New Delhi: Visually impaired people use Braille for reading and writing and even for using computers. However, using Braille while working on computers has its own challenges. But, what if blind people are also able to interact with computers without Braille? Wouldn’t it make things easier and more convenient? A study conducted by the joint research team of Banaras Hindu University, Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) and Case Western Reserve University, United States, has come up with exciting findings in this regard. The first of its kind experimental work was conducted to study the use of gesture-based human-computer technique Dactylology (a language of fingers) by visually impaired people to interact with computers. From BHU, Assistant Professor Dr. Tushar Singh and Doctoral Scholar Ms. Aishwarya Jaiswal, Department of Psychology, were part of the research team. The study showed that Dactylology could be a potential technique for the visually impaired to interact with the computer. The work, published in the reputed engineering journal IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems, evaluated the relative significance of Dactylology over Braille- the established computer input technique for visually impaired users. It found Dactylology to be a quicker and more efficient input technique, as compared to Braille.

As part of the study, researchers conducted an experiment wherein visually impaired participants were provided a 30-day training program on Dactylology posing and Braille typing techniques to interact with the computer. After the training, the effect of input technique (Dactylology and Braille) and task’s cognitive load (the amount of load that is incurred on the working memory of the user while performing a task) on the typing performance (Response Time and False Responses or Errors) of the participants was assessed. Results showed that participants reported significantly lower Response Time and committed fewer False Responses or Errors using Dactylology compared to Braille under all cognitive load conditions. According to Dr. Tushar Singh, findings imply that participants found Dactylology to be a more convenient input technique and performed better using this technique as compared to Braille.

Vision loss is the most serious sensory disability. Globally, millions of individuals suffer visual impairment. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Vision Atlas, India has the largest population of blind people in the world. In an era where computers have become an integral part of human lives, enabling visually impaired people to use computers more efficiently and effectively is the need of the hour. However, as giving instructions or commands and receiving feedback (Input-Output) from the computer involves visual presentation of information, blind and visually impaired users find it difficult to interact with the computers. While Braille-based devices and other conventional techniques are available, they are not widely used and have limitations when entering computer data. The study suggests a way to empower visually impaired by contributing greatly in their education and employability.