A walking stick that not only guides a visually challenged man through hurdles in his way, but also helps him overcome overhead obstructions, an automatic wheelchair that doubles up as a toilet and shower seat for the physically-challenged and a restaurant menu card that caters to low-vision and blind customers -- student start-ups displayed over the weekend how technology can help the differently-abled.
The exhibition at the Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) was part of Abhyuday -- an annual festival at the premier institute that promotes social causes. Keeping up with this year’s theme -- I am not disabled, I am differently-abled -- the event featured workshops, competitions, cultural programmes and lectures about beating the odds. The exhibition, which largely displayed the creations of some student start-ups, remained one of the highlights of the festival.
One of the of the innovations on display was BrailleMe, a small device that seeks to replace the bulky books written in Braille -- the writing and reading system used by the visually impaired. The device was designed by two former IIT-B students, Surabhi Srivastava and Shyam Shah, through their start-up Innovision incubated at IIT-B’s Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE).
The device comes with a Braille typewriter, which can be used by students to take notes during class. The text is stored in digital format and can be read through a panel embossed with Braille cells. Once connected to the internet, the device can be used for messaging, and even social networking.
Sudesh Bandekar, who heads the PR and marketing research for Innovision, said, “There’s a misconception that blind people aren’t employable. Our aim is to enhance the employability of the visually-challenged. We also want to take education to those who are deprived of it.” A former medical representative (MR), Bandekar, lost his sight in 1997, at the age of 30.
Arcatron, a Pune-based start-up founded by former students of National Institute of Technology Calicut, displayed two innovative wheelchairs designed by their team. The chairs, one of them electric-powered and the other operated manually, can be used in bathroom and toilet. The product is aimed at making physically-challenged people more self-reliant.
“The idea was first developed during a college competition, when we observed how a physically challenged woman used her hands very effectively,” said Kunal Kamble, one of the founders of the start-up.
The city-based Xavier’s Resource Centre for Visually Challenged (XRCVC) also displayed a number of tools used by the visually-challenged to overcome their disability. Among them was a restaurant menu card designed by the centre. The card employs large text, Braille cells and a sensor to help both completely blind and low-vision customers place their orders without asking a waiter to help.
SmartCane is an obstacle detection and warning system, which complements the functionality of white cane (stick used by blind people).
It can be easily mounted and detached from white cane.
It detects obstacles with the use of ultrasonic waves. Presence of obstacles is conveyed by easily perceptible and intuitive vibratory patterns.
It facilitates the detection of obstacles above knee as well, as it has a detection range of 3m.
The device comes with a Braille typewriter, which can be used by students to take notes during class.
The text is stored in digital format and can be read through a panel embossed with Braille cells.
Once connected to the internet, the device can be used for messaging, and even social networking.
Shower and Commode Wheelchairs
The hight-adjustable wheelchairs roll over the commodes to allow physically-challenged people answer the call to nature comfortably
The water-resistant material allows them to bathe while sitting on the chair, without developing rashes.
The electric-powered chair can be used with the help of a joystick.
Menu card for visually challenged
The Menu card uses vibrant colours and large text, so low-vision people can read it.
It also comes with Braille embossment to assist completely blind people.
A voice-labelling pen is also attached with the menu card to read aloud its contents.