£1000 IT Challenge

£1000 IT Challenge

Computer Program for a 3D blind solver

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The £1000 IT Challenge is to produce a FREEWARE computer program to enable a totally blind crossword solver to tackle a 3D crossword puzzle at no cost.

The 3D crosswords in question are those presented at no cost at www.calendarpuzzles.co.uk.

BBC Radio 4 In Touch 30.09.2008 featured an item on the 3D crosswords.  Presenter, Peter White, asked the natural question of whether a blind person could access them.

The problem was partly solved by finding the wonderful Ian Humphreys in Albany, Western Australia and working with him as program consultant to produce the BG Crossword Puzzle program which gives a totally blind (and partially deaf) crossword solver full access to tackling conventional flat, 2D crosswords.  This program is free to download at Spoonbill Software:

BBC Radio 4 In Touch 9.11.2010 ran an item on this first, free electronic access for blind crossword solvers.

There are several equal opportunities-related issues that remain to be resolved.  We have the functionality developed at GU to load Guardian and Observer crosswords into the Spoonbill program.  But we are waiting for an official go-ahead.  GU are in favour of this but there is no schedule for when the switch will be flicked.  I am waiting on other crossword sources.  Virtually all crossword setters send their puzzles to their crossword editors electronically and in file formats that are compatible with the Spoonbill program.  There has to be a way forward.

Ian’s program is brilliant.  You can do puzzles with your eyes closed!  But the issue is how does a blind solver tackle the puzzles of the day – the same ones that everyone else is tearing their hair out over?  And to do so legally and grammatically!

My next issue is how to extend this fantastic facility to 3D crosswords.  And that is the task perhaps for an IT student somewhere.  The way forward could be to develop the Spoonbill program.  It could also be to take a fresh approach.  I would be very pleased to discuss this with any entrant to the competition and stay in touch throughout the developmental stages.

Our 3D crosswords are freely available to all.  All we ask is that solvers consider doing something extra for a person or group of people in need.  The same puzzles will be made available to the new computer program that we hope will be produced by this competition.

The deadline for the competition is at the end of the year at midnight on December 31st 2012.  Judging by an expert panel will take place in January 2013 when selected entrants will have the opportunity of demonstrating their software.

The prize money is held by solicitors Thrings of Swindon. If the challenge is not met, the money will be passed to RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning.  The prize has been gathered by anonymous private subscription and is quite separate from funds raised through the 3D puzzle calendar sales.

Should you require further information, there will be a new webpage at www.calendarpuzzles.co.uk
Eric Westbrook
Registered Blind RNIB Member & Volunteer
3D Crossword Designer

To contact Eric please use the form below:

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