Accessibility September 17, 2019
Gujarat professor develops model to convert languages to Braille
As part of her thesis project, Dr Nikisha Jariwala, a professor at a Surat college for women has developed a model for blind and low students that converts Hindi, English, and Gujarati text to Braille. The model is being used by students at a local school for blind and low vision students.
A labour of love for over four years for Dr Nikisha Jariwala has finally borne fruit. This professor at the Smt.Tanuben and Dr Manubhai Trivedi College of Information Science in Surat learned Braille to develop a model that can convert Hindi, English, and Gujarat text into Braille.
Dr Jariwala started working on the model four years ago as part of her thesis project called “Design and Development of the model to transliterate digitalised multilingual text into braille and speech – An aid for visually impaired people”.
I wanted to do something that would be socially relevant and that led me to choose this as a topic of research for my thesis. It took me four-and-a-half years of working day and night to develop this to my satisfaction. With this model, people who are blind and low vision can communicate easily with everyone and study like everyone else on an equal footing. – Professor Nikisha Jariwala, Developer
Dr Jariwala, who became a professor in 2009, went to great lengths to get it right. A substantial amount of her time was spent in understanding and learning Braille for starters and for this she relied on the Ambabehen Maganlal Andhjan Shala, a school for blind and low vision students in Surat. “The model”, she says, “has four parts”.
Making of the Model
The first part of the model translates multilingual text into Braille. The second part converts mathematical text like equations, etc into Braille. The third part converts drawings and the fourth converts text to speech.
The aim is to enable students to pursue subjects like geometry and math that tend to be inaccessible. “Currently students at a local school are using it to transliterate many news articles and storing them in the library. This means they are up to date with the news”.
Dr Jariwala’s university received a funding of ₹ 2 lakh from the Gujarat Council on Science and Technology (GUJCOST) for the project. “The model I have developed needs specific software and Braille paper which is thicker as the characters need to be embossed”, says Dr Jariwala.
Students using the model say it is helpful. “Now we don’t have to ask our teachers to read out the newspaper headlines to us”, said a Class 8 student of the Ambabehen Maganlal Andhjan Shala. “With the model, we can read it ourselves”. School Principal Manisha Gajjar says that thanks to the model, students are able to keep track of current affairs. “The model converts everything relevant to their lessons into Braille, even drawings, and there’s and text to speech. We see what is useful on the Internet in the news section and print it out in Braille and students read it in the library”.
Based on their feedback, Dr Jariwala says she will fine tune the model. Regarding availability in the market, she says she will take a call after some time.
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