Self-teaching Marathi app ‘Swalekhan’ aims to empower visually impaired people across Maharashtra
‘Swalekhan’ is a Marathi app started in July this year. A venture of Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya, Swalekhan has been empowering thousands of visually impaired students from across Maharashtra. Founder Meera Badve and her daughter Uma hopes that they can spread out the venture to other vernacular languages.
Meera Badve started Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya (NAMV) 26 years ago to empower visually impaired people and integrate them with mainstream society. Mobile app Swalekhan, launched by NAMV in July this year, is a step in that direction. The app is in Marathi and aims to help visually impaired people complete their studies independently.
Most visually impaired children in India are forced to drop out of school after class 10. This is because schools lack the resources to teach them. NAMV has been working to integrate them with the mainstream society.
A visually challenged student will be good in studies. There is no need to treat them differently or sideline them because they are unable to see. These students are unable to prepare well for their exams because they have are looking out for scribes. We developed a Marathi typing tutorial app Swalekhan that can be downloaded. Swalekhan helps them focus on their studies and become independent. – Uma Badve, Co-founder, Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya
User friendly & fun app
While typing, visually impaired people are unable to see where the cursor is. The app has a talkback feature that enables them to read out the screen. After downloading Swalekhan, visually impaired students can connect the extended keyboard to the mobile to type. The app is user friendly. “Our main focus is on helping students study. In the future, we plan to improve the app so even clerical jobs can be done using Swalekhan”, says Uma.
Over 1,000 visually impaired children across Maharashtra preparing for the board exams next year with Swalekhan. There are fun games too. Even many sighted people are loving it.“Many schools have an exclusive Swalekhan period where they are taught on how to use the app. Kids refuse to leave that class because they thoroughly enjoy it and also because they have never got that kind of an independence before”, says Uma. Many schools even have a class dedicated to teaching kids how to use Swalekhan.
Monika Randive, who is preparing for the banking exams, says the app’s design makes it easy to understand. “It is also useful for people pursuing careers in journalism, law, banking, etc. It was hard for me to use a virtual keyboard and type in Marathi. Thanks to Swalekhan, I type faster and independently”.
For Avinash Shinde, the app has reduced the dependency on scribes. “I have faced many terrible situations when scribes did not turn up for my exams. I now write my exams without needing help”.
Swalekhan will soon be launched in Hindi and later other regional languages.