• Abhishek Singh, Executive Director (IT/Engg.), Food Corporation of India


  • Rajen Varada, CEO, Open Knowledge Community


  • Mr. Ramesh Gaur
  • Dr. Ranganayakulu Bodavala, Founder Director, Thrive Solar Energy Pvt. Ltd.

Presentations of Finalists for category on Digital solutions for Inclusion & Accessibility

  • Gift of New Abilities, Dr. A G Ramakrishnan, Professor, MILE Laboratory Department of Electrical Engineering Indian Institute of Science
  • Swarālōka: Adaptive Music Score Trainer for Visually Impaired in Sri Lanka, Dr. Lakshman Jayaratne, Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo School of Computing
  • BLIND WITH CAMERA, Partho Bhowmick, Founder, Beyond Sight Foundation
  • SimplEye: Mobile App for visually impaired, Arjun Khera, General Manager, Kriyate Design Solutions Pvt. Ltd

Ms. Avesta Chaudhary, communication Manager, Digital Empowerment Foundation opened the session with a welcome note and introduced panelists to the audience. Mr. Rajen Varada, CEO, Open Knowledge Community (OKC) was the moderator of the event. Mr. Varada invited presenters and asked them to present a brief overview of the assistive solutions developed by them for the disabled community. A total of 5 presentations were made, followed by question and answer session.

Pof. A.G Ramakrishnan made the first presentation. As part of his project, Gift of Free Abilities,
Mr. Krishnan along with his team has built an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tool that converts scanned images of the printed material (whether books, articles) into a braille format. Currently, it is only being done for Tamil and Kannada books. The technology works on an on-demand basis and has an accuracy rate of 94-98 %.. 500 Tamil books have been converted and distributed to several schools across Tamil Nadu. Over 150 visually impaired are making use of the technology at present. Its free for non- profit organisations.

Question:  Subhranshu Roy- What is the blind and braille specific aspect in the software?
Answer: The technology can be easily saved into braille software. Its tailor made features converts the books in minutes without much hassle. The tool has the facility of converting an entire book.

Question: Mr. Rajen Varada- How do we scale it to other languages?
Answer: The project is currently being funded by Ministry of Information & Technology. There are plans to scale it up in near future.

Second presentation was made by Mr. Lakshman on Swaraloka, an adaptive music score trainer for the visually impaired. Swaraloka is a tool that converts standard Sinhalese eastern music notations into non-visual readable output format. Swaraloka has got 100% understandability output, 81% acceptance and 95.24 % OMR accuracy.

Mr. Partho Bhowmik , Founder Director from ‘ Blind With Camera’ was the third presenter of the day.  Describing about the project Mr. Bhowmik said, “Blind with Camera is a first of its kind disability arts movement in India. The project came into being in 2006 with an aim to teach photography to visually impaired individuals and provide them with a platform where they can express and empower themselves through this creative art process of photography. The project makes use of several assistive technologies like digital compact point-shoot DSLR, audio photo albums, sensory substation technology, guide by cell (Bluetooth technology) among others. A visually impaired person taking photographs is an empowerment in huge sense.”

The project also organizes photography exhibitions where captured works of the blind photographers are showcased for the public. Over 500 visually impaired individuals have benefited from this programme.

Mr. Arjun made the next presentation on ‘TALK’ , an AAC device designed for persons with speech impairments caused by conditions such ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The device takes breath as an input and converts it into speech (28 seconds per word). Talk comes with two modes; first one is for communicating in English which supports nine different voices of males and females suiting different age groups and second mode to give specific commands/phrases. The device is currently in its development phase, is expected to reach the market by the end of 2015. Talk, is designed by a 16 year old school student, Arsh Dilbagi. The presentation received an overwhelming response from the audience.

SimpleEye was the final presentation of the day. SimplEye is a first of its kind smart phone accessibility application with a unique Braille typing & speaking feature for the visually impaired people. It’s simple to use, single touch hover technology and smart interface features enable users to use other applications on the phone with much ease just like a person with a normal vision. The application uses touch gestures on the phone screen as the input method and gives voice output of the content on the screen as output. Updated version of the application with location sharing and colour identification feature is being worked upon.

Post presentations, Mr. Rajen Varada gave a brief background on the ‘National Stock taking: ICTs & Disability’ workshop, held in September & November (2014) and co-organized by Open Knowledge Community and UNESCO.

Talking about the workshop he said, some of the key outcomes that were not addressed during the 2 workshops were-

  • Taking assistive technologies to the rural communities
  • Scaling and assessment of the production of the assistive technologies
  • Collaborations and partnerships required to take the initiative forward
  • Incubation of innovators for developing assistive technologies
  • Sustainable business models and affordability

Formation of the ‘working-group’ was with an agenda of providing accessibility to all, was one of the major outcome of the National stock taking workshop said Mr. Varada.

Other key outcomes that emerged out of the workshop were- Creation of a National Database of information technologies, compilation of a compendium on assistive technologies, creation of a forum for funding and marketing of the emerging assistive solutions.

“Scaling up of the technologies is the biggest challenge being faced by innovators at present”, noted Mr. Varada.

“Sustainability is more important than anything else to make an impact. Cost for development in India is low, we should push people to innovate and market outside”, said Mr. Sumit while talking about sustainability.

Round Table

Mr. Rajen asked Dr. Charu if sensitization workshop for bureaucrats can be organized? Insensitivity of the bureaucrats on disability issue was observed as one of main concern area during the September & November workshops.

Dr. Charu, welcomed the suggestion and said that a special training programme with its focus on policy reforms and future recommendations can be designed with inputs from the ‘working group’.

Lack of connection between academia and industry was observed by the discussants.

Some of the recommendations made by discussants were-

  • A platform for collaboration
  • Training on using new technologies
  • Partner with government for fund generation and incubation
  • Establishment of a regulatory framework/body that can oversee the training, distribution  and management of the assistive technologies to schools and other institutions
  • Approach and explore CSR. They can work as an alternative to government funding agencies
  • Build pressure on government to cut down taxes on assistive technologies
  • Building sustainable models. Sustainability must not be compromised

Rapporteur Comment:  Sustainability, Fund generation, training and marketing of the assistive technologies were discussed.  Key outcomes of the National stock taking workshop on ICTs & persons with disabilities were shared by Mr. Varada. Noteworthy recommendations were made by the discussants. It was an active and engaging session. Question and answer session had to be cut short because of the time constraint.

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