The University of Pune’s (UoP) Advance Technology Blind Students’ Learning Centre (ATBSLC) is launching a pilot project, wherein the centre would be developing tactile graphic diagrams for visually impaired students who have enrolled for Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA) course across UoP affiliated colleges.
The tactile diagrams, which are raised shapes and textures, will be formulated on a particular type of paper using special printers known as Zycom Fuse Heater and Tiger Pro-graphic Braille Embosser, and produced on demand for colleges in the city.
Since there are several data structures and flows, block diagrams, software designing diagrams, circuit diagrams, etc., which are complicated for visually impaired students to study without tangible script, these graphic paper diagrams will make it easier for them as students will be able to feel the diagram and also hear its description on the computer via a screen reader software.
“The students can’t see the maps or designs on the computer and have been facing difficulties. If provided with the design on a hard copy, they will at least be able to feel it, while going through the narrative on the computer. Unfortunately, since there are no facilities for these students, they are often left discouraged to take up BCA,” said Dhananjay Bhole, co-ordinator, ATBSLC.
Currently, the centre has nine computers, all of them loaded with screen reading softwares such as JAWS, Ubuntu Linux, Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA), and Kurzweil, especially designed for visually impaired students.
“We are starting by designing a few diagrams on a trial basis and if it bears fruit, then we’ll work on a bigger project, and design tactile graphics for blind students of MCA, MCM, BSc, MSc, and BTech courses. Through this, they will be able to acquire better knowledge of the courses, which in the long run will help them in getting job opportunities. It is said that the information technology sector is the best for the visually impaired,” said Bhole.
Apart from having computers loaded with screen reading softwares, the centre has around 7,000 e-books and 170 audio books that either have been downloaded or scanned and which can be referred to by the students with the help of screen readers. The centre is also equipped with Braille script printer and scanner for the study of science and commerce, which have graphs and diagrams, and uses electronic format for providing students with study material.