Accessibility has the potential to bridge the gap between the abled and the disabled citizens of our country. Inclusive and conducive environments can be created for persons with disabilities by simply tweaking the planning approach, keeping access for all in mind, while creating shared spaces.
In today’s day and age of technological advancements, there are various tools and resources available in order to make spaces accessible to persons with disabilities.
While access plays a big role in creating a level playing field for the disabled, providing equal opportunities in terms of education and employment are also critically essential in empowering the disabled population of India.
When it comes to admitting persons with blindness and visual impairments into educational institutions, the government has reserved a percentage of seats for the disabled candidates. But mere admission into an educational institution doesn’t ensure their independence and self reliance. The entire educational experience including their interactions with peers, teachers and the environment depending on the ease of mobility within the college or campus, is what makes it inclusive or not.
Among some of the colleges quick to realise the need to make disabled students independent, Miranda House in Delhi University has gone the extra mile in ‘enabling’ their visually impaired students to independently navigate through the campus.
With colleges beginning their new academic session soon, visually impaired first year entrants to Miranda House will have the benefit of navigating easily in an unfamiliar territory.
Their enabling unit, Lakshita took the initiative of making the campus disabled friendly by installing digital talking signages in important locations often frequented by students.
Blind and visually impaired students of the college can maneuver easily and independently using an app on their smartphones that scans QR codes placed strategically in various locations. The student simply has to download the app on her phone, scan the QR code and the app sends out a verbal message with location details. An audio directional message spells out clearly for the blind student her current location and the way around it.
The college also conducts proper training and orientation for new visually impaired students to efficiently use the app and the QR codes. As a result, blind freshers can effortlessly make their way around campus relying on their smartphones. Third year student, Gulshan Naz who has low vision explains how several visually impaired students take the help of the newly installed QR code acrylic sheets to not only find their way inside the campus but also to locate shortcuts for heading out of the college. She adds, “Right now these talking signages are limited to the college campus but we hope similar solutions can be placed in other spaces visited by students, like the Delhi Metro.”
Several other colleges of Delhi University have their independent enabling units and the University itself has an Equal Opportunity Cell that provides support to students with disabilities. Initiatives like these can be replicated by these units across the DU campus, making the entire University accessible to the blind students.
In fact under the present government’s flagship campaigns, Digital India and Accessible India, such initiatives can gather steam and find a larger implementation plan with the necessary customisations in other public spaces as well.
With increased internet penetration and a surge in number of smart phone users, technological solutions can be developed to make persons with visual impairment a cohesive part of the mainstream.
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Audio inputs provide an alternate accessible solution to problems faced by blind and visually impaired people in an otherwise extremely visual world. Talking signages are just one such example of how technology can be explored to enhance the quality of lives for persons with blindness.
Similar solutions can perhaps be more viable and effective than the traditional Braille signages, especially in busy public places like railway stations, airports, shopping malls, etc. Private institutions as well as the government itself can make inclusion a reality by adopting assistive technology solutions with an approach towards making things/spaces accessible for all.
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