Last year, Austin Pinto’s preparation for her Class 11 exams was an uphill effort. Visually challenged, even getting to the chapter he needed was a painstaking scroll through pages of notes.
This year, a software for visually challenged students will allow her to reach the chapter with the mere click of a mouse. The lesson will be then read out in a human or synthetic voice via a headset or speakers. The digital player for the software can be downloaded for free or through a pen drive. The system has been christened DAISY — Digitally Accessible Information System.
The Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) is creating 20 book titles through the system in subjects like economics, psychology, sociology, history, political science and foundation course for Classes 11 and 12 in the arts stream. Commerce books on subjects like organisation of commerce and secretarial practice will follow. All these will benefit thousands of visually challenged college students across Maharashtra. “Students can access and navigate through the lessons just like with a textbook, which will be available on CD,” said Professor Sam Taraporevala, XRCVC director.
Currently, visually challenged students listen to notes in either the Word or Notepad formats. Now, all student will have to do is to punch in the page or chapter number that they need and listen to a synthetic voice via a headset or speakers.
“Software currently in use is tedious and time consuming. Visually challenged students can use the digital format to quickly reach different pages or even skip chapters. Studying will be faster now,” said 18-year-old Austin.
That’s not all. The Delhi chapter of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) will be ready in June with a similar format for National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) books, recorded with human voice, which will benefit 2 lakh visually challenged students across India from the Central Board for Secondary Education.
While NAB was lucky to get the e-copy of textbooks from NCERT, Taraporevala said it’s a daunting task to get publishers to e-format their books due to copyright issues. Only Sheth Publishers parted with the e-formats.
“We would like to take up more tasks for college and university books once publishers are forthcoming. We are even prepared to build in safeguards to protect publisher’s interests,” Taraporevala said.