App aims to academically empower visually impaired students

‘Swalekhan’ will help the obviate the need for hard-to-find scribes by allowing students to type in answers

January 26, 2020 12:14 am | Updated 02:04 am IST - Pune

As many as 600 students from Pune, Shrirampur, Nanded, Nashik, Aurangabad and Buldhana districts of Maharashtra have been taking lessons to type with the help of the Swalekhan application. Photo: Special Arrangement

As many as 600 students from Pune, Shrirampur, Nanded, Nashik, Aurangabad and Buldhana districts of Maharashtra have been taking lessons to type with the help of the Swalekhan application. Photo: Special Arrangement

An Android-based application (App) built on the basis of a technology innovation promises to academically empower visually impaired students by freeing them of their dependence on scribes while writing exams.

The Swalekhan (self-writing) app is a tech offering conceptualised by the city-based Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya, an NGO that works for the betterment of the visually impaired individuals, and developed by Josh Software, a Pune-based IT services company specialising in providing global tech solutions, in conjunction with Tekvision, a leading accessibility service provider whose workforce comprises a significant number of visually impaired technocrats.

The Android text-to-speech app (typing tutor), which is aimed at helping visually impaired students reduce their reliance on scribes and took three years to create, has been embraced by more than 20 schools across Maharashtra since its launch in mid-2019. As many as 600 students from Pune, Shrirampur, Nanded, Nashik, Aurangabad and Buldhana districts have been taking lessons to type with the help of this application. From helping master the keys by using an innovative braille paper overlay, to aiding students in listening and grasping 78 innovative and interactive lessons, Swalekhan uses a combination of human voices as well as Text-to-Speech guided assistance.

“Our institute has been working with visually impaired students for more than two decades,” said Uma Badve, trustee, Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya. “In all this time, the most frequent complaint from students is of not having the independence to write their own exams and their frustration at their overt dependence on scribes, who are normally hard to find and are generally inefficient. Hence, we decided to come up with a technology to empower these children that would help them write their own exams,” she added. Ms. Badve said all lessons were designed in Marathi to enable students to write in the vernacular.

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