ELIA Newsletter - January 2018

In 4Q 2017, ELIA Life Technology launched an ELIA Pilot Program, became a public benefit corporation, presented to the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference and prepared products for market. Here are the highlights:

I. Pilot Program

ELIA Life launched a pilot program through which we’ve begun teaching the ELIA Frames Alphabet and helping blind people use it in their daily lives. Our first participant, Thomas Reid, has learned ELIA and has been reading with it. He’s been providing us with feedback and advice about the presentation and content of program's reading material. We’ve also been interviewing him about his daily life and how we might be of assistance. We are currently recruiting new participants. If you would like to be a part of the pilot, please let us know.

II. American Academy of Ophthalmology Conference 2017 in New Orleans

On the recommendation of Dr. Alan Morse of Lighthouse Guild, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) invited ELIA Life Technology to present our new TouchPrinter and ELIA Frames alphabet at the 2017 AAO International Conference (held this year in New Orleans). As a result of the presentation, we enlisted the support of several members of the vision rehabilitation community. They include Dr. Linda Lam of USC’s Department of Ophthalmology and Rob Nevins, a board member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

 Andrew Chepaitis, about to address the crowds at the AAO Conference, New Orleans.

Andrew Chepaitis, about to address the crowds at the AAO Conference, New Orleans.

III. Electropositive, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY Thursday, December 14th, 2017

The company also applied for and was chosen to participate in a showcase of startups from the FutureWorks incubator program, in which ELIA Life Technology took part this year. We got the word out, meeting investors, potential hires, and other interested stakeholders associated with the hardware startup community in New York City. Through FutureWorks, ELIA gained expertise and connections in the hardware space this fall. These connections will be helpful as we launch the TouchPrinter, develop and prototype subsequent products, and build out our team. The investors we met there have also been supportive and interested in our initiatives.

 Andrew Chepaitis of ELIA discusses tactile printing at the Electropositive Event.

Andrew Chepaitis of ELIA discusses tactile printing at the Electropositive Event.

IV. ELIA Life Technology- A Public Benefit Corporation

On November 1st, 2017, ELIA Life Technology, Inc. became a public benefit corporation (PBC). Shareholders and the board of directors voted unanimously for the change to the new for-profit corporate status.

Being a PBC enables the company to pursue and generate profits, while also investing in its social mission – to enable people who are blind or have a visual impairment to obtain full educations and employment, and maintain their literacy and independence. We believe that by investing in the well-being of our customers, we can change the economic dynamics of the blind community.

Part of that effort will be building an ecosystem of products and services that helps the community achieve more. Like a traditional company, we will build and sell assistive hardware, software, and curriculum that enable our customers to achieve more. And those products will generate a profit. We will also provide assistive services that require the collaboration of stakeholders. These services will build a more fertile foundation for our products and result in gains for our customers. They may require a long-term investment that our shareholders understand is building this foundation for greater sustainable growth and impact.

For example, by teaching people the ELIA Frames alphabet and providing them with tools to enjoy its benefits, they can maintain and build high literacy skills. Skills that they need to compete in their educations and the workforce. ELIA Frames can also enable them to use literacy to live more independently day-to-day, minute-to-minute – because we all use the alphabet for basic daily tasks. Research shows that hundreds of millions of people who have a visual impairment and don’t use a tactile alphabet have average rates of employment, education, and independence that are equal to sighted people who have low literacy skills or are illiterate. We believe that that is unacceptable and unnecessary. The technology and tools exist to change this status quo.

By becoming a PBC, we can bring literacy back to our customers. That will require our company’s efforts and those of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and for-profits companies. As a PBC, we can partner with those organizations more easily, because we can more easily share common goals and commit to actions that a purely for-profit company could not. Our hypothesis is that if we focus on the well-being of our customers, and collaborate with other organizations, we can swiftly change the economic and social dynamics of our customers. From a company-profits and value perspective, we also hypothesize that by focusing on the well-being of our customers (not pure profits), we will better understand what they need and be more capable of creating great products to serve those needs. With that understanding we can build a more profitable company, one whose brand is recognized as a leader and a trusted partner. By being a PBC, we have the leeway to pursue social benefits and long-term profits. Pursuing a less balanced approach would result in less of both.

V. ELIA Bookmarks – Back in Stock

The ELIA Bookmarks are back in stock. We originally ordered 2,500 as a way to showcase the alphabet. We gave them away at conferences to people who signed up for our newsletter, and to people we met while networking. After the FastCompany article (XXXXX), people began ordering them from our website and ordered the last of our stock. So we ordered another 2,500. They are one-of-a-kind. The Center for Book Design said that few letterpress professionals could have created them, but ours can. With a smooth two-color print finish and beveled corners they are the best bookmarks you’ll find. And with them, you can introduce people to the ELIA Frames alphabet. Order yours now while they last.

 New tactile, letterpress bookmarks are freshly printed and now available!

New tactile, letterpress bookmarks are freshly printed and now available!

VI. Intern Hire - Isabela Caetano

For the fall 2017 semester, we were fortunate to employ Isabela Caetano as an engineering intern. Isabela is an electrical engineering student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she is the recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates scholarship. This semester, Isabela advanced several engineering efforts, including our ELIA keyboard prototyping and ELIA Frames stencils. She also collaborated with us on organizational efforts to prepare for our spring Kickstarter and events throughout the fall. And she generally pitched in across the company, including establishing daily and weekly productivity and wellness practices.

This was Isabela’s second internship at ELIA Life. We recruited her through the national STEM educational organization called MOUSE, from which we have worked with six interns.

We expect to utilize the efforts of interns on an ongoing basis. We’ve developed and adopted best practices to get better at hosting and leading them to productive stays with us.

 ELIA's Andrew, Byron, and Isabela overseeing prototyping activities.

ELIA's Andrew, Byron, and Isabela overseeing prototyping activities.

ELIA Newsletter - October 2017

Fast Company 2017 Innovations in Design Awards

Fast Company awarded ELIA Life Technology two honorable mentions in their 2017 Innovation in Design Awards for the categories Graphic Design and Social Good. ELIA was also featured in their article “The Complicated Quest to Redesign Braille” last week. The piece touches upon braille advocates and their skepticisms of ELIA Frames, and features Thomas Reid, a vision loss advocate who quickly became fluent in ELIA Frames.

Byron Johnson - Research & Operations New Hire

Byron Johnson has joined the ELIA Life team to help manage our Research and Operations efforts. He recently completed his graduate studies in Behavioral Neuroscience (BN) at Queens College (CUNY), and will lead the company’s basic research efforts, including curriculum development. He will also have a role in operations, including preparations for an upcoming Kickstarter, ELIA keyboard testing and data analysis, and grant writing. The lead graduate student in his lab, Byron came highly recommended by his graduate advisor, Andrea Li, Ph.D.

Incubator Membership

ELIA Life Technology has been chosen for membership in the 2017-2018 programs for the NEW INC design incubator and the FutureWorks hardware incubator. Through these organizations, the company has access to cutting-edge prototyping and fabrication facilities, as well as more traditional facilities and equipment. Speaker and networking events, investor pitch presentations, as well as professional development and mentoring are also part of the two programs. Strategic planning, marketing, PR, and graphic and video design services will also be available.

Events and Community Building

Kickstarter/Hackaday Presentation and Discussion ELIA Life’s Andrew Chepaitis presented the keynote address at Kickstarter ‘s World Maker Faire week meetup with their hardware community partner Hackaday. The presentation shared the ELIA Frames Alphabet and our new TouchPrinter with the group, and was a great opportunity to answer questions, discuss our approach. and discuss new opportunities for collaboration. Kickstarter has also invited us to launch a fundraising campaign for the ELIA Frames Alphabet, where they will provide guidance through Futureworks. Several ELIA advisors have led successful Kickstarter campaigns and will collaborate with us to ensure that we achieve success.

 ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis presenting to the crowd at the Kickstarter Hackaday event.

ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis presenting to the crowd at the Kickstarter Hackaday event.

Maker Faire

ELIA Life exhibited at this year’s 8th annual World Maker Faire New York at the New York Hall of Science. In a booth space sponsored by Futureworks, our team provided ELIA Frames and TouchPrinter demonstrations for thousands of inventors, technologists, and science enthusiasts. ELIA's CEO Andrew Chepaitis was interviewed by the MAdE Podcast, a media collective that places making, architecture, design, and equity at the forefront of their stories.

 ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis being interviewed for MAdE podcast.

ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis being interviewed for MAdE podcast.

Brooklyn Public Library and UX Community

The NYC ELIA Life Technology Team met with representatives from the Brooklyn Public Library where they shared helpful information on library engagement, usability issues, and universal access to texts. Our goals are to form collaborations with the library and affiliated organizations, and to ensure that we are providing content efficiently. Ultimately, we wish to launch pilot programs at libraries for people to learn and read ELIA Frames, and conduct an ELIA Keyboard study. We will share progress as those efforts move forward.

 ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis hosting a UX Meetup group.

ELIA CEO Andrew Chepaitis hosting a UX Meetup group.

ELIA Newsletter - June 2017

Cooper Hewitt

ELIA is excited to announce that The ELIA Frames Alphabet has been selected for inclusion in Cooper Hewitt’s upcoming Exhibition of the Senses in April 2018. Located right here in Manhattan, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. To share our innovative tactile alphabet with the world at Cooper Hewitt is quite an honor, and we will provide details about the exhibit as the date approaches. We hope to see you there.

Soho House

Since we last wrote, ELIA’s CEO Andrew Chepaitis was invited to participate in a panel discussion regarding Design and Disability at the Soho House in Manhattan. An interesting conversation, Andrew shared ELIA’s approach to solving complex problems related to disability. Also a challenging talk, Andrew described and defended ELIA’s process of qualitative and quantitative interviews and data analysis.

Tech Crunch

ELIA also exhibited at Techcrunch Disrupt NYC, where we demonstrated our TouchPrinter and ELIA Frames alphabet to throngs of attendees. There was much enthusiasm for our products and our mission, and we continued to forge relationships with potential customers and collaborators. A pleasant surprise was the variety of corporate service partners in attendance - we struck up relationships with SalesForce.com (for customer relationship management software), Topcoder (for game and app development), NetCapital (for fundraising), and Unum Provident (for a possible long-term disability insurance partnership where ELIA could help them better serve their claimants). We’ll be following up on those conversations and would be glad to share additional information with you. If you have suggestions regarding corporate partnerships, please let us know.


ELIA was recently chosen for inclusion in Futureworks, a product-hardware incubator in NYC - we were one of just a dozen companies chosen from over 100 applicant organizations. The program provides access to state-of-the-art machinery and hardware-building expertise throughout NYC. We expect to leverage its resources to build better products faster and for less cost.

Welcome to the ELIA Newsletter May 2017

We are excited to share with you the major developments at ELIA Life Technology, and every quarter, we will be providing additional details about our progress and work (or more frequently, if possible/necessary). In the meantime, please feel free to contact us for further information or suggestions.

Summary for those with limited time:

Our main news, which we are very excited about, is that we are completing development of the world’s first tactile graphical printer, called the TouchPrinter. Now that people have the ability to print and read the ELIA Frames Alphabet in their own homes, classrooms, and workplaces, we can formally launch ELIA Frames and promote its adoption. Users will also be able to print tactile graphics – charts and graphs, maps and diagrams, presentations that include text and graphics, etc. Read the update to learn more.

Table of Contents for this Update:

A. ELIA Frames Alphabet- Adoption Strategy, Pilot Programs
B. Tactile Printer Completion- UL Testing, Production and Launch

A. ELIA Frames Alphabet

ELIA Frames has always offered the 8.4 million people in the U.S. who have a visual impairment the possibilities for greater education, employment, literacy, and independence. And it has the potential for widespread adoption because it is merely a new design of the standard alphabet, which 99.9% of people in the U.S. know and have read. But launching ELIA Frames formally, without a means for readers to produce it themselves, is dangerous. We witnessed this first hand after our last research study, where we taught blind people to read ELIA Frames. They were enthusiastic to continue reading it, but after we had completed the funded training and testing, we could not keep up with their demand for reading materials, as the grant research had been completed. Clearly, our ELIA Frames readers needed a way to print their own tactile materials.

B. Tactile Printer Completion- UL Testing, Production and Launch

ELIA Life Technology has created the world’s first tactile graphical printer. Now, any document or image can be printed in tactile form. For the first time, the blind will have access to the same printed graphical information that the sighted have. This will open up opportunities for them to study STEAM subjects, (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).

In 2014, the company was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (part of NIH) to develop a tactile graphical printer. Through the grant, the company has successfully created a printer that can print any image or document in tactile form. The technology utilizes Hewlett Packard inkjet printer technology and a specially coated paper, and ELIA Life Technology has an exclusive license from Hewlett Packard to use their printing technology in the printer.

Our research and development team integrated Hewlett Packard ink jet printer components, off-the-shelf electronic and mechanical components, and custom hardware and software to ensure that the printer prints consistent output, output that meets the US Library of Congress standard for tactile print production. Because the printer leverages inkjet printer technology, any content that one can print with an inkjet printer can now be printed tactilely.

The tactile printing technology has been de-risked and a working prototype has been created. As is, it could be mass-produced. Indeed, we have four of identical units ready for field-testing.

Remaining efforts before commercialization include final usability testing, and the fabrication of a final production-ready prototype, which will be sent to the Underwriters Laboratory for UL testing and certification. Once those activities are complete, production, operations, and sales will begin.

To all of our supporters, thank you for taking the time to read our inaugural newsletter. We will continue to share with you developments at ELIA Life Technology in order to keep you up to date on issues such as research and development, financial interests, legal news, and other activities. I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

Thank you very much,

Andrew Chepaitis - Founder and CEO of ELIA Life Technology