Saksham organised a two-day Tek Fiesta on the 14th and 15th of August to inaugurate our newest resource center in Shimla. We set up an experience zone containing many of our assistive technology solutions, intended as a one-stop spot for persons with visual impairments and/or their allies to try their hand at all the available assistive tech in order to make an informed choice about the products that will best suit their needs. Another landmark event of the Tek Fiesta was the lightning training component, conducted by trainers from Saksham Delhi, focusing on the use of three devices: laptops, DAISY players, and Android phones. The training sessions (conducted like accelerated crash courses) were jam-packed with useful information about the various functions of the three devices already mentioned. Twenty persons among the attendees (chosen by lucky draw) who had registered for the subsidy scheme received a laptop, DAISY player, or an Android phone, based on their indicated preference. An additional lucky draw was organised, wherein lucky winners also received a talking pulse oximeter for free.
We at Saksham are delighted to have inaugurated the beginning of many fruitful relationships with persons with visual impairment and their allies in Himachal Pradesh through the Saksham Tek Fiesta, and to have celebrated together the possibilities of technology in limiting limitations and enabling independent living for people with visual impairments.
We have wonderful news for you! It gives us great pleasure to share that we recently inaugurated the Saksham Resource Center in Jalandhar, Punjab. We would like to make a special mention of Dr. Vinod Pal, who is associated with Niti Aayog. He has been one of our strongest pillars of support in the process of getting the Saksham Jalandhar Resource Center up and running. Ms. Seema Chopra graciously presided over the inauguration ceremony as a special guest. She has had a long history of engagement with social work in the disability sector in Punjab.
The center has been established with the aim to provide both academic and non-academic support to young children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities. Students are provided pre-integration training to help them gain skills such as orientation and mobility, reading-writing and computer and assistive technology skills, that ensure their smooth integration in mainstream schools right from the start.
Training can last from 6 months to about a year, depending on the students’ current skill level, and grade level at school. We have provisions to train a small cohort of students. All students are given individual attention corresponding to their individual needs and skill level. Folks with school-aged children who are visually impaired or multiply disabled, who live in or near Jalandhar are welcome to contact the Saksham Jalandhar Resource Center for further information or guidance.
9 laptops were distributed with the support of Access Braille to the students during an event organized at YSE on 15th July 2022. Before handing over the laptops to the students, they were configured and loaded with all requisite softwares that can aid the students in reading, writing, and performing other such day-to-day tasks. Ms. Sadhna Arya the founder of Young Scholars Book Bank thanked Saksham for supporting the students with visual impairments who are enrolled at the centre. The beneficiaries would be provided training by YSE.
Saksham organised a training webinar on Word Document Accessibility on the 13th of July, 2022. Intended as an effort to bring organisations working for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)up to date with contemporary document accessibility practices, the session was well-attended by Saksham staff and additionally by representatives from other organisations like Arushi in Bhopal. As is widely known, text is the most versatile and malleable format of communication in terms of accessibility, so too are word documents one of the most versatile and flexible starting points in the creation of accessible books. This is because word documents offer the capabilities of conversion into a wide variety of other formats, alongside the advantages of retaining, through the process of the conversion, all or most of the formatting and styling performed on the contents of the document.
With this baseline established, Mr. Arif from Saksham, who was the primary instructor for this session picked up the threads from the point after the OCR results of the book had been brought to a word document and proofread. The session lead the attendees through the processes of formatting and adding alt text to pictures in the eBook, formatting tables to reflect column and row headers appropriately, inserting footnotes, structuring the document by systematically marking up the content with a hierarchy of headings to correspond to the content of the book, and finally converting the properly formatted eBook into the desired format (epub, in this particular demonstration).
Ms. Sreeja of Saksham quite pithily encapsulated the essence of the session by explaining how using native styling strategies in Microsoft Word would always yield better accessibility results as compared to manually styling the content. In other words, applying the native heading style, for instance, would make the content recognisable as a heading to a screen reader in ways that applying manual font styles wouldn’t. The attendees took active interest in the processes demonstrated, and asked questions to seek clarification on the topics as they were being covered. With a few final questions about screen reader usage in conjunction with the accessibility best practices that were shared, the session concluded with the instructor expressing openness to discuss any part of the content individually with any of the attendees, if the latter so wished.
Saksham organised the “Voice of Saksham” singing competition for young visually impaired people of three states: Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, to bring out their musical talents. A whopping 44 participants came in from the three states, and the five highly qualified judges reportedly found the competition an absolute nail-biter. After much deliberation, three top position holders were picked out from each state, and were set to receive a laptop, a tablet, and a DAISY player respectively. The finale of the competition was held on June 27th, 2022, to commemorate the 142nd birthday of Helen Keller, who remains a cultural touchstone for the disability community even now.
The event was widely publicised, and received significant participation both on Zoom and YouTube live stream. After the opening remarks, the five judges were invited to share their impressions of the competition. They unanimously expressed the opinion that picking out winners among the many fabulous performances had been a tall order indeed, and that they had done their very best to do justice to that task. Judges also commented favourably on the quality of the recordings, on the students’ grasp of rhythm and melody, and the versatility of genres in the submissions received. Overall, they shared that they found the performances an absolute treat to the eyes and the ears.
This was followed by the announcement of results. The submitted video clips of all nine winners were also played during the result announcement, which lent an air of festivity to the event. Some participants had karaoke accompaniment, others had instrumental accompaniment, and still others preferred to go completely solo. The chief guest’s address proceeded the playback of the performances, wherein Dr. Meenu Chopra expressed her delight and happiness at being invited to the event. Mr. Kuldeep from Saksham then spoke about the emerging Saksham Shimla project, and acknowledged the pivotal role that Mr. Ajai Shrivastava had played in facilitating the education of visually impaired people in Himachal Pradesh. Mr. Shrivastava then took over, outlining his work in the accessible library project and his involvement in the process of making elections in Himachal Pradesh accessible. His experiences with doing disability advocacy situates him as a firm ally to the disability community, and he affirmed as much, when he offered to help with advocacy in the regions of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Mr. Dipendra Manocha, Founder-trustee of Saksham, then addressed the gathering. Mr. Manocha views blindness as solely a medical condition, and he attributes the disabling nature of blindness to existing discriminatory social factors, as also affirmed by the social model of disability. He believes in limiting limitations, independent reading-writing, and in using assistive technology to find independent living solutions for blind people. He encouraged the people listening to reach out to the Saksham helpline for any blindness-related assistance. Contact details of the same can be found at www.saksham.org.
The event was sponsored by Canara Bank, with whose generous support Saksham could award laptops, tablets, and DAISY Players as first, second and third prizes to the 3 winners from each participating state, to encourage digital empowerment of students. Deepak Kumar (Haryana), Radhika Ahuja (Punjab), and Ravi (Himachal Pradesh) won the first prize. Saima (Haryana), Ranjan (Punjab), and Kuldeep Kondal (Himachal Pradesh) bagged the second prize. Shadma (Haryana), Veer Singh (Punjab), and Srishti Chauhan (Himachal Pradesh) secured the third position. Our heartiest congratulations to all the winners, and three cheers to all the participants who made the event such a success!
Saksham is organising the “Voice of Saksham” singing competition for young visually impaired people to encourage and highlight their musical talents. The competition also aims to make inroads in their digital empowerment, by means of awarding the winners assistive technology devices. The devices that will be given away as prizes to the winners have been generously sponsored by Canara Bank
The finale of the competition will be held on June 27th, 2022, to commemorate the 142nd birthday of Helen Keller, who remains a cultural touchstone for the disability community even now. We cordially invite you to join and celebrate the happy occasion with us on the day of the event from 3:30 to 5:00pm.
We are honoured to be hosting some eminent personalities with very versatile musical backgrounds as judges for the event. Some are professors of music, others are on-air performers, and still others hold prestigious qualifications in music. All of them bring their unique expertise to the event, and we are fortunate to have them with us. We at Saksham would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and thanks to Canara Bank and the dignitaries thereof. This event would not have been conceive without their support.
You are very welcome to watch the event live at 3:30pm on Monday, June 27th, 2022. Please click on the below link to access the YouTube live stream: https://youtu.be/9cMWvea6TTE We’re ever so excited for the finale, and hope that you are too! We look forward to having you with us on Monday.
On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Saksham launched its survey, ‘Status and opportunities for promoting use of Assistive technologies and content for persons with disabilities in India’, as part of its research project with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.
The research project aims to understand how and what tools, technologies and content persons with disabilities in India use and how these factors can help them in education, employment and independent living.
It also aims to understand how participants use technology and content to better their lives, and what needs to be done by Schools, training institutes, employers, or others to better serve their needs.
We invite all persons with visual disabilities, especially those in school, college, and employment, to fill the survey. The published link to the survey is attached below and will be available for the next 3 months. Please feel free to share in your network and spread the word! https://forms.gle/hdD5XCH6bw4msbzn8
Saksham Trust (and its subsidiary Saktek Foundation) became one of the final champions of the prestigious World Summit on the Information Society Prizes (WSIS) 2021 in the cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content category. Held virtually this year, the event took place on 19 May 2021 and was presided by Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Saksham’s project was earlier among the 360 nominated projects from out of 1,270 submitted projects worldwide. The contest was developed as a mechanism to evaluate projects and activities that leverage the power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to advance sustainable development.
Coordinated by the ITU, WSIS works closely with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to showcase successful projects from all over the world that implement the WSIS and sustainability values. This year’s WSIS Forum 2021, which represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community, was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD.
Saksham was recognised for its contribution on Sugamaya Pustakalaya, India’s largest online repository of accessible books for persons with print disabilities and Saktek.in, an online store making available special products for persons with blindness, especially those which are not available in general market. Some of the tools offered through Saktek.in include talking oximeter, talking thermometer, talking BP monitor, talking weighing scale, etc.
In addition, the organisation was also acknowledged for providing digital-literacy solutions with training and content to over 350 students. Read more about its work here:
Speaking on the recognition, Mr Dipendra Manocha, Co-Founder and Managing Trustee of Saksham along with Ms Rummi K Seth shared, “We are extremely honoured to be recognised as champions by WSIS. The whole team of Saksham and our partner organisations are extremely delighted and we are very humbled to receive this recognition”.
A White Paper titled ‘Priorities for a COVID-19 World: ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in India’ was released by the Broadband India Forum (BIF) -‘ A Think-Tank for Digital Transformation’, during a special session of The Digital Dialogue on Monday, 10th August 2020.
The paper recognizes that although there are Acts, policies, and guidelines like the Guidelines for Government Websites (GIGW) 2009, the RPwD Act 2016, the Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction’ (DiDRR) 2019, and apps which are a highly commendable start towards digital inclusion, however, during the present pandemic, compliance with these acts and regulations vary from state to state, and persons with disabilities remain inconvenienced.
The White Paper delves on the critical policy interventions required for ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities, especially focusing on immediate needs arising due to Covid 19. The paper is essentially divided into 4 sections, the first introducing different groups of the population who will be benefited by accessible ICTs. The second chapter describes India’s international, regional and national commitments viz ICT accessibility and also highlights The Un roadmap for digital co-operation recently released in June 2020 which specifically talks of digital inclusion. The paper looks at India’s DARE Index score and notes that while India is high on its commitments, as is the case with most other countries globally, it falls short on capacity to implement and actual implementation. Chapter 3 identifies policy developments in various areas of ICT and flags certain areas requiring attention of different ministries, such as accessibility of television, web sites and apps, inclusion of persons with disabilities within the ambit of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, inclusion of accessibility requirements as part of generic criteria for testing and certification of telecom products, expediting the on-going process to adopt and notify an accessible ICT procurement standard for public procurement in India, expediting the mandate to ‘connect India’ and of ‘digital inclusion’ under the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) and to bring out a gazetted notification confirming that India’s copyright law allows for import and export of accessible books so that persons with print disabilities have access to over 650,000 accessible books available in International libraries. Chapter 4 summarises these recommendations prioritising the accessibility of technologies used for providing Covid related information. The paper also recommends implementation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s TRAI recommendations to the Government, starting with setting up the inter-ministerial committee on ICT accessibility at the earliest.
The key recommendations of the paper summarised in Chapter 4 are as follows:
Integration and implementation of the DiDRR Guidelines within the Covid-19 response system
Set up inter-ministerial steering committee to recommend and help implement accessibility measures within the Government and other stakeholders as recommended by TRAI
Time-bound action plan to drive compliance with GIGW guidelines
Identification and prioritisation of the key government and private websites and apps used to monitor and provide Covid-19 related relief and assistance and make them GIGW compliant
Engage Service providers and institutions involved in education, entertainment, shopping and healthcare to create accessible ICT infrastructure and offerings
Develop a timeline with action plan for GIGW 2.0 compatibility, with a longer-term initiative to monitor compliance of all government websites and apps
Adoption and notification of Telecom accessibility standards by TEC and inclusion in certification criteria for telecom devices and products manufactured/ procured/ sold in India
Expedite the adoption and notification of accessible ICT procurement standard by MeitY
Inclusion of ICT Accessibility in the Universal Service Charter:
Universal Service charter be expanded to include persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups as beneficiaries, both in rural as well as urban areas
The assistance provided by the USOF may include assistive technologies, devices, content, skilling, and services required to make complete digital inclusion and empowerment of these groups possible
Promote adoption of Assistive Technologies and accessibility to drive greater broadband adoption amongst persons with disabilities and promote digital inclusion in line with the NDCP’s objectives [NDCP, 2018; Clause 1.4a(ii)]
Ensure accessibility of all Covid-related information being broadcast through media as per accessibility standards notified by MIB
Remove copyright barriers to accessible digital content through issuance of a gazetted notification that confirms permissibility of import and export of accessible-format books
The paper goes on to note that executing these actions on priority will provide some much-needed relief for persons with disabilities, and offer a significant boost to the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ missions – resulting in increased GDP and socio-economic growth all around. India will be well on her way to achieving ‘Universal Connectivity for all’ – a central goal of the United Nations Secretary-General’s ‘Roadmap for Digital Cooperation’ 2020.
The paper was authored by Dr Nirmita Narasimhan, programme Director – Saksham and Chair of BIF’s high level specialist committee on inclusion of persons with disabilities and co-authored by Ms Chandana Balasubramaniam, Principal Consultant, Research & Content, advisory@TVR.
The paper was jointly released over a virtual session by Dr. Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, ITU; Shri J S Deepak, Former Ambassador to WTO & Former Secretary – Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communications; Shri K Ramchand, Member (T), DoT; Shri H K Mahajan, DDG (SR & E), DoT and Shri Vinay Thakur, Chief Operating Officer, National eGovernance Division, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
Saksham in collaboration with HCL Foundation had started its project Experience zone- Affordable Assistive Technology for Persons with Print Disabilities in 2019. The objectives of this project are to sensitise the parents, educators and stakeholders about the available solutions, and to enable them to try out and identify most appropriate solutions for their specific requirements. The series of articles in coming weeks will focus on some innovative and interesting assistive solutions and their availability for persons with visual impairment on http://www.saksham.blog.
In India, millions of visually impaired individuals lack equal education and employment opportunities due to the inability to access printed, handwritten, and digital content on their own and it is because of this that 80% of the employable visually impaired are unemployed today.
Kibo XS- a product by Trestle Labs is the world’s first intelligent personalized scanning and reading device that reads printed and handwritten content across 12 Indian and multiple overseas languages via audio (through screen readers) with its quick and reliable technology. It leverages the power of artificial intelligence to enhance the accessibility of content in the lives of people with vision impairment and other print disabilities.
The Kibo XS device connects seamlessly with any Computer/ Laptop/ PC and even Phone via Kibo Web and Kibo XS mobile app respectively and offers the following salient features:
Compatible with existing screen-readers (PC/Laptops) and Talkback (Smartphones)
Listen to Printed/Handwritten text across 60+ languages including 12 Indian languages (English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Urdu) in real-time through audio
Download the scanned documents in Unicode formats – Doc, Docx, TXT, PDF, ZIP and even as images
Ability to Translate text across 100+ languages in real-time
Easy-access: Designed with human-centric design and accessibility guidelines, Kibo offers ease-of-use for everyone
Reading features like Play/Pause, Navigation, Speech-rate and Text-to-speech selection
Save the documents on Kibo Web Cloud for multi-device access anytime
Kibo XS can be used by Individuals, Inclusive Schools, Academic Institutions, NGOs, Workplaces and Public Libraries. The mere 400 gram, table lamp shaped device is the most affordable solution available at subsidized prices.
Mr Salunkhe from National Association for the Blind-Maharashtra tells ”With the affordable price of Kibo-XS, we can now have 4 such devices in one library rather than just one.”
Kibo XS device not only provides fast and accurate results but it also enables its users to read and learn independently thriving towards a world with equal reading and learning opportunities.
The device is now available at a subsidized cost for persons with visual impairment at Rs 19,949/- instead of 28,349/-