An Indian graduate student has designed
a mobile phone application that enables people with sight and hearing
impairments to send and receive text messages.
The PocketSMS application was developed
for Android smartphones, which are generally cheaper than Apple's
iPhones. The application converts text into Morse code vibrations so
that users can "feel" the message.
Regular mobile phones already use
vibrations to alert users to incoming calls or messages. Anmol Anand,
a graduate student at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
in Delhi, realized that the same vibrations could also convey text
He used the open source Google App
Inventor to write a new application to covert each letter in a text
message into Morse code — in which each letter corresponds to a set
of a short and long tones — and then used the phone's hardware to
vibrate for each letter.
An accompanying application,
MorseTrainer, has been designed to teach deaf-blind users Morse code,
and to use it without having to rely on smartphone keyboards, which
can be difficult to see.
Text messaging is
growing in importance as a tool for safety and social inclusion. In
the Democratic Republic of the Congo late last year, for instance, a
group of deaf users protested for their safety late last year when
the government shut down text messaging services, the BBC reported.
In Uganda, the
National Association of the Deaf is working on a project in which
hearing students and deaf students learn how to send text messages
together. "We saw that deaf kids were not integrating",
said education consultant Sacha DeVelle, who was volunteering in
Kabale with the charity Cambridge to Africa.
When teachers began showing pairs of
hearing and deaf students how to send text messages, deaf children
became far more integrated into the school community. "It
encourages them to go on and do what they want to do, [for example]
go to university or set up a shop", DeVelle said.
Anand's collaborator, Arun Mehta —
president of the Bidirectional Access Promotion Society (BAPSI) —
said that internet access is just as important for the disabled as
everyone else. He said that the introduction of text-to-speech screen
reading software had meant that "the gap between the sighted and
the blind has shrunk dramatically. We would like to do that for the
Inclusive technology can help disabled
people take part in everyday life, said Mohamed Jemni, a computer
scientis at the School of Science and Technology in Tunisia.