Braille Library/printing press

Vision to Increase Braille Literacy among Visually Challenged Students in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India

 

Samanvai’s vision is to make sure that all students receive accessible and unconditional education and not suffer on the basis of disability or financial limitations. We would like to provide accessible education materials in Braille along with audio and e-Text formats.The mission of the Braille Library project is to use our Braille printing press to generate and distribute free Braille books and materials to students with visual challenges in blind schools and colleges across the state of Andhra Pradesh, thereby improving Braille literacy rates and reducing the number of students who drop out of school due to lack of access to educational materials. In achieving these goals, we have set up a systematic approach of scanning and translating printed materials into Braille and printing copies for students with the help of trained and qualified staff and volunteers. In the future, the goal is to expand the scope of Braille book distribution by helping to establish similar braille libraries in blind schools across Andhra Pradesh.

Many recent surveys indicate that there are approximately 14 million blind people across India, and Andhra Pradesh contains a major portion of these blind people. Though there are a number of NGOs working to provide Braille materials, the quantity and supply of Braille books is not sufficient in reaching the students free of cost. Also, though a number of blind schools are in existence, only a few schools and colleges have the facilities to generate Braille materials for blind students. Thus even among schools for the blind, Braille materials are scarce, hindering the progress of blind students. Mostly students up to the 10th grade depend upon Braille for writing, reading, and internal examinations. This is because the option of Braille is very affordable, durable, and easy to use compared to computer-assisted technologies. However, although Braille materials are more affordable than computer technologies, generation of Braille books is quite expensive and is not widely practiced resulting in the deficiency of Braille materials. Thus students must rely on a limited supply of materials and self-generated notes taken on Braille slates.

Voice recorders and computer technologies are limited to a very small economic class of students; hence the larger populace of students who do not belong to such economic status cannot depend on these technologies and turn instead to Braille. Also, many students often prefer Braille to other technologies because they can control their independent learning abilities. Braille allows students to access their education from anywhere, on the go, as it does not require technology and power.However, students are facing more and more problems in accessing such Braille books. Hence they are not able to study independently and effectively besides through hand-taken notes in class using Braille slate and stylus. Though Braille slates are cheaper and easy to use, they are limited to taking short notes in class, but when it comes to reading books and accessing homework from book, the students are unable to access this because of the lack of Braille books. Many students thus fail to perform well because of the deficiency in Braille materials, and more and more blind students drop out of school because of the barriers to success in school.

Language barriers also exist for the use of technology because often software in the local language may not be locally available, accessible, or affordable. Thus Braille becomes majorly advantageous because it is available in 16 regional Indian languages. Another challenge that also exists due to the lack of Braille materials is the inability of blind students to understand diagrammatic and visual science and math concepts. Thus they require tactile teaching models which are generally not available in the schools. Through our Braille printing press at Samanvai, raised tactile Braille graphics are being generated with the Braille printer and included graphical tool. These diagrams are included and wrapped along with the Braille text in the books.

Being aware of the challenges in accessing Braille materials that students face in India, we would like to fill this gap by providing Braille books and materials to younger students in blind schools and colleges across Andhra Pradesh.

Procedure for the Generation of Braille Books

We are using an Index Basic-DV4 Braille embosser, high configuration computers, high-resolution scanner, and fanfold Braille paper. We have made sure that all of our staff and volunteers are trained to use the Braille embosser and the translation software. The process of making Braille books involves three major steps:

  1. Scanning printed material into electronic text (e-Text).
  2. Proofreading the e-Text.
  3. Translating the e-Text to Braille using the software called Duxburry Braille Translator.
  4. Once the translation is done and Braille mode is set, the Braille print command will be given to the embosser to print the translated Braille material.

We are using fan-folded continuous track paper with specific thickness for Braille printing. Once the book is printed, the pages are cut and bound. Subsequently the book is proofread and checked for quality. We are taking the help of blind students at Samanvai to proofread the books on a volunteer and pay basis. This way, we can encourage blind students to take up jobs. Once the proofreading work is done, the books are ready to go to schools and students who request. Due to small-scale availability of initial funds at the current moment, we will begin the production of Braille materials with a single Braille embosser and printer. However as the demand for Braille books increases, the number of Braille printers will increase and the generation of materials will be scaled up. In the future we may also partner with different schools to set up printing presses in their schools across the state. This will help student’s access materials faster and cut down on shipping and transportation costs.

How to Request Braille Books

We would like to make the process of requesting Braille books and distribution very simple based on the requirements from schools and students. Schools can request Braille books from Samanvai. At the same time, students not affiliated with a blind school can request Braille books independently. We expect a lead time from schools and students to generate and distribute specific orders of Braille materials. We can of course provide Braille materials instantly if a particular request is available with us in our library. All requests for Braille material can be made through our online Braille Material Request application form. Students and schools can download our request form in PDF or Microsoft word request form and email or mail us the completed request forms. Please go to our contact us page to know our mailing address. We do understand the scarcity and lack of internet access so we are glad to accept requests by phone or through personal visits to our office. We also have printed application forms in our office. The distribution methods will be made very simple. We request the school representatives or students to pick up their Braille books and materials from the office due to scarcity of resources. However later on, we hope to be able to send the materials directly to the recipients through free postal service in India.

We will visit blind schools in Andhra Pradesh and speak personally to the school administration and students about their needs in making Braille books available. We will ask specific questions about which materials they need and how many of them they need. Accordingly, we will generate the books at the center and distribute them to the schools.

Goals and Benefits

  • Print and distribute free Braille books to visually challenged students in blind schools and colleges in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Increase Braille literacy among blind students.
  • Increase independent learning through the availability of Braille books.
  • Reduce the number of school and college dropouts of blind students.
  • Increase Braille production to different locations across Andhra Pradesh.
  • Establish Braille libraries in blind schools and colleges across Andhra Pradesh.