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BleeTV offers accessible, stimulating content, on demand, in Indian sign language

In our weekly series #TechThursdays, we feature BleeTV, an app that gives deaf and hard of hearing users access to content in Indian Sign Language (ISL).

It was while she was watching a show by deaf dancers in 2014 that the trigger for BleeTV came to Janhavi Joshi. As a classical dancer and designer, Joshi wanted to develop a device that would enable deaf people to dance without having to depend on someone to give them visual cues and counts.

Joshi teamed up with close friend and fellow designer Nupura Kirloskar to develop a wearable band that would help deaf people understand music and experience rhythm through vibrations as a college project.

That journey eventually led to BleeTV, an app that gives users access to content that they understand fully in Indian Sign Language (ISL). It claims to be the only digital platform where the deaf community can access information, education, and entertainment, and offers content ranging from English learning, financial literacy, entertainment, general knowledge and much more.

When we did our research among the deaf community, we found that their senses of touch and vision are very advanced. They would touch the floors and the walls to feel the vibrations. That gave us the answer, to use the sense of touch. After many prototypes we came up with the wearable band to help dancers feel vibrations. We realized that we could use this in many different concepts and we expanded it to cater to the entire deaf community. - Janhavi Joshi, Co-founder, BleeTech Innovations

This was followed by BleeWatch for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The watch can record sounds like a doorbell, fire alarm, or a pressure cooker whistle into a connected app. This is notified to the wearer through a set of specific vibration patterns and colours. The watch can also send a help signal to five emergency numbers.

The second product BleeTV, says Joshi, started from a need-driven approach, "when we saw the problems faced by our deaf team members".

BleeTV was launched as an app in July 2018 and as of January 2019, had over 8,000 downloads, with users from across India.

One of them is Vinay Pathak, a teacher in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, who uses it for lessons in vocabulary and English language. "The videos are done in an accessible way and are a great way to learn. Earlier, we would have to travel to far distances to access training centres. Thanks to BleeTV, we get useful information that is of benefit to the deaf community".

Gattu Anil Kumar, a student in Hyderabad, Telangana says he has become more confident since he started using BleeTV.

"They have answers for questions in any topic and I have improved my knowledge levels a lot. I have been watching it for a year now and I feel more informed about many topics. It has made me confident and outgoing".

Going ahead, BleeTV plans to build more partnerships. It currently relies on inhouse productions but plans to work with other content creators. "As a brand, we have always believed in building communities around our product and that's what led us to connect with our users on a personal level", says Joshi. "We are coming up with an initiative of community-based physical events to boost up the user engagement and brand loyalty".

Read the other stories in our #TechThursdays series:

Enable Makeathon brings together key players to power innovative assistive tech solutions

Handicare enables people with lower limb disability to move around in a safe, hygienic manner

Updated version of Avaz app has plenty to offer, enables access to wider audience

Learning becomes richer, deeper for children with vision impairments with Tactopus

Tobii Dynavox eye tracker is opening new world to little Ganga & others like her

TouchVision brings pictures alive for people with visual disabilities

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