Saksham, a national organisation dedicated to the all-round progress of physically-challenged persons, launched the first-ever Audio Book Reader (ABR) for the visually-challenged students in New Delhi on September 7. It is a pocket-sized device that enables the visually-challenged students to study with much more ease. The device, which has been invented by Nagpur-based Shri Shirish Darwhekar, has been developed keeping in mind the specific needs of the visually-challenged students. General secretary of Saksham Shri Avinash Sangwai, vice president Dr Milind Kasbekar and organising secretary Dr Kamlesh Kumar were also present at the ABR launch ceremony in New Delhi.
Formally launched on trial basis earlier this year in Nagpur, the device, in the first phase, is being used by over 75 visually-challenged students in Nagpur. “While one needs to shell out anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 70,000 to buy a similar device available in the market, the manufacturing cost of ABR is only about Rs 5,000. But Saksham supplies it on cost-to-cost basis to the visually-challenged students,” informed Shri Shirish Darwhekar.
Saksham has made arrangements to provide the device free-of-cost to the visually-challenged students by finding sponsors for them. “The more sponsors and bulk orders we get for the device, the cheaper it will be for the students in coming days. Saksham appeals to the people to sponsor the device for the genuinely needed students and help in making the life easier for the visually-challenged students,” urged Shri Darwhekar. He pointed out that the device could store data in all 6000 languages and dialects of the world. Presently, the data are being provided only in three languages-Hindi, English and Marathi. The work has also started for collecting data in Malyalam. He said data could be provided in any Indian language through this device.
In the absence of Braille books for all courses and subjects, the visually-challenged students are forced to depend on audio-cassettes and CDs. This means that someone reads out the content of the books and records his/her voice in a cassette or a CD. But this is a cumbersome work, for example, the 10th class syllabus would require nearly 100 cassettes and a 12th class student would require over 150 cassettes! It is indeed a uphill task for a visually-challenged student to sift through 100-150 cassettes to get to the subject he/she wants to study.
The ABR device reads the audio tracks stored in a multimedia memory card (MMC) with a random access to any subject, book or chapter. With its large storage capacity of 60-hour duration audio with a 2 GB memory card, it provides the facility of putting the entire curriculum up to the 12th standard in a pocket. Its special feature is that it can be operated through voice menu and embossed buttons. It has a rechargeable battery backup of eight hours. The ABR is a “never-before” instrument for the visually-challenged students. It can be used not only by an individual but can also be used as a group-hearing device with attachment of external ampli-speakers or audio-distributors.
The operational features of the device include hard power button for power supply, limited five embossed buttons for browsing the menu, one soft power button to indicate power on/off, all actions with the help of voice menu, special features such as book marking and automatic power saving, easily extendable memory since the MMC is attached externally. With the help of five buttons one can navigate through any subject or book with selection and listen to any chapter or track by quick access, fast forward, fast backward and pause.
For personal use it costs Rs 4,000 and for classroom setup with ampli-speakers its cost is Rs 5,000. For library setup with 10 headphones and audio-distributors its cost is Rs. 6,000.
Presently, the visually-challenged students use two types of devices for learning. One, Braille, and two, e-books. Maximum students up to the 10th and 12th standard use audio-cassettes for learning their school syllabus. But it is very time-consuming. Handlling a large number of cassettes is in itself a very difficult task. Now MP-3 player pen drives are also used by some students, but its operation is also not very easy. The use of audio-cassettes is fast turning anachronistic, as the digital technology is replacing it. The digital technology is easier to use. The largest number of visually-challenged persons, around one crore six lakh, live in India alone. About 50 lakh of them are educated. There is a large number of them who want to pursue higher education but they do not have access to e-books to continue their studies. Developing Braille books for higher education is a very arduous task and they cannot be developed as per the requirement. Therefore, the invention of Audio Book Reader by Saksham will definitely make the work easier.
“Using this device is very easier. I was told about its operation only once and I understood its operation easily. Saksham has connected the visually-challenged students like me with the most modern technology. Presently, I use an MP3 player but ABR is more useful than all other devices,” affirms Ramlal, a visually-challenged college student while demonstrating the operation of the device before the mediapersons in New Delhi.
Saksham was established with the objective to bring all the persons with various disabilities in the mainstream. It believes the differently-disabled people are not burden on the society but assets of the nation. Though presently dedicated to the service of visually-challenged people, Saksham has its commitment towards all the persons with various disabilities and also towards environment, health and other social activities to strengthen the society. Presently, it is running several projects for integrated development of the differently-disabled.
With its pledge to establish at least 100 eye banks under the banner of Madhav Eye Bank, the organisation has so far established 15 licenced eye banks in various parts of the country including the states of Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Established in 1995, the first such Madhav Netra Pedhi is retrieving at least one pair of corneas per day and so far has been successful in restoring or giving sight to around 475 visually-challenged people who are now able to see this world. Saksham has also created books in audio form through audio-cassettes, CDs, etc. So far over 350 such books have been created through more than 7,500 cassettes by Saksham’s Nagpur unit. The service is provided free-of-cost to the needy visually-challenged students. Besides these projects, the Saksham also runs several other projects for the betterment of visually-challenged persons. It has earned commendable credibility in the field of serving this neglected section of the society.
For availability of the ABR device one may contact to Shri Shirish Darwhekar at [email protected], phone: 09890073287, 0712- 2244918, Fax: 0712-2244918 or can write to ‘SAKSHAM’, Madhav Netra Pedhi, 16, Devadutta Bhavan, Rana Pratap Square, SE Railway Colony, Nagpur 440022 (Maharashtra).