Raised Line Foundation is opening new doors of learning for blind students
4 January is celebrated as World Braille Day around the world. Through the month, we bring you stories of local companies that are developing technologies that are changing the way blind people in India read, learn and live. Today’s story is on Raised Lines Foundation.
Imagine learning about India’s borders, states and rivers without the help of a map? Or understanding basic science experiments without access to diagrams? These are real, daily barriers in learning that blind and low vision students face. Barriers that prevent them from pursuing many subjects and career choices.
Raised Lines Foundation (RLF) is helping to address these barriers through a technology that uses 3D printing to produce tactile diagrams. Their aim is to open doors to new subjects and learning opportunities to blind students.
New opportunities for blind students
RLF was incubated after four years of research at the Centre of Excellence in Tactile Graphics at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
We found out that there is no scalable and affordable means available for production of tactile diagrams in developing nations, hence diagrams were not available in the textbooks. Blind students are forced to leave subjects like mathematics, science, geography, in the higher secondary stage. Schools and institutions rely on manual-based interventions like threads, wires, and cotton for creating the diagrams . These are tedious and non-scalable. – Kunal Kwatra, Director, Raised Line Foundation
Substantial research by the RLF team went into developing a technology that was affordable and scalable for bulk production of tactile diagrams.
“Assume a diagram to be shared in a classroom of 50 odd students, which meant 50 copies of the diagrams need to be created using manual interventions, this was the problem statement that came into picture”, explains Kunal. The methods used in the United Kingdom and United States were expensive.
Affordable and easy to understand
The team develops diagrams based on guidelines so blind students can understand them easily. RLF has produced over 70,000 tactile diagrams and designs for students from classes six to 12. It has also designed and produced textbooks.
Pushpa Madhwal, a teacher at Saksham School for the Blind in Noida shared this feedback from a class 10 student. “The tactile books have helped a lot. These books were a medium to provide a clear visualisation of various complicated illustrations and were a helping hand throughout the year. However, at times, it was difficult to distinguish between different colour combinations which were indicated by various textures in the books”.
The team has not limited itself to school curriculum. Another manual designed by the foundation on menstrual hygiene has come in for much praise. It also gets orders for designing from art galleries, museums and training centres for blind people.