Skip to main content

For the first time, India has indigenously developed Braille maps (downtoearth,)

Students at the JPM Senior Secondary School for the Blind in New Delhi had some exciting news recently. They now have intricately carved Braille maps that depict a gamut of information provided with the help of legends, dots, bars and symbols.

Earlier, blind children used to learn geography, but they were not exposed to maps. Now thanks to the Kolkata-based National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), India has, for the first time, indigenously developed Braille maps. This breakthrough could change the way 52 million visually impaired people and 0.27 million blind children in India study geography. The atlas is updated till 2011-2012, and was released by the Union Minister of Science & Technology, Harsh Vardhan on February 10.

“Maps are an integral part of geography lessons in school. Realising the lack of efficient maps catering to the visually challenged in India, NATMO, introduced a cost-effective and an indigenous method of producing Braille maps,” says Tapati Banerjee, director of NATMO. The organisation employed the silk screen printing technology, derived from traditional stenciling, to develop the maps. The current price of the atlas is Rs 600, but efforts are underway to make them more affordable.

Visualising the contours

The atlas contains 20 maps covering topics ranging from physical and socio-economic features to river systems, natural vegetation, metropolitan cities, roads and railways and food and cash crops. In addition to this, six continents are also a part of the atlas. Using the technology of Braille, NATMO’s maps in-corporate raised and embossed lines that enable the visually challenged gain a sense of land coverage and also aid in differentiating boundaries separating states and countries. Legends help users gain insights on the information conveyed.

For students with low vision, colour schemes have been chosen which are suitable for them. NATMO has prepared large-scale maps (1:10,000 scale) on various themes to help them learn micro-level planning like irrigation and agriculture using information from its own database.

Previous designs

Attempts to develop Braille map dates back to 1997. Metallic plates, polyvinyl sheets and paper pulp were used to design Braille maps. Unfortunately, these didn’t stand the test of time owing to their inefficiencies, says Banerjee. For instance, the Durgabai Deshmukh College of Special Education, an institute that trains teachers to educate blind students, employs a rather tedious method. They make use of thermoform machines that mould thermoform sheets to the desired shapes with the help of master maps.

Preparation of master sheets is labour-intensive. “The thermoform sheets cost Rs 2,000-3,000,” adds Banerjee. Swati Sanyal, principal of this institute, however, says, “These sheets are expensive, but we can reuse them.”

Not just the overwhelming responses, NATMO got suggestions for improvement from teachers and blind students. Anshu, who aims to become a teacher one day, hopes NATMO maps would include directions and Braille labelling of states. He also suggests that embossing can be made more prominent. Ramakanth, another student, says prior training should be imparted to students on how to read the maps to enable them to utilise these maps more effectively.

In response, Banerjee says, “NATMO has tried to depict maps for the visually challenged students using dots and bars along with symbols. The users, who have no prior exposure on how to read maps, may find some difficulties initially, but if they could be helped with some minor tips and guidance, they can read the maps easily. We will incorporate the new suggestions.”

As for future plans, NATMO is planning to set up another printing unit to cater to the demand. This would be funded by the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment. The organisation plans to distribute the atlas free to schools initially. It is also planning to print the atlas in regional languages, as many students are not comfortable with English. Less privileged children finally have something to cheer as well as to learn about.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…