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Touchable Ink: New hope for blind readers

A map of Italy, printed using Touchable Ink.

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Being unable to see is hard enough. A lack of reading materials shouldn't make it harder. Now there is hope that a cheap new technology developed here in Thailand can replace those hard-to-find and very expensive Braille printers.

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In fact, there are only a few hundred Braille printers scattered around Thailand and printing even a single page can be difficult and expensive. Here, in an excerpt from a much longer story in today's Life section, Bangkok Post writer Kanin Srimaneekulroj reports on a new, much simpler process. You can read the full story here: http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/social-and-lifestyle/976393/inking-in-progress

Inking in progress

Kanin Srimaneekulroj

In what could potentially be a life-changing breakthrough for visually-impaired individuals the world over, veteran advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) Thailand has recently unveiled their Touchable Ink project, a CSR initiative to develop a special kind of ink that – when exposed to appropriate levels of heat – will rise up from the page, allowing conventional, household printers to replace expensive dedicated Braille printers.

Developed in conjunction with Thammasat University's Faculty of Science and Technology with support from Samsung, the Touchable Ink project is the latest effort in JWT's continued mission to develop innovative solutions to the problems facing our society, according to chief creative officer Satit Jantawiwat.

Students from the School for the Blind test-reading a document printed in Touchable Ink.

The science behind the ink is actually rather simple, involving the addition of embossing powder – a cheap, commonly-sold material – into a regular printer ink cartridge. Users can then print out any document or picture as they would normally, before applying heat to the ink to make it swell up from the page. According to Satit, the heat produced by household products like hairdryers, clothing irons or microwaves will do just fine.

"We wanted to create an affordable alternative for blind people to get access to Braille," he said.

"Our goal is to design an ink that can be used with any type of printer you may have at home, no matter the price or brand. We decided to work on the ink instead of creating a new type of printer, as we wanted to make this technology affordable for everyone."

"Before, subjects that rely heavily on visual diagrams like geometry have been all but impossible for blind people to fully grasp," added Satit. "But the ability to print out diagrams for them to feel with their fingers can help bridge this gap in access to education as well. We printed out outlines of countries and dinosaurs for the children at trial schools, and they were all very well received."

The ink can also be printed out and stuck to bottles and boxes as well.

While still currently under development, Satit believes that the Touchable Ink technology will be able to negate the most glaring issues facing traditional Braille printing, namely those of cost and time.

"Right now, Thailand only has the capacity to print several hundred Braille books per year, says Suthat Pungsiripattana, vice-president of Thailand's Association of the Blind. This means that even the libraries offered by the Association of the Blind tend to hold very few books, and even those they do have tend to be on a long waiting list."

From left, Suthat Pungsiripattana, Parattajariya Jalayanateja and Satit Jantawiwat.

Parattajariya Jalayanateja, managing director of JWT emphasised that the ink is very much still in development, and can still take several months of work before it reaches a stage in which it can be sold on the market.

"We tested our ink for several different factors, such as the thickness of the swelling or the ink's adherence to the paper," he explained.

"The ideal threshold for the thickness is about 0.1mm. While the ink has proven to have no problems sticking to the paper, at it's current stage, the results of using the ink in conventional printers aren't quite consistent enough yet. It still takes us about seven to eight tries to get a perfect copy."

Learn from listening

Click "play" to listen to Touchable Ink: New hope for blind readers and "Download" to keep this file for educational purpose.

Vocabulary:

access : having the opportunity to have or use something - มีโอกาสในการใช้

adherence (noun): the ability to stick firmly to something - การติดแน่น

advertising : telling the public about a product or a service, political candidate, etc. in order to encourage people to buy, use or support it - การโฆษณา

affordable : not expensive - ไม่แพง

agency (noun): a company or organisation that arranges for some service or workers to be provided to other companies and people - บริษัทตัวแทน, สำนักงานตัวแทน, หน่วยงานบริการ

alternative : something that is different from something else, especially from what is usual, and offering the possibility of choice - ทางเลือก

apply (verb): to put or spread something such as paint, cream, etc. onto a surface - ทา, ไล้, ฉาบ, ป้าย

appropriate : suitable or right for a particular situation or purpose - ที่เหมาะสม

association : an official group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose - สมาคม

blind (adj): unable to see (Note: Nowadays we often use the term "visually-impaired" instead of "blind") - ตาบอด

Braille : a system of printing for blind people in which the letters of the alphabet and the numbers are printed as raised dots that can be read by touching them - ระบบการพิมพ์อักษรเบลล์สำหรับคนตาบอด

brand : a type of product made by a particular company - ตรา, ยี่ห้อ

breakthrough : an achievement that comes after a lot of hard work - การพัฒนาหรือการค้นพบที่ยิ่งใหญ่, การบุกเข้าไปในแนวเขตของคู่ต่อสู้

bridge the gap (idiom): to reduce or get rid of the differences that exist between two things or groups of people - ลดความขัดแย้ง

capacity : the amount of something that can be produced - ความสามารถในการ (ผลิต)

cartridge (noun): a case containing something that is used in a machine, for example film for a camera, ink for a printer, etc. - หลอดเล็กใส่ของเหลวหรือก๊าซเพื่อนำไปใส่เครื่องมืออื่น

consistent (adj): happening in the same way and continuing for a period of time - คงเส้นคงวา,ไม่เปลี่ยนแปลง

conventional : usual or normal - ธรรมดา

creative : involving a lot of imagination and new ideas - ซึ่งมีความคิดริเริ่ม, ซึ่งมีความคิดสร้างสรรค์

CSR (noun): Corporate social responsibility; efforts by companies to help their communities or repair any environmental damage they may cause that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups บรรษัทบริบาล, การดำเนินกิจกรรมภายในและภายนอกองค์กร ที่คำนึงถึงผลกระทบต่อสังคมทั้งในองค์กรและในระดับใกล้และไกล - Corporate social responsibility; efforts by companies to help their communities or repair any environmental damage they may cause that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups บรรษัทบริบาล, การดำเนินกิจกรรมภายในและภายนอกองค์กร ที่คำนึงถึงผลกระทบต่อสังคมทั้งในองค์กรและในระดับใกล้และไกล

currently : at this time; now - ในปัจจุบัน

dedicated : used only for one specific thing - ที่กำหนดใช้ในทางใดทางหนึ่งโดยเฉพาะ

development : the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา

diagram (noun): a simple drawing using lines to explain where something is, how something works, etc. - แผนภาพ,ไดอะแกรม

document : a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type  - เอกสาร

emboss (verb): to put a raised design or piece of writing on paper, leather, etc. - สลักลายนูนเพื่อตกแต่ง

emphasise : to stress something such as an idea, fact or detail; to explain or show why something is important - เน้น

exposed : not protected and in direct contact with something harmful - ได้รับสารผิด

factor : a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย

faculty : a group of departments in a college or university which specialise in a particular subject or group of subjects - คณะ

glaring : very obvious; very clear - สว่าง เจิดจ้า

grasp (verb): to understand something completely - เข้าใจ, รู้ซึ้ง

household : a group of people, often a family, who live together - ครัวเรือน

ideal : the best possible - ดีที่สุด

in conjunction with : together with - เกิดขึ้นร่วมกัน

individuals : persons - บุคคล

initiative : a new action or movement, often intended to solve a problem - ความคิดริเริ่ม

ink (noun): coloured liquid for writing, drawing and printing - น้ำหมึก

innovative : using new methods or ideas - เกี่ยวกับการปรับปรุงใหม่, ที่เต็มไปด้วยจิตใจปฏิรูปใหม่

iron (noun): a device with a flat hot metal base that when passed over clothes makes them smooth - เตารีด

issue : a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น

library (noun): a place with books that can be borrowed to read for a period of time and then returned - ห้องสมุด

material : a substance that things can be made from - วัตถุ

mission : an important piece of work that a person or a group of people has been given to do - ภาระกิจ หน้าที่

namely : specifically; used to introduce more exact and detailed information about something that you have just mentioned - กล่าวคือ

negate : to make something have no effect - ลบล้าง, ไม่มีผล, เป็นโมฆะ

no matter (who, what, etc.) : always true, whatever the situation is - ไม่ว่าในกรณีใด, มิไย

outline (noun): the line that goes around the edge of something, showing its main shape but not the details - เส้นรอบนอก, เส้นขอบ

potentially : possible in the future - ที่อาจเกิดขึ้นได้

project : a planned piece of work that is designed to find information about something, to produce something new, or to improve something - โครงการ

rely on : to need something in order to continue living, existing, or operating - อาศัย, พึ่งพาอาศัย

replace : to change from one thing to another - แทน

simple : easy to understand; not complicated - ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน

society (noun): people in general, living together in communities - สังคม

solution (noun): one way to solve a problem - วิธีแก้ปัญหา

stage : a part of an activity or process or a period of development - ช่วง, ระยะ, ตอน

stick to (verb): to be on something and cannot be taken off or removed, as if with glue - ติด

swell : to become or cause to become larger than normal - บวม, ทำให้บวม, ทำให้พอง

swelling (noun): the condition of being larger or rounder than normal (= of being swollen); a place on your body that has become larger or rounder than normal as the result of an illness or injury - การบวม, การพอง

tend to : to be likely to behave in a particular way or have a particular characteristic - มักจะ

thickness (noun): the size of something between opposite surfaces or sides - ความหนา

threshold : the level or point at which you start to experience something, or at which something starts to happen - จุดเริ่มของประสบการณ์หรือเหตุการณ์ใหม่ๆ

traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา

unveiled : announced something officially that was previously a secret - เปิดเผย

veteran : having a lot of experience doing something - อาวุโส

visual : relating to sight - เกี่ยวกับการมองเห็น

visually-impaired (adj): (often used instead of the word "blind") having very poor or no eyesight that cannot be repaired to a normal level by using eyeglasses - พิการทางสายตา, ตาบอด;

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