National Braille Press Announces Winner of the Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation
The ReadRing made by Songpakorn Punong-ong of Thailand
receives annual Touch of Genius Prize
(Boston, MA) – June 7, 2021 – National Braille Press announced today that this year’s winner of the Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation is Songpakorn Punong-ong,40, an engineer from Phetchaburi Thailand, who created the ReadRing. The prize is a $10,000 cash award to the winner.
Mr. Punong-ong is the eldest son of a blind teacher Mr. Prayat Punong-ong, who founded the Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand (CFBT) and was born and raised in schools for the blind where his parents both worked.
(Photo of Songpakorn Punong-ong standing at a statue of his father Mr. Prayat Punong-ong, who founded the Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand)
“Being selected for the Touch of Genius Prize for Braille Innovations 2021 is a great honor for the ReadingRing mission,” said Songpakorn Punong-ong. “Being recognized by National Braille Press and its Touch of Genius committee, who value the importance of braille literacy with their knowledge and resources, will help us develop and scale up affordable literacy, productivity and independent living for the blind.”
The ReadRing is an affordable compact device, the same size as a computer mouse. It has an opening where you put your reading finger, and there is a rotary refreshable braille display that moves with your finger allowing one to continuously read braille as it streams from a wirelessly connected smartphone, computer or tablet. It can also read optical characters captured by an attached camera. This product has been in development since 2015.
Mr. Punong-ong earned his degree in Electronics Engineering from KMITL Bangkok and has spent 15 years in electrical power systems services and engineering. He learned the cost to produce braille books and the complexity of technical services for generations of students at CFBT’s schools, he started coming up with ideas of more affordable and portable solutions to allow blind people to learn and read braille in an easier way.
The Touch of Genius committee is comprised of 8 experts in the field of braille and tactile literacy from across the U.S. who have come together every year since 2007 to judge the award nominations. Committee Chair is Edward Bell, Ph.D. Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.
“It is a privilege and an honor to be part of the Touch of Genius adjudication committee working with such talented and consummate professionals. We are very proud this year to have found a product which has great promise for increasing tactile literacy of blind children and adults throughout the world,” said Bell, a resident of Ruston, LA.
“National Braille Press is grateful to all of the Touch of Genius Committee members who volunteer their time for this important program. They are passionate about discovering the newest innovations to promote braille and tactile literacy,” said Brian Mac Donald, President of National Braille Press. “The ReadRing will join the other award winners who have made a significant impact in the lives of the blind and visually impaired.”
The Touch of Genius Adjudication Committee includes: Edward Bell, Joann Becker, Frances Mary D’Andrea, Ph.D., Judy Dixon, Paul Parravano, Noel Runyan, Janet Ulwick-Sacca and Brian Mac Donald.
The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation is provided with support from The Gibney Family Foundation that works with non-profit organizations and provides grants to help them create sustainable solutions and assist in making the non-profit world strong and connected. The Touch of Genius Prize attracts innovators from around the world in the fields of education, technology, engineering, graphics, and literacy. It fosters and rewards innovation by offering a compelling incentive to support and expand braille and tactile literacy efforts for the blind.
About National Braille Press
National Braille Press is a non-profit braille publisher and producer of braille products. NBP creates products and programs to support braille and tactile literacy in the blind community and to provide access to information that empower blind people to actively engage in work, family, and community. For more information visit www.nbp.org