Delhi University installs technology for students with vision disabilities in libraries

Asia-Pacific, November 17 2014

NEW DELHI: Delhi University is in the process of installing a special technology which can scan books and transcribe text to speech in all its libraries, a move which the varsity claims is a first-of-its-kind initiative for students with vision disabilities by an Indian university.

Venkateswara College LibraryThe technology called ‘Inclusive Print Access Project’ is a combination of software which has been imported from abroad to suit the needs of students with vision disabilities.

The various software have been assembled to form a suitable package by the varsity’s Equal Opportunity Cell.

“There are certain universities which have taken initiatives to meet the demands of students with vision disabilities but making accessible rooms for them or providing them scribes won’t really help. We wanted to keep them in the same atmosphere as the other students,” Anil Anjea, Officer on Special Duty at EOC, said.

“We just want to ensure that the students don’t remain dependent on readers and can study and work in an independent fashion as other students. Certain universities abroad have this technology but in India we are the first one to have such reading machines and accessible system assembled in a comprehensive manner,” another EOC official Bipin Tiwari said.

The ‘Inclusive Print Access Project’ includes a high- speed camera called ‘LEXAIR’ and a flat-bed scanner.

“The student will hold the book in same manner as other students and the camera and scanner will capture the images and transcribe the text into speech. The software also allows scanning the book, reading, converting it in PDF and much more. The students can book mark various portions and also right notes in the margins,” he elaborated.

The technology, which can transcribe English and Hindi texts, cannot read images and handwritten text.

“We have got a software from Germany which can transcribe Hindi books. While the accuracy level for English text is 99 per cent, for Hindi books it is around 90 per cent but it will serve the purpose to a large extent,” Aneja said.

Besides this, the project also includes a software called ‘braille space’ in which the students can record their assignments and convert them into written text.

Another feature, is a software called NVDA which will help the students in reading newspapers and browsing Internet.

“This will minimise the need for a scribe for these students and if successful, we might try implementing it during examinations as well,” he added.

The technology, whose installation is estimated to cost around Rs 50,000 per college, is being implemented in 65 libraries of DU’s colleges, institutes and departments.

“The cost of the technology is high but since we have procured it in bulk and packaged as per our needs, we have got a fair deal. The project will be a valuable addition to varsity’s infrastructure,” Aneja said.

“The installation process is going on in the libraries and by end of this month, the technology is expected to be operational in all of the libraries,” he added.

The DU Equal Opportunity Cell was established in 2006 to address the needs and issues related to disabled, SC/ST, OBC and minority students.

DU allows for a 5 per cent relaxation in eligibility criteria with respect to students with disabilities.

A braille library and an Audio Book Resource Centre are among the facilities introduced by the university for its students with vision disabilities.

Source: Times of India

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