Bhubaneswar, Dec. 23: Setting an example for other varsities in the state, the Utkal University has procured hi-tech machines worth Rs 8 lakh to be used as learning aids for its visually challenged students.
Around 12 visually-challenged students at the university can make use of these facilities to read and understand their course books, reference books or other documents. The new devices include a Zoom-Ex device, an instant book-to-speech tool that makes it possible to turn any computer into an accessible scanner, reader, and magnifier for blind or visually-impaired users.
The technology of speech synthesis helps in the artificial production of human speech that can be heard using a headphone or a speaker. It consists of a digital camera on a special designed stand, which also serves as a guide for lining up the book or document to be scanned.
Prior to this, the students had access only to JAWS (job access with speech) that was a computer screen reading software and could convert documents written in Microsoft Windows only. This apart, the varsity has procured a Braille printer that can help the students get necessary printouts.
The new devices have been placed at Samarthya, the disability unit that is set up by the Centre of Advanced Study under the psychology department. “Earlier if we wanted to read any document through JAWS, it had to be converted into a Microsoft Windows document. However, this one has no hassles. All you have to do is place any book, newspaper or document below the scanner and listen to it through a speaker,” said a differently-abled student.
“The new devices have been very popular among the students and one can find most of them spending their time here at the unit going through various books and materials. There are plans to add more such hi-tech devices in future,” said P.K. Rath, head of the department of psychology adding that the varsity was planning to shift the set up to the library so that students could conveniently read books there.
“It’s a very good initiative by the university and all other educational institutions must take it as an example to treat their visually- challenged students with dignity by making provisions for them,” said senior activist for the blind Sanyas Behera. “It would, however, be better if they appoint a differently-abled person to coordinate the cell and guide the students on how to use the devices,” he said.