Better tech than braille for blind now

HYDERABAD: What if someone still uses Telegram as a primary tool for communicating with people even today? Isn’t that weird and outdated in this fast-paced world? Spending a huge amount only on improving Braille catalog in public libraries, printing Braille calendars, distributing Braille books of ancient scriptures are also as weird as the usage of telegram.

A decent amount is allocated in our state budget for all the Braille sheets and Braille printers. Not only the government bodies, other institutions like Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, NGOs, etc. invest a lot in Braille.

Speaking on the issue, Surbhi Mudgal, a visually impaired software employee said, “It is good that the government is showing interest in providing facilities to us, but they also need to be aware of what exactly we need. We are not against Braille usage, but one must keep up with technology and move with the changing times.”

In the last 10 years, assistive technologies for the visually impaired have improved greatly. We have screen readers like JAWS (Job Access With Speech) and NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) for accessing computers, reading PDFs and even using the Internet. From school-going students to PHDs, everyone is using audio material for academic purposes. Smartphone apps such as TalkBack are making lives easier for the blind in the country and elsewhere.

On the other hand, all the government institutions and public libraries are still printing Braille books which are not too useful for most of the visually impaired community. Yes, there are a few who still love to read Braille books but their numbers are dwindling. “Though I have a computer with me, I still love to use Braille for taking notes. Of course, it is only to a small extent”, said Syed Salauddin, who works for Indian Railways as a stenographer. “Investing on Braille is acceptable in case of academics, but going beyond that is purely putting time and resources in a wrong place,” he added.

“Governments should do something more than providing Braille books and pensions to the blind and visually impaired people,” said Srinivas Reddy, a trainer at the Hyderabad chapter of National Institute for Visually Handycapped. “Having a Braille foundation is good but if you are restricting yourself with Braille, it means you are limiting your knowledge,” said Dr Beula Christy, Head of the Rehab at LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. Bringing audiobooks for lesser prices to the visually impaired people, installing computers with screen-reading software in public libraries are some steps the state can take to empower the blind.

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