According to the 2011 Census of India, there are more than 11 lakh visually impaired children in the age group 5-19, 68% of whom attend school, 11.5% have dropped out of school and 20.5% have never attended school. The challenges of education for visually impaired students in India include their large numbers, dispersed distribution, diversity of languages in the country, and education systems across vernacular mediums. Of the visually impaired children that attend school, very few pursue Science and Mathematics beyond seventh grade. There are significant barriers for the visually impaired to pursue Science and Mathematics based courses in India, mainly due to unavailability of simple and effective ways to present mathematical notations comprising of equations, diagrams, and other complex interpretations to the student. Apart from lack of appropriate technology aids for teaching Mathematics and Science, there is also a dearth of teachers in who can train these students on the usage of available technologies.
Vision Empower (VE), incubated at IIITB Innovation Center, Bangalore, is a Not-for-Profit enterprise which will address the problems of inadequate focus on Science and Mathematics in schools for the visually impaired. Team VE aims to make it possible for visually impaired students to pursue the study of Science and Mathematics, with accessibility to content almost on-par with their sighted peers. The motivation for this initiative came from Vidhya Y, a gold medalist in Masters in Digital Society programme at IIITB, who has been visually impaired since birth. Overcoming her immense challenges, she excelled in academics with her grit and determination. She was the first blind student to take a Computer Science major in undergraduate studies in her university. It is her dream that no visually impaired child should. be denied the opportunity to study Science and Mathematics, if they wish to. The VE team will launch projects to provide accessible solutions for education of the visually impaired.
In this initiative, she is joined by Supriya Dey. Supriya has extensive experience designing and managing large IT projects in the industry and research projects at IIITB and IIMB. After 26 years of pursuing a career as an engineer and manager, she completed a research degree at IIITB in IT and Society, to pursue her academic interests. She is also a volunteer teacher at a school for blind children since the past 2 years.
Amit Prakash, a faculty member at IIITB with interests in ICT and Development (ICTD) works closely with Vidhya and Supriya on this initiative Amit has prior experience in consulting and design on public policy and eGovernance projects in India and presently acts as the Convener of Centre for IT and Public Policy at IIITB.
Abhijeet Bharadwaj, a final-year student of IIITB’s interdisciplinary M.Sc. (Digital Society) programme is presently working as an intern at Vision Empower, contributing actively to ground research, analysis and technology design for its projects.
VE will make Science and Mathematics accessible to school-going children with visual impairment, at par with that of their sighted peers.
Vision Empower will address the needs of content creation for middle school and high school students studying Science and Mathematics in schools for the visually impaired.