Alibaba Opens Braille Phonetic Font Library to the Public

Alibaba Group recently announced at a public welfare exhibition that it will open the Braille phonetic font library to the public free of charge. The font library developed by Alibaba Health, the Group’s digital healthcare and pharmaceutical e-commerce business, supports inputting Braille with Pinyin, the official romanization system for standard Mandarin Chinese. This initiative aims to make it easier for the general public to include Braille in packaging design and artistic creation.

The exhibition, jointly sponsored by the Alibaba Foundation, Alibaba Health, Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and Danish Cultural Center, is open to the public in Beijing until March 26. Many works in this exhibition were created by way of inputting Braille text with Pinyin pioneered by Alibaba Health Font.

According to the China Association of the Blind, there are about 17.31 million visually impaired people in China, but it is not easy for the general public to know and understand Braille. Chuan He, vice chairman of the association, said at the opening ceremony of the exhibition that the association has long attached importance to the cooperation with tech companies, especially in areas related to the work and life of visually imparied community. He appreciated how Alibaba has been providing the comminity with barrier-free opportunities to participate in social activities.

According to Chao Li, a designer at Alibaba Health, the exhibits come from artists, designers, musicians, directors and the design team at Alibaba Health who are keen on public welfare. Works on display at the exhibition include Aqua, a song by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, which was also a gift he gave away to Chinese people during the pandemic to help them get through their difficulties. Another important work is “Life Diary”, with 1001 daily objects, all of which are in white packaging with Braille, to help blind people build confidence.

“Life Diary” (Source: Alibaba)

“Most of these works are inspired by the daily life of visually impaired people. Through art forms such as words, images, music and installations, people who can’t see the world can still know and fit into the world with their senses such as touch and hearing,” Li added.

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It is the field of medication that visually impaired people are most concerned about – among the nearly 200,000 drugs available in China, those with Braille on their packaging is almost zero. To this end, Alibaba Health will promote Braille labeling on medicine boxes, so that blind people can know what is contained and how to apply them, thus reducing risk of improper medication.

Braille labeling on medicine boxes (Source: Alibaba)

To facilitate barrier-free application, Alibaba has been committed to serving those with special needs, such as the visually impaired, by various ways. Previously, Youku, a video platform under Alibaba, launched a barrier-free theater. Further, the group’s mapping platform AutoNavi launched barrier-free maps and planned barrier-free passages for disabled and vulnerable groups. Alibaba, the China Braille Library and Zhejiang University have also jointly launched the “Light Reading Plan 2.0” to help visually impaired groups to better partake in cultural services.