Empowering Blind Students


Digital literacy is crucial for academic success, particularly for students who face barriers with traditional Braille learning when advancing to higher education in mainstream institutions.

Bookshare, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at revolutionizing digital literacy for the visually impaired in India and beyond, bridges the gap between traditional education and digital accessibility.

From tactile learning aids to cutting-edge assistive technologies, the film showcases through hands-on demonstrations and real-life success stories how Bookshare equips blind students with the tools and resources needed to thrive in a digital age.

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It has often been seen that the blind students attend schools for the blind students, where they use Braille as the medium of education.

Having studied in the medium of Braille, when blind students pass out of the schools and want to pursue higher education, go to colleges where Braille isn’t a medium of instruction, they face a barrier of not having the skills for reading or writing.

Secondly, a typical lecturer in a regular, mainstream institution, who does not know Braille, even they are in a dilemma about how to include blind students in mainstream classrooms, how to go about teaching blind students, who can only read and write in Braille or writes with the support of a scribe.

The crux of the matter is, that while all our blind kids educate themselves, complete their BA or MA degrees, complete their graduation, mostly in Arts - yet they don’t really have many employment opportunities. Why is that? That's because they lack the skill sets to read and write.

I represent an international NGO named Benetech.

I am the Asia-Africa Regional Head for Benetech.

We are not known so much for Bentech in India, as much as for our library service Bookshare.

In India we provide two kinds of services, one is Library access for those who don’t have reading materials in accessible format.

For persons who are print disabled and cannot read standard printed text, we provide accessible content for them through our library platform.

But our main work is Digital literacy. Digital literacy, for whom?

We run a Digital literacy program for persons who are blind, who cannot see, in India and other developing countries.

A lot of people are curious, how do the visually impaired learn in an integrated setup of school.

So, at first, instead of giving them a book, we give them the magnetic slate.

Standing line. Sleeping line. Standing line. Sleeping line.

This is what all of us learnt in school, whether sighted or non-sighted.

Then, we learn how to write alphabets, with the help of these stencils.

These stencils, you can put your pencil and go over each of these alphabets.

Make…connect the keyboard to the computer, type ‘A’ and the child hears how ‘A’ is pronounced.

Make him feel the ‘A’ on these tactile books. Okay?

Then for him to learn what is the shape of a moon, you cannot have him touch the moon, right?

So you make him touch in the tactile, that the moon shape is this way.

And then, this is how you teach him Hindi alphabets, by practicing to write and feel each of these alphabets.

Now comes maps.

When we have maps, we do not, as a blind person, we would not know what is the shape of each city or each state and how we would know which state we are pointing towards, like the sighted world.

So, we have these dots, where we put this Sonic labeller and hear about each state.

Ganga originates at Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas, length 2,525 Kilometers, route Nagpur, Allahabad, State of Haryana.

Another one will be heard.

Now if we want to see another one then…

It constitutes the eastern portion of larger Kashmir. It is 7,742 meters high.
Border, the both autonomous regions to the East, Himachal Pradesh to the South, Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan administered Gilgit Balochistan to the West.
Major cities: Leh, Kargil.

Now if we want to move forward and teach Math to the kids, how will we show them angles?

We will make them feel the angles

This is an obtuse angle, this is an acute angle, this is also acute and this as well.

This is okay for classes 1 to 4, but moving forward, we must introduce them to technology, so that they can get into advanced studies too, without using TLMs (Teaching Learning Materials), because now they have an idea about everything.

So, every house today has an android phone but how do we use it to the maximum for the people with vision impairment?

There is a library called Bookshare, where you will get more than 13 lakh books in accessible format, for people with disabilities, print disabilities. One can download any book on your mobile and read it using the ‘Easy Reader’ app.

So I have opened a history book, which I’ll read out to you.

Play-pause button.
50 years or so, but as you will see in this chapter, the making of the global world has a long history of trade, of migration, of people in search of work, the movement of capital and much else.

As we think about the dramatic…9% slider.

Now I am pausing it.

You can increase the font size, change the color, to suit the comfort of the person’s reading level.

We just saw the book being read on the phone, we will read the same book now on the computer, by using the Dolphin Easy Reader application.

Within the app, there are headings which will help us navigate.

For example, if we need to go directly to a topic…dialogue dialogue…clicking on it will take us directly to that topic.

Another interesting thing about our books is that the images used in the books are described in detail.

If we hover over a description or an image..
has details, a schematic diagram showing the fluid mosaic model of a plasma membrane. The plasma membrane is the outer layer of all cells and it is responsible for protecting the cell from its surroundings regulating the movement of molecules in to and out of the cell…

So, like this, each image is described in great detail, so that a blind kid reading the book does not miss out on any piece of information.

Just as a sighted person is able to pick details out of an image… so, similarly a blind kid would be able to pick out details from the images as well.

Today, when blind persons go about seeking employment, in the corporate or the government sector, they are expected to get the job done like any other sighted person, in a regular way, using accommodations like screen readers or magnification.

But if you do not have the required skill sets, then, though you might get a job reserved for you, you won’t be able to work effectively.

And if you can’t work effectively, you may be deprived of dignity and as a result many difficulties crop up.

So, In India, Bookshare, along with our partners, are running the Digital Literacy program in schools.

We are running this program, collaborating with more than 33 schools and with colleges as well.

Now you must be thinking, why are we giving you all this information?

Because not many people are aware of all this information.

Our country is so vast, the population of blind people here is the largest in the world.

Now, every blind person should have this information that you will benefit only from mainstream digital education, not from exclusive education, regardless of whether you are in a rural area or urban area.

Digital Literacy is very important for everyone.

More FAQs

Familiarize yourself with and expand your vocabulary of disability-related terminology! 
D - Disability
L - Locomotor disability
Q - QR Code
K - Kinesthetic
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