This article has been sponsored by MG Motor India.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 estimated that there are at least 63 million people in India who live with significant hearing loss. While the numbers of this demographic in the population is significant, there still exists a massive gap between deaf people and education. Beginning from the formative years, this gap is seen well into adulthood.
Bleetech Innovations, a Pune-based start-up, is attempting to bridge this gap using two technological interventions. The first is BleeTV, a free android app and web portal that hosts a vast pool of content in Indian Sign Language (ISL), and the second is BleeTV Library—a similar platform that curates content for children.
Bleetech was started in 2015 by Janhavi Joshi and Nupur Kirloskar, while they were still studying product design at MIT, Pune. “We worked on a project where we designed a smartwatch, that would help the deaf community ‘listen’ to music through vibrations,” says Janhavi.
However, over the course of their interaction with the members of the community, they understood the hurdles people with hearing impairment face in the process of gaining an education. “Apart from a few exceptions, all schools for the deaf in India focus on oralism, using speech therapy and lip-reading for communication,” she adds. This, she says, hinders their learning process.
“They end up relying heavily on textbooks designed for their peers, who do not have hearing issues, which in turn leaves them struggling to understand and reproduce the texts. As a result, most of them have underdeveloped linguistic skills,” she says.
The content on BleeTV are videos with topics ranging from news, financial literacy, current affairs, moral stories, English language, science and technology, and self-help, among others. The platform has reached over 12,000 deaf people, including 1,200 children, and has trained over 100 teachers.
The Better India and MG Motor India have come together to co-create MGChangemakers Season 3, a series recognising and commemorating heroes who are using innovation for social change, like Janhavi.