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Making Scientific Content Accessible for Blind People: The Potential of the ABILITY Project

In 2025, Directive 2019/882 will enter into force, requiring EU member states to ensure that electronic publications are accessible to people with disabilities. While this presents an opportunity to make information more readily available to everyone, it also poses a significant challenge for scientific content.

Scientific publications often rely on complex formulas, symbols, and visualizations, making them difficult for blind people to access. Traditional methods of text-to-speech and Braille translation are often inadequate for these types of content, resulting in limited accessibility for blind readers.

Recognizing this challenge, the ABILITY project has been exploring how to make scientific content more accessible to blind people. ABILITY proposes a multisensory tablet that combines haptics, Braille, and AI to provide a more immersive and effective way for blind people to interact with scientific content. The ABILITY tablet features a multiline pin display that can potentially represent complex formulas and structures in a tactile format. This allows blind users to explore and understand scientific content in a similar way to sighted users. In addition, the tablet provides vibrotactile feedback, which can be used to highlight specific elements of the content and provide additional context.

During November LASS team work with VTeX, mathematics and programming experts, explored the possibilities of making scientific content more accessible to the blind. VTeX has provided expertise in mathematics and programming, which has been essential for understanding the ABILITY tablet potential.

As the deadline for compliance with Directive 2019/882 approaches, the ABILITY project's work is becoming increasingly relevant. The ABILITY tablet has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of scientific content for blind people, making it easier for them to access and engage with important scientific information. By combining haptics, Braille, and AI, the ABILITY tablet offers a unique solution to the challenges of making scientific content accessible to blind people. Its user-centered design and adaptability make it a promising tool for promoting universal accessibility in scientific publishing.

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