India’s over 28 million visually impaired people now have the option to study and understand the Indian geographical contours in detail, without having to rely only on literature. Visually challenged students are about to get a Braille map. This map has been created using modern technology called ‘digital embossing’ technology. As a result, students in this class will have easy access to maps that will be user friendly, with a better feeling and durable in terms of quality.
‘Digital embossing’ is a technology that eliminates the need for printing plates, moulds, chemicals, and solvents, emitting no pollutants or waste. This technology is very effective in terms of energy-saving as well. For the first time in the country, the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO) under the Central Department of Science and Technology has developed a user-friendly map for visually impaired students using such technology.
Using embossing technology, this map is not only extremely user-friendly for the visually impaired, but can be mass-produced at a low cost as well. Earlier, the maps that have been created lost their readiness to print in a short period of time.
“It has been experienced that the maps produced with earlier technology have lost their readability and feeling experience within a very short span of time. Feedback from experts and students of the Braille community has encouraged and motivated us to prepare the low-cost state-of-art product in terms of reduction of volume of the atlas, enhancement of the readability features, ease of carrying the maps and atlas etc.,” NATMO said.
Braille Atlas of India were distributed in 323 schools of India as a proof of concept (PoC). The unique Braille Solution Unit will be launched soon with the expectation to fulfil the demands of the larger community at the pan-India level.
In addition, NATMO has organized Braille workshops and quiz competitions for visually impaired students, teachers and trainers. From 2016 to 2019, more than 1,400 students from 96 schools in 22 states and union territories participated in these workshops and quiz competitions. The company is also using artificial intelligence-based technology to finalize Braille maps. As a result, visually impaired students benefit from mapping through technology. It is hoped that this Braille technology for the visually impaired will be able to meet the needs of more students and other stakeholders across the country.
The journey of NATMO started in 1996. Gradually, the institution became popular with low-sighted students and experts. In 2016, the company also published the Indian version of Braille Atlas in English. This version is highly appreciated on all levels. The company has developed a ‘Manual Embossing Method’ in a completely indigenous manner. For publishing the Indian version of the Braille Atlas in English in 2017, PM Narendra Modi presented the National Award to the NATMO in recognition of the tremendous achievements of science and technology, especially for gifted students and individuals.