See and smile

Jan 24, 2013, 00:19 IST | Ruchika Kher

Two initiatives will come as terrific news to visually impaired individuals. The first is a project, where special smart phone is being developed for the blind, while the second, is a new tactile tour organised by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya for the visually challenged

The Braille Phone Project

While technology has accelerated growth and awareness across India’s population, a section of society has yet to benefit fully from technological developments sweeping the country — the visually impaired. Delhi-based interaction designer, Sumit Dagar realised this void, and decided to work for a change. The result — the Braille Phone Project.

A model of the smart phone that is being created for the visually impaired by Sumit Dagar and his team under the Braille Phone Project. Pics Courtesy/ Sumit Dagar

“I come from an engineering background and I’m also an interaction designer, so my field of expertise is applied technology. In 2009, while working on a project for my Master’s degree, I stumbled upon the reality that there is a huge gap between what is available for all and what is available for the visually impaired population. I realised that while technology is empowering most of us, it provides hurdles for the visually impaired,” recalls Dagar.

The 29-year-old designed and launched a phone, which will be handy for people with vision loss. The concept phone’s primary medium of communication is a haptic (sense of touch) touch screen that allows users to feel the information on the screen. Using height mapping, the device will be able to project information ranging from textual (Braille), images, and animations and videos

“The Braille smart phone is a next-generation, product. The prototype version will be launched in a month while the final product will hit market in a year’s time,” informs Dagar, who plans to price the phone at R8,000. For its release, the designer intends to reach out to mobile operators, to acquaint them with the phone. Dagar is working on the project under his company, Kriyate and has an in-house team of five. This apart, his collaborators include IIT Delhi and LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. 

Tactile tours at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

As part of its universal accessibility initiative, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) has made its current exhibition, Mummy: The Inside Story, available to all groups, with the visually impaired being a key focus area. The Education Department at the museum has designed special tactile tours for the visually impaired using replicas, which they can touch and feel while being led on a guided tour of the exhibition.

“Tactile tour is a specially designed programme for the visually impaired. It involves a tour of the exhibition in a multi-sensory approach. The tour at the exhibition will use tactile replicas, audio descriptions and Braille texts.

These help to tell the narrative of the exhibition in a simple and interesting format, and make it easy for people with visual impairments to perceive the exhibition,” informs Bilwa Kulkarni, Education Officer, CSMVS.

Kulkarni also informed that apart from the guided tour, the programme also involves a small activity (usually craft-based) for children after the tour of the exhibition.

“This helps them engage with the exhibition in a more enriching manner. There are also games with 3D hieroglyphs cards,” she added. The museum sought expertise from visually impaired educators and special education teachers to make this a more fulfilling experience. It also plans to print Braille booklets as give-aways.

“We have reached out to various visually impaired schools across Mumbai, and some have responded enthusiastically, for the programme. We’ve received favourable feedback from groups as they have enjoyed themselves thoroughly,” shares Kulkarni.  Currently, the museum has associated with the Helen Keller School and The Happy Home and School for the Blind to offer them this experience.

At CSMVS, 159-161 MG Road, Fort.
Call 22844484

Note: Entry to the exhibition is free for groups with special needs. Wednesdays are reserved specially for special needs groups and programmes are arranged for them, exclusively. No other bookings are taken on
these days. 

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