If a person is blind and doesn't have sensitive fingertips or doesn't have fingers, then they read Braille characters using their skin?

Background: I am trying to make a Braille device which produces Braille letters from a text file. I have used 6 vibration motors but since it was hard to say which motors were vibrating when I attach them to my hands I am now going to use some mini motors which will push the skin as a dot, which will represent 6 dots of braille letters. Here a user has to only push buttons to forward and backward the chapter and units of any book he want to read. Then the 6 motors will start to vibrate or produce dots now at certain speed.

  • There are body parts that are as sensitive, if not more so, than the fingertips, in terms of density of nerve endings. The tongue springs to mind. Although I wouldn't know if people actually would be able to read with their tongues, so just posting as a comment. – Mr Lister Apr 11 '17 at 19:20

In 2014 there was a story about a blind girl in Hong Kong who learnt to read Braille with her lips: Blind student learns to read Braille with lips (CNN, 5 September 2014). The reason was that she lacked sensitivity in her fingertips.

So Braille can be read with other body parts. However, not all body parts are equally suitable, because of the branching patterns of sensory nerve cells. See Why our backs can't read braille: Scientists map sensory nerves in mouse skin (Science News, December 2012).

The page Tactile Sensitivity on the Science World British Columbia site lists a table of body parts with their sensitivity (in threshold distance in millimeters). According to this table, the most sensitive body parts are the fingers (2-3 millimeters), upper lip (5 millimeters), cheek (6 millimeters), nose (7 millimeters), etcetera. From this point of view, the choice of the upper lip in the article about the blind girl from Hong Kong makes sense.

A technical alternative to using a different body part would be the use of a device that can "feel" Braille and translate it into synthetic speech. For example, as illustrated by the concept for the Behance Dots Braille Interpreter. (I don't think this was ever commercialised.)


(If you don't get a satisfying answer on this here, consider asking it in a different community, because this may have to deal with the way neurons are distributed in the body). The hands and fingers have a lot more neurons than some other parts of the body and are able to recognize shapes with detail. I'm not specialized in this or anything, but I'm guessing the toes might also be able to do this. However, if the robot you are building can be modified to have dots with larger space in between them, then other parts of the body might also be able to recognize the letters, with similar ease. Now, I don't know if the person will be able to read with the same speed as a reader using fingertips. This might be something you need to take into consideration. Hope this helps.

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