• lakshmi singh

IIIT student makes Braille that promises quality education to 13 million visually-challenged Indians

Second-year IIIT student Raghul PK

Globally, everyone was impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak. For the first time, the school and colleges had to be closed for the safety reasons. A new chapter opened up in education where everyone was gaining school-learning experience from their bedrooms. The mode of learning changed, students and teachers were struggling to adapt to this mode. But little did anyone think of how the visually challenged would grapple with this situation.

But all thanks to this second-year student Raghul PK who has developed a low-cost interactive Braille tablet called E-vision, which enables the visually challenged to understand images, pictorial data such as graphs, pictures, diagrams, drawings, charts and maps. Raghul PK is presently studying in Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi.

“My friend, Saurabh Prasad, who is visually challenged, has been my inspiration. Many like him face the problem of unaffordable technologies for studies. In other braille tablets, pieces of crystal are used to raise the dots, which makes it expensive. But, in our product, we use the electromagnetic actuator to raise the dots. A person needs to press the screen and the dots will be raised along with speech assistant, even maps can be studied on the device,” says Raghul, who originally is from Kanyakumari. E-Vision is sure to make life easy for the over 13 million visually-challenged people across the country for whom access to quality education is still a dream due to the high cost of braille tools (embossers/printers/readers) and little availability of Braille books. "Rather than the individual braille dot actuation using piezo crystals which the modern-day electronic single-line braille displays, E-Vision uses a Single linear electromagnetic array that could raise a row of metallic dots. This electromagnetic array is moved across the screen using a Linear Actuation System, and in each row the required Braille dots are raised up by making the respective electromagnetic coils active. This happens for all the rows in the Braille surface, before the final full-screen image/ text is displayed," says Raghul.

"The cost of this device would be less than Rs 10,000 as compared to multiline braille readers that cost lakhs of rupees, thus making quality education affordable and accessible," he adds, adding that it will help visually challenged user to interact with the data on screen, just like how a person with good eyesight uses his/her smartphone. "Actually, I started working on an accessible device for the visually challenged when I was in class 10. But the idea of E-Vision struck during the Ideathon conducted by our college E-Cell where I presented the idea along with my friends Vijay and Arham. Originally it was meant to be a device that would make images accessible for the visually challenged. But 6-7 versions and 8 months later, I managed to develop the basic prototype that I had envisioned," says Raghul, who aims to become a social inventor.

As technology is helping humans in other domains, a handful of innovations are determined to help persons with disabilities (PwDs) continue their learning. These innovations were also shortlisted under the Innovate for an Accessible India (IAI) programme by NASSCOM Foundation and Microsoft India in partnership with Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (MSJE), Department of Science & Technology (DST), and ERNET (MeitY).