Sound Sense- The Indian Express- By Afsha Khan
It was not easy for 25-year-old Garima Goyal to get three post-graduate degrees. But the coursework, deadlines and submissions were not the deterrent. The biggest challenge she faced was the lack of easy access to the prescribed texts in a format she could study after she started to lose her sight at 15. “Most of my books were not available in audio formats due to copyright issues,” she reveals. “Moreover, college notes are often hand-written or photo-copied. So often, I had to get someone to type them out in a legible format,” she adds.
The investment in her education was immense. Books, notes and prescribed texts had to be scanned before putting them through a software that would convert them into audio. While many visually-impaired students like Goyal have struggled over the years to keep pace with their sighted classmates, the launch of an online library dedicated to higher education might make things easier.
On January 4, the birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the six-dot language for the blind, the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) will launch the Online Braille Library at the Ali Yawar Jung Institute for the Hearing Handicapped in Bandra. With over 12,000 titles in 14 different languages, it is dedicated to help visually-impaired post-graduate students with prescribed texts from numerous colleges across India without any charge. By offering reading formats in Braille as well as audio, the library will cater to students in subjects ranging from mathematics and IT to history and literature.
“We launched the initiative on this very day in 2009,” smiles Anuradha Mohit, director of NIVH. “It took close to 18 months to convert all the texts into a Unicode font, which can be read in Braille as well as audio.” The Online Braille Library will thus be a resource that allows students to read in Braille using an add-on computer equipment called Refreshable Braille Display, and in audio using voice software such as JAWS.