Lead into Light

Project Brief:
Project Type: Children with Disabilities (description)
Primary Focus: children with disabilities (description)

Secondary Focus: creating resources

Area: Urban
Supporting Chapter Contact: Chennai
Status: completed - requirements ended
Project Steward: Lakshmi Venkatesh
Project Partner(s):
Other Contacts:
Project Address: , Vidya Vrikshah,,3, Tiruveedi Amman street. RK Nagar,,Chennai,
TAMIL NADU  600 028
Tel: 011-91-44-24937926
Stewarding Chapter: Chennai
Dec 2005SeattleUSD 342
Dec 2003SeattleUSD 5100

Total = $5442

Part of Trigger project proposal submitted to WAH 2003

This project envisages establishment of a Unit for the production and circulation of a Multilingual Braille Magazine in the Indian languages at Vidya Vrikshah.

The project involves:
- composing electronic versions of school text book lessons and magazine articles in the local languages on the computer system
- using the software facilities to produce braille and casette tape versions,
- use of free postage facilities to circulate them to visually impaired students and training institutions for the Visually impaired in the country.
It will be possible to obtain permission from publishers of text books and magazines in local languages to reproduce the braille and audio versions.

The Multilingual software package of Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai would be used as the software base for production of the Braille and audiotape versions of the magazine.This remarkable Software Package has been consciously designed and developed by the IIT Chennai, as a National solution to bring literacy, education, training and employable skills for the benefit of all, especially the socially and physically disadvantaged, through the use of Information Technology. At the heart of the package is a multi-lingual editor which enables anyone, literate or illiterate, able or disabled, to quickly and easily learn to use computers in the Indian languages (as also English).
The Package provides for :
(a) Input through the common standard PC keyboard on an intuitive common phonetic basis, of text in any Indian language. (and English, as also ancient scripts like Grantha, and right to left scripts like Urdu, Arabic and Persian).
(b) Output in the language chosen for input, in the following formats :
(i) screen display;
(ii) voice output where input is spoken letter by letter, word by word,
line by line or a whole file, as may be desired, along with spoken
prompts to aid text navigation and editing, by visually impaired
(iii) ink print and
(iv) embossed braille.
(c) Supplementary utilities for creating or browsing web pages and using email in local languages.

The entire Software suite is offered free of cost by the IIT Chennai and can be downloaded (except for the Sound enabled version of the Editor because of its large size) from their website http://acharya.iitm.ac.in.The package rests on a high level of technical and linguistic sophistication in design, which makes it a unique, one of its kind solution in the country or abroad.

The primary goal of the project is to bring educational, informative and entertaining material in local language braille to poor visually impaired children who have virtually no access to such materials.

A modest initial production target of 200 copies of the proposed braille magazine is projected. It will be brought out as a monthly issue. Each issue will run into 50 braille pages of A4 size, comprised of two school text book lessons, and two entertaining magazine features. This will reach 200 locations, with a circulation of at least five visually impaired students and others at each location, making for a reach of 1000 such visually impaired children.

It is hoped to replicate the Project to reach out increasingly to such
persons whose number in India run into millions.

Vidya Vrikshah is a Chennai-based non-governmental organisation, registered as a public charitable trust.
It’s objectives are to harness the potential of voluntary community service together with the power of Information Technology in the service of socio-economic development objectives.
In pursuing these objectives, it is guided by a sharp focus :
(a) On methodologies that address the primary needs of the common people, viz. literacy, education, health, disability-training and employment-related skills.
(b) On IT-based solutions that they can use in their mother tongue; and
(c) On solutions that come to them at low or no cost.

Implementation of such solutions have rested on the following considerations :
(a) The solutions must, as far as possible, proceed from an integrated design approach, but on a modular structure, lending itself to adaptation to a variety of local needs and priorities.
(b) The modules must rest on easy, intuitive and inter-active computer use in the mother tongue by all, young or old, literate or illiterate, able or disabled. Use by the visually impaired among the disabled implies that the modules must be voice-enabled.
(c) Programmes must proceed from what may be called a “broad-band” approach, of combining multiple related modules and addressing multiple related objectives within single programmes, which would incidentally mean better returns on the same infrastructure investments.
(d) Training in the use of the modules should be handled by a local facilitator, who should be provided with a computer, with the relevant software modules and also special training in their effective use of both the hardware and software. Large numbers of cutting edge grass root functionaries – teachers, health workers, welfare workers, volunteers etc – from both Governmental and Non-Governmental organisations must be so trained and equipped to become far more effective facilitators than they are today, in the delivery of the whole range of social welfare services.

Vidya Vrikshah has developed and implemented a wide range of applications and activities of socio-economic relevance and significance based upon the IIT’s Multilingual Software Package, with the help of volunteers drawn mainly from housewives and senior citizens of the community. This collaborative effort arose out of the desire of both the IIT and Vidya Vrikshah to demonstrate the feasibility and power of a new and unique concept of social engineering to marry technology to voluntary social effort to provide solutions to crying social needs across the country.
Over the last five years Vidya Vrikshah’s volunteer force has grown to over 150 and the following are some the results of their activities conducted under the aegis of its Centre for Disability Research, Development and Training :
(a) Around 250 persons from all over the country, including large numbers of visually impaired persons and instructors and teachers from both regular and special schools and training institutions have been given both the IIT software and training in its use, free of charge.
(b) Development and implementation of a wide range of hardware and software based projects and packages for Literacy, Education, Health, Disability-training and Employment-related skills, details of which can be seen in their website at www.vidyavrikshah.org.

One of the Vidya Vrikshah’s projects of far-reaching significance is Project Vikas. This Project involves the establishment of a network of Vikas Training Centres to promote Village Development on the integrated approach described above, by providing computers, relevant software modules and training in their use to teachers, health workers and welfare workers in Schools and a Self-Help Groups in each of village. Three NGOs – Relief Foundation, Mentors, and Vidya Vrikshah have come together to implement this Project in an organised way. Vikas Training Centres have already been set up in the last three months in 12 locations (as of 01-03-2003) in Chennai, and Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Vellore Districts, and another 6 centres are programmed in the next two months. It is important to recognise that each centre is equipped with all the training modules for Literacy, Education, Health, Disability-training and Employment-related skills, so that any module can be used in response to local need. Each Centre for example, will be able to train Visually Impaired persons of the local area.