Stepping away from traditional Braille, visually-challenged students in Bengal now have a new option to access textbooks with Project Jyoti, a “talk back” mobile app developed by e-commerce company mjunction, in collaboration with the state government.
The initiative Project Jyoti was first launched in Chhattisgarh as a pilot project in 2018. An mjunction official involved with the initiative said it signified a long-awaited freedom from Braille, which is tedious and time-consuming, and “transformed the lives of more than 400 visually-impaired students from Class VII to X in Chhattisgarh”.
In Bengal, in the first phase, nearly 45 special educators from Calcutta, South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore, and 30 students of Classes IX to XI with low vision from East Midnapore district were trained in accessible reading of the West Bengal State Board textbooks using Android devices.
After the first phase, which started in September, mjunction is preparing for the second phase at the end of January next year with 200 students from those districts with special educators.
A primary study carried out for the project says there are around 2,500 visually-challenged students studying in Classes VII to XII in government schools in at least 10 districts of Bengal.
“We will reach out to these students in various phases to help them with smartphones with pre-installed apps and downloaded textbooks. When a beneficiary accesses the phone through the talk-back mode, the student can direct the phone to open the desired app. Then, the user can ask the phone to read out the desired text,” an official involved with the project said and added the project intends to make studies easier for visually-challenged students.
As a part of the project in Bengal, mjunction will give all participants one smartphone each.
Each smartphone will have the app preloaded to help students read the textbooks.
Managing director of mjunction Vinaya Varma said the entire programme has been geared around “the two pillars of right to education and inclusion”
“After Chhattisgarh, we hope to make a real difference to the lives of the visually-challenged school students of Bengal. I would like to thank the education department of the Bengal government for giving us the opportunity to do so,” Varma said.
“mjunction will provide on-ground support to the special educators and students when the second phase begins,” Varma added.