5 organisations making STEM accessible to blind students
Students who are blind and low vision often lose out on the opportunity to study STEM in classrooms. The result is they don’t pursue these subjects as career options. Fortunately, there are some organisations and initiatives in India that are out to change this in inspirational and motivational ways.
I-Stem or Inclusive Stem, formed in 2017, is out to make math and science education more accessible to blind and low vision students. The core I-Stem team is of students, alumni working in the tech industry, and professionals in the disability space. I-Stem works with top educational institutions like Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K), Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), Ashoka University, and Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. The target group ranges from blind kids to adults. I-Stem is also open to training college teachers. The eventual aim is to expand this outreach to people of all disabilities.
Sensitisation has been problematic in India and while the progress in technology is better, it is still very okay. People just discourage you so much that visually impaired people don’t even try. This is what I-Stem is trying to solve”, says I-Stem Co-founder Karthik Sawhney.
Increasing learning opportunities in science for blind
This Bengaluru-based start-up uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to make STEM accessible to blind students. The goal is to ensure complete accessibility of images, text or web. Continual Engine (CE) is working with top universities in the United States. “We understand the challenges associated with remediating textbooks for the needs of visually impaired students. This becomes even more daunting when dealing with content having STEM images, equations, diagrams and business accounting tables”, says team member K Sriram.
Vision Empower (VE) is an NGO that empowers blind children through inclusive education. VE creates STEM content for students in the form of Braille books, audio books, and tactile diagrams. This is for students at all grades. Its flagship experiential STEM learning programme Anubhav aims to develop a scientific temperament.
The focus at Anubhav workshops is to find fun ways to learn, says O Aishwarya, an Educational Co-ordinator. “Science concepts taught through experiential learning included magnets, density, friction, etc. The children drive cars through paths made of different textures to experience friction, test out what floats and what sinks to be introduced to the concept of density, and act out skits to learn about the water cycle”.
Making science engaging & fun for blind students
Raised Lines Foundation
This Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi initiative uses 3D printing to produce tactile diagrams that are affordable. Their aim is to open learning opportunities to 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), and sponsored by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. Substantial research by the RLF team went into developing a technology that was affordable and scalable for bulk production of tactile diagrams.
Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged
Launched in 2003 the Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) is a part of the prestigious Xavier’s College in Mumbai. The XRCVC takes initiatives to compensate for the lack of training among teachers and educators through training courses aimed at building skilled human resources in the area of STEM education for blind students. It holds regular workshops at mainstream schools for teachers, management, parents and students to create an inclusive mindset.