Scanners to Help Blind in Kitchen

Agence France-Presse, February 23, 2010

Blind people in Switzerland will soon have help telling their ravioli from their tinned fruit in the kitchen as a new loud-speaking device able to decipher 50,000 products was launched Monday.

“It is almost indispensable for a blind person who wants to live independently,” the spokesman for the Swiss union for the blind that will sell the device, told AFP.

“Being blind myself, I can tell you that if you are in the kitchen and you want to open a tin of ravioli without running the risk of actually picking up some tinned fruit, it is absolutely necessary,” Martin Mischler said.

The $450 US scanner, which uses speech synthesis, has the size and appearance of a small television remote control. It is programmed to be able to read the bar codes of 50,000 products sold by leading Swiss retailer Migros.

Some scanners will be available to use in Migros supermarkets.

“In future we can imagine that (the scanner) will also give the price or expiry date,” Mischler said, who estimates only “a minority” of Switzerland’s 20,000 blind and partially sighted will use the device.

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