Talking Washing Machine Aids the Blind
May 20, 2004
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Engineering students at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, MI, U.S. have modified a high-tech washing machine to talk the visually impaired through its operation.

"One of the new trends in appliances is more buttons and lights, which is a seemingly insurmountable challenge to those who can't see," said Stephen Blosser, a specialist in MSU's Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities in a university news release. "If you can't see the buttons, you just guess."

As part of a senior-level electrical engineering class, student teams are matched up with special needs volunteers. Their task was to make the washer accessible to the blind, make it sturdy enough to withstand the spin cycle and cheap enough to be readily available.

Whirlpool donated a Duet washer for the project.

The students' resulting washer vocally announces each function as it's selected, and can also run through the full range of selections. The hardware costs about U.S. $30 in mass production on the washer, which retails for about $1,300.

The modifications barely change the machine's appearance. Only a smattering of holes for a speaker, tiny Braille labels and a small-volume knob differ from a stock model.

The machine is not yet commercially available. (UPI)

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