Blind student develops app to help others study science
Visually impaired people can study science easier with the help of a new app developed by Daniel Hajas, a 23-year-old blind University of Sussex student. The idea came to Daniel as he had to struggle with learning and knows other blind students face the same challenges, often leading to them giving up on studies.
Daniel, originally from Hungary, recently completed a Masters degree in Theoretical Physics. He normally uses screen‑reading software, but found that this technology couldn’t decipher the complex scientific material he came across in his degree. So he developed the Iris app.
It allows blind people to upload complicated graphs and diagrams to an online system and get them described by sighted experts around the world – helping make science courses more accessible, according to a University of Sussex press release. The way it works makes Iris the first service that is specifically designed to pair blind students with scientifically-trained volunteers.
“I’ve managed to achieve good grades so far, but it’s been difficult and other blind students might have given up by now. I don’t know of too many blind people who’ve become scientific researchers, and this might be because they are not getting the right help,” Daniel said.
The app has already built up a network of sighted experts from countries across the world, including volunteers from Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, although Daniel’s team is looking for many more people to give their time to the project. A team of students is already working on an update that can embed the service into websites.
Daniel is currently seeking charity status for his organisation, Grapheel, which aims to make science subjects more accessible to blind people through Iris and other projects.
The enterprising student so far received £5,000 in funding towards Grapheel from Michael Chowen CBE DL, a local businessman and Consort of the High Sheriff of East Sussex, which was matched by £5,000 from the bank Santander.
He has also received support from the Sussex Innovation Centre, an innovation hub based on the University’s campus, which has provided him with a year’s free virtual membership and £500 in funding towards the project.