'The ELIA idea’ is the belief that with the advancement of technology, tactile reading systems can be easy to create, intuitive to learn, and shared by all.

The origin of the ELIA idea.

Like most great stories, The ELIA Idea is a human one. It began when, at the age of 74,  Elia Vallone started to lose her vision due to Macular Degeneration. She was an avid reader, and her daughter Elia V. Chepaitis, Ph.D., wanted to know, “How can I help Mom continue to read without sight?” This was quickly followed by the realization that, while braille is a beautiful and important alphabet, it is decidedly difficult to learn, even more challenging if you do not learn it early in life.

More questions followed: “Why is braille so difficult?” “Why is braille only made of dots?” “Why isn’t there a more intuitive solution?” How can we produce more readable tactile letters?” The result was The ELIA Idea - a re-investigation of tactile reading.

The Problem

Among people with a visual impairment in the United States, employment, literacy, and independence rates are woefully low.

As many as 60 percent of blind students are dropping out of high school, and 70 percent of blind adults are unemployed.
Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

70% of people with a visual impairment are unemployed

60% of high school students with visual impairments drop-out (reference 1)

61% of seniors with visual impairments require assistance with activities of daily living (reference 2). 

These statistics can be attributed to a number of causes. Technologies used to create tactile materials are extremely expensive and in many cases, archaic. 

Braille users enjoy much higher rates of employment. Unfortunately, 99% of people with visual impairments cannot read braille. 


In our opinion, these unfortunate realities are unacceptable. 

The Solution

We aim to change the equation by using research to leapfrog from the tactile reading technologies of centuries ago to a new modern toolbox of resources.

Our research informs our efforts in education and technology. 


We made a better version of the standard (Roman) alphabet. It is optimized for reading by touch, which means we can all share it. 

We call our design ELIA FRAMES™.


Here is an example of how ELIA FRAMES compares to Roman and braille in a sentence.

                                                                       Comparison Roman alphabet vs. ELIA FRAMES™ vs braille

                                                                      Comparison Roman alphabet vs. ELIA FRAMES™ vs braille

Our research shows that ELIA FRAMES is much easier for to learn than braille, particularly for people who lost vision as adults. 

ELIA FRAMES offers the opportunity for literacy, employment, and independence to over 8 million people living with visual impairment. To learn more about education and ELIA FRAMES, click here


To date, our company has won over $3.25 million in grant funding for research & development. We research the needs of people with visual impairments and are developing accessible, affordable technology that will make access to tactile text and graphics possible for everyone. Our current projects include a printer and tactile display. 

 Mock-up Design of the ELIA Touch Printer

Mock-up Design of the ELIA Touch Printer

To learn more about our technology and product development click here


  1. Yudin, M. (2013, June). The Future of Braille: NLS Braille Summit Presentations and Outcomes. Watertown, Massachusetts. Retrieved from www.loc.gov/nls/other/futureofbraille.html
  2. Custom Sort of SIPP Data conducted for ELIA Life Technology by the Census Bureau.