The 6dot Braille labeler is a device for easily labeling tactilely indistinguishable items with Braille. The labeler has the potential to have a profound impact on the staggering unemployment rates and illiteracy rates among the blind population.
What inspired you to get involved with this work?
Before there was 6dot, I had taught at a ski camp for amputees and designed and field-tested a prosthetic knee prototype at the Jaipur Foot Organization in India. I guess for as long as I was at MIT, I was curious about how technology can shape the lives of people with disabilities.
How did you get started, and how has your work evolved?
6dot started in the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s senior capstone course, 2.009. The incredible experience of Professor Wallace's class provided us the tools to discover the need for a better solution for making Braille labels. At first it was just a class project. Then 6dot became a company. We moved out to Silicon Valley, which gave the business great opportunity for growth. But we always wanted to be more than just a Braille labeler company — we wanted to change the process, pace, and product of innovation in the assistive technology industry. And last September we were acquired by another great assistive tech company, which got us to the point of being 'more than just a Braille labeler company' much faster than we thought we could!
What impact have you had with your customers?
In early 2012, we shipped our first 100 Braille labelers to customers around the country. They went to schools, individual homes, and businesses, and provided unique opportunities to impact each of those environments. We're now preparing to get the 6dot labeler into full production so that we can scale our impact beyond the first 100, and beyond just the U.S.! The kinds of people I have had the privilege of meeting throughout this journey have made it clear to me that the human spirit is a force not to be reckoned with. The human spirit doesn't need to be cradled and protected as much as it needs to be sparked and empowered. Being surrounded by so many expectation-defying, barrier-breaking individuals has challenged me in a very personal way to try every day to become a better version of myself, and to not take any day, or any thing, for granted.
How did the PSC play a role in your work?
Well, the PSC played one of the most important roles in getting 6dot all the way to today. It was the first to take a real risk on us by putting money behind our idea (via the IDEAS Global Challenge)! I can't imagine where else that kind of belief in us would have come from, if not from within MIT. And that gave us the ability to take our one little prototype around the country, validate the idea and market, and fueled the business' early growth.