India and China form to of the largest block of Blind people in the world. This is followed by Africa. What is alarming to us is the plight of Blind people in these regions with very low level of infrastructure support for the Government. Even the community culture to support the Blind People leaves a lot to be desired. Public Transportation services for Blind is almost non-existent and for a Blind person to catch a public transportation in some of the large and highly populated cities is a nightmare.
More importantly, the plans by the government to make this population self sufficient is below the world standards.
A simple example is the availability of Books for Blind (The actual reason behind this project being taken up by Kind Karma Foundation & later WE IMPACT) in Schools and Universities. In India University courses are revised almost every two years. Which means that the Course Curriculum books change that frequently.
Our estimates are that at least 1.7 Million Blinds in India still go to school or college. There are only 19 Braille printers in the entire of India. Each copy of the books take about 30 minutes to print by a braille printer. It takes a Blind Student going to any University a wait time of 6 months before the first copy of the Braille Book is available in the University library. Most of the Blind kids take about 2 years to complete a Year’s curriculum. This also means they keep slipping on the age to make themselves self sustainable.
The use of Audio Books has changed all this. The 6 months delay in books being available, has been cut short drastically and there is light visible at the end of the tunnel.
While we will highlight several hurdles for this project on this page, the biggest one for us at this point of time is:
A. Multi-language volunteers availability. Unlike North America and to quite an extent every other country in the world, India is a land of many languages. This multiplies our issue in two folds:
State Universities release a good part of their Books in curriculum in Regional languages and not English. This means we need Partners on the ground to scan these University and School books locally to be sent across to our Central Repository and then have Volunteers with understanding of the Language to handle these Books better
Similarly, we need volunteers who can read these books and record in regional languages so as to benefit the Blind Students in those respective states
B. Availability of Smart Custom Devices capable enough to store the Audio Books and be heard by the Blind Kids. Some innovation of combining few of their critical day to day needs (such as Audio Navigation Compass) with these devices will be of big help to them.
C. Motivating, inspiring and sustaining Ground Teams in these countries need support from funds of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and big hearted donors like you. It is not easy to motivate youth to go out of their way to help out. Your support will go a long way.
LEARNING FROM FAILURES OF THE PAST
The plight of the Blind Kids in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka didn’t go unnoticed by several NGOs. Loads of braille books were shipped across to Local libraries to help bridge the gap. 19 Braille printers in India was far too less to sustain such a large population. Many NGOs made efforts to ship braille books printed outside India to help bridge the gap. That’s when they realized that the ground story of book acceptance was different.
The plight of the Blind Kids in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka didn’t go unnoticed by several NGOs. Loads of braille books were shipped across to Local libraries to help bridge the gap. 19 Braille printers in India was too less to sustain such a large population and hence everyone who could – made an effort. That’s when they realized that the ground story was different.
International Braille books for India and other SAARC countries fell short of local blind population expectations. Almost all braille books shipped across were in English. There were hardly any book available in any of the regional languages. The need was for a braille code guide to exist for local languages. It was not just about printing but also educating the Blind Students what each of those Braille codes stood for.
As a separate sub-initiative of this program, WE IMPACT Team is working on further streamlining this Local language to Braille conversion. It is also working with Ground Partners to help train blind kids in the local language Braille so that some of the critical curriculum which cannot be explained through Audio Books… such as Mathematics, can be supported through these customized braille print copies.