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Tactabet is proving to be a gem of a resource for blind & low vision kids

Tactabet, the tactile Braille alphabet book is spreading its wings. A few weeks ago, it was made available to students of the Rashtriya Virja Andh Kanya Vidyalaya, a school for visually impaired girls in New Delhi.

Launched in 2016 by White Print, a lifestyle magazine in Braille, these alphabet books enable integrated and fun learning for kids who are visually impaired as well as kids with low vision.

What I learnt from talking to people through my journey with White Print was that there were huge gaps that needed to be filled when it comes to Braille literacy and awareness. I realised it was important to begin from the foundation. There is very little that is available in India, so I had the freedom to explore, learn, create and share. - Upasana Makati, Founder-Publisher, White Print

For Neha Talesara, who illustrated Tactabet, this was a new domain and hence quite a challenge to begin with. Talesara, an alumnus of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, did extensive research to make it useful to children between the ages of three to 10 years.

The design used in Tactabet reaches out to children who may be facing issues like tunnel vision, which reduces the amount of visible elements on the screen, blurred vision, which makes the text fuzzy and hard to read as, well as colour blindness, where the number of colours a user can see is affected. This makes the elements appear to be similar.

"These variations in perceptions helped me take better design decisions regarding the placement of key elements, font size and the colours", says Talesara. "I used high contrast colours to enable easy reading for users with low vision. Green, brown and red could be seen as similar by colour blind kids, so I kept this in mind while using different colours in the illustrations."

Talesara also ensured that the main tactile picture for each alphabet was centrally located so it does not get missed by kids with tunnel vision.

Tactabet is being used by many organizations like the National Association for the Blind (NAB) in Mumbai, Odisha Blind Association, Anjali School for the Blind in Hyderabad and Netraheen Vikas Sansthan in Jodhput, to name a few.

"What we have learnt from the NAB is that teachers would use a threat to teach visually impaired kids shapes", says Makati. "Tactabet is able to replace that age old method. We don't expect the child to 'guess' the shape by touching it. It's more about getting the feel of the shape of an apple when A for Apple is taught to the child".

The illustrations have been kept really simple so the child can feel it with the fingers and get a clear idea about the shape.

The feedback from parents shows that this approach is working. Like this mother from Hyderabad, whose visually impaired daughter studies in a mainstream international preschool testifies.

"In other countries, preschool-level Braille resources like these are easy to come by, but here in India, good quality resources like this are rare. I am excited to see this coming out of India and look forward to a day when blind pre-schoolers are fully supported in integrated classrooms!"

For Makati, these testimonials are a hopeful sign of greater inclusion in the days to come. "We wish to see a Braille section in every bookstore. That would be wonderful for the kind of inclusion we are aiming at."

ALSO READ: Independent learning in Braille now happening in Ranchi, thanks to Annie!

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