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The Tiresias Information System

John Gill
Chief Scientist
Royal National Institute for the Blind

In 1975 I wanted to know what research was going on in Europe for visually disabled people.  At that time there was no such list so I compiled one, and the American Foundation for the Blind funded the printing and distribution.  The production process was crude since I relied on punched paper tape for storing the data.

I then found that I needed to contact organisations of and for the blind in various countries; this was also a need  for others working in this area.  So I published the first edition of the International Directory of Agencies for the Blind.

At that time there was considerable re-invention of devices for blind people, so the International Survey of Aids for the Visually Disabled came into existence.  Then three further books were produced - International Survey of Aids for the Partially Sighted, International Guide to Aids and Services for the Deaf-Blind, and International Guide to Educational Aids and Materials for the Visually Disabled.

Over the succeeding years, we have formed the Tiresias consortium in collaboration with the Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital to continue this work.  The data is now stored in Microsoft Access which is probably the most widely used database software package.  The number of files has expanded to include:
1.       Current non-medical research
2.       Research needing to be undertaken
3.       Sources of funding for research
4.       Serial publications
5.       Information services
6.       Standards and standards committees
7.       Abbreviations and acronyms
8.       Organisations in 142 countries
9.       Devices       - 3450 entries, - some photographs

Data was derived from this file on devices for submission to Handynet in Brussels.

We have now started converting the files for publication on the world wide web.  This is not a trivial matter since the web is not good for database handling particularly if the user does not have a very specific query.  Therefore the format we will be using is a simple tree structure; one of the advantages of this structure is that it is relatively easy to make the data fully accessible by disabled users.

So far we have converted six sections into this format, but we will not implement on the web until the majority of our data has been converted.

One side effect of this activity is that it will be easier to produce selective listings for print publication.  One such publication is on low vision aids, which should be published in the near future.

 



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