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Empower 2019, a conference hosted by IIT Delhi in partnership with Microsoft Research, was an event that aimed to bring together all stakeholders working in the assistive technology sector. Consisting of innovative talks, a tech exhibition, and 2 experience zones for persons with disabilities to experience technology curated with a theme, the conference was indeed an empowering experience for persons with disabilities.
One of the highlights of the conference was “STEMPOWER” – an experience zone organized by Vision Empower which focused on the eco-system for STEM education for the visually impaired. This experience zone brought together experts in the field such as Xavier’s Resource Center for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), Chetna Trust, Microsoft Research, Raised Lines Foundation, Enability Foundation, and Vision Empower itself, to set up booths tackling different aspects of education. Early childhood education, tactile diagramming, technology for education, digital games for children, were all covered inn this experience zone.
Vision Empower also presented 2 posters at the conference. One was on Hexis, a low-cost Braille reader for school children. This poster was much appreciated by the audience, and the presenters responded to several questions on when the device is due to be released in the market. The second poster was on creating a curriculum to teach numeracy skills through games in a special school setting. This poster described a study conducted jointly by Vision Empower and Microsoft Research, on how card games can be used to develop numeracy skills of children in grades 2, 3, and 4. The curriculum was piloted in 3 special schools, and the children learnt basic numeracy concepts such as number recognition, addition, subtraction, patterns, sequencing, etc.
A paper on the computational thinking project, conducted by Vision Empower and Microsoft Research, was also presented at the conference. The project aimed to teach computational thinking to children who are visually impaired, through the Torino device. The device is a physical programming environment that can be used to teach basic concepts of computational thinking through sound (music, stories, etc.) The study was conducted in 3 special schools, and the children learnt basic concepts such as sequencing, loops, threads, etc.
The workshops, keynotes, and other talks were thought-provoking, and discussed the ins and outs of disability, assistive technology, and much more. The product exhibition showcased technologies developed by more than 20 social innovators from Assistive Technology sector that aim to empower persons with disabilities.
The conference brought together all stakeholders working in the assistive technology field, fostering dialogue between technologists, researchers, academicians, non-governmental organizations, and people from the disabled community. It helped in forming an entire ecosystem around assistive technology in India, that can shape the development of new technology and the proliferation of existing ones.
Snapshots from Empower 2019
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