SEPTEMBER 2012: Whenever science and humanity come together, the world rejoices. This time it’s a device developed by Nagendra Setty, CEO of Ideas Unlimited. Setty, with his team, has developed a device which assists the visually challenged in learning the Braille system of reading and writing. The product, officially called the interactive braille tutor with speech assist capability, eliminates the need for a teacher to be with the students at all times.
The first question that comes to our mind is “What made them think of developing such a device? Are the teachers not doing a good enough job or is it more of a ratio problem?”
Setty clarifies, “It’s more of the latter. In India, the number of Braille teachers attending to individual students is quite bad. We can’t expect them to be able to attend to all of them but there was one school that I visited where 50 students were being attended to by a single teacher. That’s not helping anyone in any way. On the contrary, it’s actually quite detrimental to the teaching process. It was only a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ such a device would be designed and I’m just thankful we could do it.”
The conventional system
Conventional braille teaching in India still relies on the use of a wooden plate that has six dips representing a Braille cell and a glass marble that has to be placed inside the dips to form a Braille character. Usually, the children drop the marbles on the floor and therefore teaching where one teacher can teach many students, Braille teaching is a 1:1 system as the children are blind and have to tune to the sense of touch to learn Braille. During the initial stages of learning, the teacher has to arrange dots for each child in the class, then take it to each child and verbally speak out what the arrangment means. This has to be repeated every day until the children become skilled in the script. At the end of the day, the teachers, most of whom are blind themselves, are exhausted due to both verbal and activity overload.