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In 1829, Louis Braille published the first book introducing the braille system—and while the applications of braille have been immense, the system is designed around the outdated technologies of the 1800s.
We’ve created a modern, efficient alternative that’s incredibly easy to learn for people who have a visual impairment.
ELIA letters—known as ELIA Frames—leverage modern printing technology and design principles to optimize each letter’s design and create easily identifiable characters. We based ELIA Frames on the standard Roman alphabet, since roughly 70% of the world’s population uses it to read and write.
Each ELIA Frame features an outer frame (circle, square, house) and interior elements that combine to form the main characteristics of standard alphabet letters.
Most of you looking at this page likely aren’t visually impaired—but maybe you know someone who is. Or, perhaps you’re a designer who believes in the mission and would like to support the campaign by taking home a poster. Either way, we need your help and support to share our message.
Braille: the current system
Braille has been described by Fred Schroeder as “liberating a whole class of people from a condition of illiteracy and dependency, and giving them the means for self-fulfillment and enrichment.” We couldn’t agree more—it is extremely important for those who can read it. However, braille has considerable shortcomings in the 21st century:
- Less than 1% of those who have a visual impairment can read braille.
- Of those who lose their vision as adults (roughly 98% of the population), very few learn braille—so it is not a viable resource for the vast majority of those who have lost their vision.
- Braille requires exceptional finger sensitivity and intellect, along with a lot of determination and time—it can take up to 10 months just to learn the alphabet.
ELIA: our modernized system
- About 200 million people with a visual impairment could benefit from ELIA in its current design, and another 85 million could benefit from it if customized to their standard scripts.
- Currently, the employment rate among individuals with visual impairment is at an estimated 43%. For those who read braille, that rate soars to 85%. ELIA can have the same benefit for the 99% who can’t read braille.
- ELIA Frames can be learned tactilely in as little as 3 hours—and visually in a few minutes—since the font leverages a previously established alphabet.
How to read ELIA
Our design process
To design the system, we created and tested hundreds of letter shapes and combinations of letter features. We prioritized the most easy-to-feel features, incorporated them in the most frequently used letters (e.g. the letter “E” is easier to feel than the letter “K”), and then tested those letter shapes to study which were most commonly confused with others.
The ELIA Frames letters are designed to be understood by touch for those who have a severe visual impairment, to be read by touch and sight for those who have modest visual impairment, and to be read visually by those who have full sight.
Our design partners
The original design for ELIA was created by our founder Andrew Chepaitis’ mother. From there, Andrew, with help from graphic designer Ze Frank, developed the first frames font, and we then finalized the design of ELIA with our industrial designer, Reed DeWinter of Humanfactors Design Works.
Thanks to a collaboration with Order, we’ve been able to make ELIA as effective and beautiful as possible. Order is a design studio founded by Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed, who has previously worked on communication design projects like the WalkNYC pedestrian wayfinding system, and Kickstarter’s redesign. Their team built upon our design work to leverage the essential parts with new tools, to help communicate our project in a clear, memorable, and unique way.
Order created the Roman alphabet ELIA font using the established ELIA Frames matrix for a cohesive, effective, gorgeous new identity.
- Got any news, tips or want to contact us directly? Feel free to email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also subscribe now to receive daily or weekly posts.