille. To address these needs we make three important enhancements to the ABT. First, we enable the tutor to provide guided practice for the Arabic alphabet characters in Braille and facilitate the interface between the Braille tutor and the screen reading software used at the Al Noor Institute. Next, we improve on the ad-hoc design of the ABT software components by combining research methodologies in Assistive Technology, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, and Artificial Intelligence to propose a principled redesign of the ABT software. Finally, we study the literature on Educational Game Design and create an educational ABT-computer game to increase the motivation of children learning to write Braille. The outcome of this project is an improved Adaptive Braille Writing tutor that enhances the state of art in educational technology for the visually impaired.


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