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Embossed books for visually challenged children

DESPITE the strong emphasis on inclusive education, there are virtually no ‘pre-literacy’ story books available for visually challenged/impaired children in the Indian market. Practically, this would include all textbooks.

To address this issue, Dr Anil Prabhakar, trustee of Chetana Charitable Trust and a professor at IIT, Madras, started the Accessible Reading Material project (ARM).

Under the project, he produced a book with embossed pictures, which help the visually-challenged child feel and understand various objects. Apart from the normal text, the picture book also had words in Braille. “The first book that we made was called ‘Where is the button?’, which came out a year ago. The story revolved around the missing button of the father’s shirt and asked the child whether the button was of metal, cloth, coconut shell, etc. In addition to the questions, we also provided the buttons along with the book and avoided the mention of colours,” said Dr Prabhakar at the international conference on Assistive Technology – A key to inclusion, organised by Spastic Society of Karnataka. 
He added that by providing the actual buttons, it’s easier for the child to make the connection. Even visually impaired/challenged parents with normal children will benefit from this in reading out stories to their children, he felt.  

Next, the Trust went to Tulika Books and National Association for the Blind and brought out tactile books with existing stories. “We identified books, which were already there and made them in Braille with tactile designs,” he said.

The group brought out five bi-lingual titles along with the relevant material – Look at the moon (phases of moon cut out on silver paper), Line and Circle, My Mother’s Sari (with half sari), Ten (with ten dolls and a cow bell) and Gadda Gadda Guddu Guddu (a marble, a kite, a flat stone, a top and a gilli-danda). All these books were officially launched earlier this year.

Dr Prabhakar said nearly 120 copies were sold and they have been telling parents how to make tactical pictures. 

However, he stressed that the beauty of the ARM project was that the books could not only be read by visually-challenged children but also by normal children, thereby making it a perfect educative material for inclusive learning. 

Perhaps that’s why the concept was adopted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Tamil Nadu, with the Trust training the teachers in November, 2009.
It has now asked Tulika and Srishti School of Design, Bangalore, to come up with designs for more books.

(Published in Deccan Herald on 25th July, 2010)

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