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Is it possible to use a Braille keyboard to input chinese with the pinyin input method? How could a blind user ever be able to choose the right character combination if they cannot see it?

  • The words could be read out in sound, but what about homophones (just think about proper people and place names and other examples)? So the sound could also include a description of the characters so as to allow the user to choose the correct homophone. But this would make things a bit slow.

  • What if besides being blind, the user is also deaf?

  • So, perhaps a braille feedback (output) device could be attached to another USB port to somehow enable user selection. I really don't know.

Thank you for your answers.

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    I briefly googled for you. Seems like a professor in Mainland China has invented an input method that utilizes the Barille keyboard position. You might want to contact him for the status of developement. news2.sysu.edu.cn/news03/136751.htm – leo4jc Jun 30 '15 at 17:39
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I had a student in Taiwan who was blind, so I've had a chance to work with this.

There are articles on Chinese Braille in both the English and Chinese Wikipedias if you haven't read them yet. It is a spelling (phonetic) method, not character based. Blind Chinese students are not taught regular character forms. Braille in Taiwan is basically zhuyinfuhao; mainland China has two different systems, neither of which is identical to pinyin.

My student learned to type on a Braille keyboard in order to be able to read her own typing; she was not used to trying to produce typed work for seeing people, but this was over 15 years ago. At the time, it was a struggle to even set up a usable computer system for her. We eventually bought JAWS by Scientific Freedom, which our school's president had to personally approve; damn expensive. Unfortunately, this didn't resolve most of the Chinese problems, only the English ones.

All else failing, for homework the student worked with tutors who gave me her typed answers in Chinese characters, not zhuyinfuhao; different tutors had different ways of getting the student's input into characters, and there were many typos, for which I did not take off points.

For mainland China, I suspect that the students there are also probably trained to type in one of the two Braille systems, NOT in pinyin, so that they might need to learn pinyin and pinyin keyboards before they could produce even pinyin output.

I poked around, but found no links to software or drivers for this specific purpose. I did find an interesting article: "A preliminary study on instructional design of Chinese input method for blind students" which discusses some of these problems. It is available online and might give you some leads. If I find anything more in the future, I'll post back here.

Education for the blind (and deaf) in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China requires great willpower and dedicated teachers. If you're one of them, my respects and best wishes!

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