Your microwave, your TV, and almost the entire inventory of Best Buy have one thing in common: they all uses membrane switches for user interaction, and that means these devices are inaccessible for the blind. This project for the Hackaday Prize is going to change that by building a crowdsourced effort to design Braille keypads for thousands of appliances.
There are two aspects of this project that are exceptionally interesting, the least of which is how to make Braille keypads for a microwave. This is done with a 3D printer using a flexible or semi-flexible filament. These keypads are designed to overlay the membrane keypad on consumer electronic devices, and the initial testing reveals these keypads are robust and useful enough for blind users.
A 3D printed overlay for a microwave is simple, though. The big question is how these overlays are designed. For this, the project suggests a crowdsourced effort of hundreds of designers turning photographs of keypads into Braille overlays. The process begins with a few pictures of a keypad with a reference object – for example, a dollar bill. These photographs are scaled to the correct dimensions, a few outlines are made, and the buttons with Braille text are designed. It’s a brilliant use of people who have just enough experience in Photoshop to be useful, and since this is a crowdsourced effort, work isn’t duplicated. The keypad overlays for one specific make and model of microwave can be printed over and over again, bootstrapping an effort to make membrane keypads useful for all blind people.