[AI] Tech finally at hand for India’s 60 mn disabled

Pranav Lal pranav.lal at gmail.com
Tue Feb 19 05:13:05 EST 2008


One small point, Dolphin systems is a UK based company.

On 2/19/08, vishnu ramchandani <vishnuhappy at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Tech finally at hand for India's 60 mn disabled
>
> Source: livemint.com
>
> It's early days but different organizations are
> developing and creating affordable products and
> solutions
>
> Regina Anthony
>
> New Delhi
>
> Priti Rohra, a 30-year-old Mumbai resident, is your
> regular working woman with a corporate job and travels
> by local trains to work. But her poor eyesight,
> at 40% of normal, means she has difficulties reading
> signs or negotiating potholes.
>
> At work, Rohra uses a screen reader on her computer
> that gives an audio playback to every click she makes
> on her keyboard. Her English screen reader, from
> Florida, US-based Freedom Scientific, costs Rs60,000 —
> clearly unaffordable for most Indians with acute
> vision problems.
>
> "In India, no firm or organization is anywhere near to
> making cost-effective solutions for us. Around 98% of
> the products and solutions such as websites
> available in India, are inaccessible. Each one of us
> (physically challenged) have brains and can learn any
> technology but make it usable and affordable,"
> she says.
>
> Rohra works as an accessibility tester and consultant
> at BarrierBreak Technologies, a unit of Mumbai's Net
> Systems Informatics (India) Pvt. Ltd, that provides
> software solutions to make computing accessible for
> people with disabilities.
>
> The 2001
> census
>  , the latest nationwide count of heads, estimates
> some 22 million physically challenged in India with
> nearly half of them suffering various forms of visual
> impairment. The 11th Plan, running to 2012, has
> budgeted for as much as 5-6% — equivalent to up to 60
> million people — with disabilities. Estimates are
> hard to come by, but people working closely with the
> physically challenged reckon half of this number is
> poor.
>
> It's early days but different organizations in the
> country are developing and creating products and
> solutions for the physically challenged.
>
> C-Dac, or Centre for Development of Advanced
> Computing, a research and development organization
> headed in Pune, is developing low-cost products for
> the
> physically challenged person with limited purchasing
> power. C-Dac has developed a digital programmable
> hearing aid that, with a two-year battery life and
> at Rs2,000, is just one-tenth the price of the
> cheapest digital hearing aid in the market today.
>
> "In India, a pessimistic estimate would be that 30
> million people have hearing disability and there is
> still a lot to be done. Private organizations are
> not doing much to address the bottom of the pyramid
> and good products are marred by a poor ecosystem,"
> said R. Ravindra Kumar, senior director at C-Dac's
> Thiruvananthapuram offices.
>
> Along with the hearing aid, C-Dac has also developed
> an application called Shruthi, that can be used by
> audiologists and doctors to customize the hearing
> devices to the particular hearing characteristics of
> each patient. "The government is distributing at least
> three-four lakh free analog hearing aids every
> year to below the poverty line people, but 90% of
> those are wasted because they are uncomfortable, are
> not customized and need a change of batteries every
> 7-10 days," Kumar added. An analog hearing aid costs
> under Rs500, but the quality is typically poor.
>
> Several prototypes of C-Dac's products have been
> fabricated, tested successfully and sent to
> organizations such as the Ali Yawar Jang National
> Institute
> of the Hearing Impaired in Mumbai. "Discussions are on
> with various manufacturers for the transfer of
> technology," Kumar said, adding that C-Dac will also
> look at taking these products to other third world
> countries in Africa.
>
> Kerala is using another of C-Dac's tools for the
> visually impaired called Braille Mozhy (currently in
> Malayalam), an assistive device that is an integration
> of Braille-to-text and text-to-speech technologies.
>
> Kumar says that while in the US the government puts in
> a lot of money for subsidies of high quality hearing
> aids, the same cannot be replicated in India.
> Demand for solutions for the physically challenged is
> high in India but not at the expensive prices they
> retail at.
>
> Government-run research and development organization
> Media Lab Asia is also supporting the funding and
> development of various assistive technologies
> including
> a screen reading software called Safa, developed in
> collaboration with the National Association for the
> Blind (NAB). Safa is available in Hindi and English,
> enables a visually impaired person to operate a
> computer using speech output and has been worked on by
> developers some of whom are blind. Media Lab Asia
> is providing funds of Rs45 lakh for three years for
> the project.
>
> "Safa is freely available by downloading it from our
> website. However, if people want a better voice and
> accent quality, that costs Rs2,000," said Prashant
> Ranjan Verma, project manager of the technology
> training centre at NAB.
>
> Media Lab Asia and NAB are also working on the
> development of a smart cane to assist the blind people
> in movement by enabling them to detect obstacles that
> are waist-high up to 2ft away. The cane will also
> identify route numbers of buses through a system-based
> on wireless radio frequency communication technology.
>
> The smart cane, which uses directional,
> ultrasound-based technology to detect obstacles, gives
> the user distance information through a varying
> vibratory
> pattern produced by a cellphone vibrator.
>
> "The final prototype is ready. Around 50-60 pieces are
> getting made for testing and the smart cane will be
> available later this year for a few hundred rupees,"
> said Verma.
>
> Even BarrierBreak Technologies, with current revenues
> of Rs1.18 crore, is entering the market for products
> aimed at the physically challenged with the launch
> of a screen reader with English and Hindi versions.
> The product belongs to an Ireland company called
> Dolphin Computer Access, and will be customized and
> distributed in India by BarrierBreak. The Indian
> company plans to launch the products at 50-55% less
> than international sticker prices of around $1,000
> (Rs39,700).
>
> "The biggest challenge in India to create awareness
> about these products is that it is difficult for
> people to accept a change in technology here and
> getting
> companies to understand what is required," said Shilpi
> Kedia, the founder-managing director of BarrierBreak.
>
>
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