Tablets and smartphones are a game-changer for millions, but people with visual-impairments have been mostly left out of the game. Some companies have tried to develop a solution but have been unsuccessful… until now.
BLITAB, one of last year’s LaunchKC grant competition winners, is an Austria-based company who created the world’s first Braille tablet for people with visual impairments. Co-founders Kristina Tsvetanova and Slavi Slavev came up with the idea in 2014 while attending technical university. A colleague who is blind mentioned a need for tablets with tactile screens so they put their engineering background to work researching and developing a product unlike any other on the market.
“We discovered people with visual impairments could only interact with touchscreen technology through their voice,” said Slavev. “Our idea was to create a device with two screens: a traditional touch screen alongside a tactile screen that writes in Braille.”
When you open an ebook or document on the device’s touch screen, a click of a button translates the words into Braille on the tactile screen. According to Tsvetonova, the device could change the lives of millions of people with visual impairments worldwide.
“Your ability to read and write is essential for almost any job today, and many employers are now going paperless,” said Tsvetonova. “The BLITAB is a game-changer because people with visual impairments will finally be able to read information related to their work on a digital device.”
As a LaunchKC winner, the company won a $50,000 grant, free office space in downtown Kansas City, professional services and mentoring. The team recently relocated to Kansas City and are now working with Narbeli Galindo, the Director of International Affairs at the EDC, to meet and network with business leaders and decision-makers across the city.
“Winning the competition changed everything for us because we knew it was time to scale-up immediately,” said Tsvetanova. “The EDC has been helpful in introducing us to people and directing us to the resources we need to be successful.”
The team plans to soon hire three additional employees, with hopes to go into full production by the end of the year. According to Slavev, they are focused on creating a high-quality product, rather than rushing to beat their competition.
“The big players like Apple and Amazon know about us, but they see us as potential partners who can deliver a tactile experience to a whole new group of people,” said Slavev. “Millions of people with visual impairments have waited years for a product like this so we want to take our time and make sure we get it right.”
The EDC is proud to be part of BLITAB’s evolving story, and we are excited to watch them grow! To learn more about the company, including how you can help them, please visit their website.
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If you are interested in learning more, please visit the International Business section of our website or view the latest news on our blog. For more information about international business in Kansas City, Missouri, please contact Narbeli Galindo, the EDC’s Director of International Affairs. firstname.lastname@example.org (816) 691-2139 or (800) 889-0636