Joining Hands for Tachile Graphics Literacy in India: An Indo-Polish Initiative
BOB: Joining hands for tactile graphics literacy in India. Boguslaw Bob Marek, KUL CAN Poland and, - ANKITA: Ankita Gulati, TouchVison India. My name is Ankita Gulati, I'm the founder of TouchVision, a social enterprise supported by Technology Business Incubation Unit of Institute of Technology Delhi. I worked as an assistive technologies’developer for a period of five years. That tuition mainly engages with students and teachers across semi urban and rural areas of India. I'm also serving as a youngest subject matter expert with rehabilitation council of India.
BOB: Ankita is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the National Award by the President of India for development of affordable assistive technology. Also award from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development and Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India. For development and dissemination of products facilitating inclusion. As a teacher trainer Ankita works mainly with teachers and students in schools and orphanages in rural areas. I'd like to introduce myself as a retired professor of English at the John Paul II Catholic university of a Lublin. Until March 1st, 2021 I was the head of KUL CAN Centre for inclusion of students with special needs. I'm the founder of Hungry Fingers and developer of resources facilitating understanding tactile graphics. I'm also a teacher trainer. – ANKITA: Professor Marek is the recipient of OBE. The order of the British empire from her majesty queen Elizabeth II for developing an English language programme for learners with visual impairment. He also serves as the organizer of tactile graphic workshops in Europe, India, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa Singapore now Japan, Dubai Abu Dhabi, and the USA.
BOB: We met at two important conferences organized in New Delhi by IIT, the Indian Institute of technology. In 2016 in 2nd Indo US workshop on emerging accessibility technologies and in 2019 at the IIT empower conference. And this is where the idea of cooperation was first born. In 2019, Ankita came to Poland and visited KUL CAN and Hungry Fingers. The purpose was to get acquainted with the thermographic powder technology for producing tactile graphics to present multi-sensory touchvision tactile graphics, reading device, to learn more about hungry fingers resources, and to discuss ways to promote tactile graphics in India. Why India? It's enough to think of the size of the country and of its population, which exceeds 1,380 million people which is 17% of world population. With 62 million persons with visual impairment, including 8 million totally blind with 28 states each with its official language in several local languages, the needs for assistance such as resources and for teacher training must be enormous. –
ANKITA: In India, availability, accessibility, affordability and scarcity of trained special educators serve as major barriers to inclusion of children with visual disabilities in the education ecosystem. This further limits, the employment opportunities available for persons with visual disabilities. As a result the quality of life of over 62 million persons with visual impairment in India is degraded. Limited learning resources and recreational activities are available for children with visual impairments. Even if the material is made available in braille or accessible audio formats the pitchers are usually augmented. Some of the teachers try to make some handmade diagrams to help children with tactile diagram understanding but the lack of operational training on both the learners as well as teachers part, serve as a major barrier in accessing the content depicted in the diagram. As 90% of the visually impaired population in India resides in low-income settings. So affordability becomes a major constraint. Globally used technologies like swell paper and sophisticated hardware devices cannot be replicated right away in India where resources and funding serves as a major constraint Of any special emphasis off this project, Joining hands is on the lack of training among the special educators. Even if we can adopt low-cost technologies to produce tactile diagrams in India itself we need to train our teachers as well as students in the user of those diagrams so that the resources can be used in an optimised manner to serve children's best interests.
It should be clear by now why we decided to focus on tactile graphics. It is one of the most difficult and in many places still one of the most neglected areas of education of blind learners. But without understanding drawings subjects such as geometry, geography, science, art remain an abstract mystery for persons born blind. Although a wide range of technologies is available for producing tactile images and diagrams availability does not mean accessibility. This is how we see our contribution to the project. Hungry Fingers Poland offers experience in developing resources for explaining difficult concepts needed for understanding tactile graphics. Experienced and training teachers in India and in working with children with total blindness in India, access to high quality tactile graphics printing technology. That was in India offers knowledge of the needs in the area of education of VI learners in India, including availability and access to tactile graphics. Experience in teaching students with visual impairment and in training teachers Developing innovative IT resources facilitating access to tactile graphics through audio input. Contacts and cooperation with IT centres and organisations working in the area of special educational needs. So the needs, which must be addressed in the area of extra stability of typographics include: 1. Availability of well-designed tactile graphics 2. Access to drawing materials, 3. Ability to understand graphics 4. Ability to produce recognisable drawings 5. Most importantly, availability of teachers with training in the area of tactile graphics and access to resources for introducing special relations, represented graphically. Several technologies that are available for production of tactile graphics. But teachers must understand that the fact that suddenly is tactile does not mean that it will be understood. For example, these tactile drawings one showing a messy room with three animals playing one with three kittens, playing football, and one with two creatures fighting or dancing with brooms. The list of skills needed for reading these drawings would probably be miles long. In India thermoforming is the most popular method of producing tactile graphics. It is very efficient but it is available only in large centres. Also the range of graphics actually used in schools is largely limited to geometry general maps and simple graphs.
ANKITA: Over the last two decades. India's premier technology and research institutions like Indian Institute of technology Delhi ID, Delhi, ID Madras and ID Kharagpur, have been working on technologies to produce affordable, tactile graphics in bulk quantities to reach every child in India. They are able to produce tactile graphics ranging from 0.3 to $1, depending on the size of the diagram using the thermoforming technology to produce multiple bulk copies of a single tactile graphic.
BOB: The second problem with access to tactile graphics is availability of drawing materials. A sheet of embossing film placed on their silicon mat and a stylus or an ordinary pen. Basic tools for making tactile drawings are still a much desired novelty in most schools in India. We have now come to what is probably the most important component of the journey hands project. Helping learners with textual blindness understand drawings. Many of which are two dimensional representation of a three-dimensional reality. For a blind person, a drawing of a Teddy bear could easily be taken for an exotic Island where the arms and legs representing four peninsulas and the nose marketing, the location of the capital City. The level of difficulty with unguided reading of tactile graphics can be illustrated by this drawing, which shows a round table with their breakfast set for two persons and two round stools on both sides of the table. Moving the two stools so that they hide partly under the table makes the drawing very difficult. If not impossible, to distinguish from a drawing of the head of a teddy bear. The two stools can be taken for the ears while the spoons cups plate and red basket can represent database face, the eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth. Let us know, have a look at some drawings made by sighted and blind children. A sighted child drawing of a tree shows the trunk branches and leaves. But in one blind child's drawing a tree was presented as a circle. Asked why they child to explained because when I put my arms around the tree trunk, my arms make circle. Drawings of their bus made by a sighted and blind child, differ considerably. In the blind child's drawing a bus is represented by just three lines. The horizontal line for the step, the vertical line for the pole, the child holds onto one of the boarding the bus and the horizontal line for the seat. - A blind child cannot be expected to immediately understand drawings of unfamiliar objects. Models certainly help where real objects are too big or too small for tactile exploration. For example, these toy trucks, but given the chance children born blind can make quite complex recognisable drawings, e.g children in the playground, flowers or a Christmas card or complete with their Christmas tree presence, stars, snowman and sledge. Researchers confirmed a correlation between reading and producing tactile drawings. This slide shows a student exploring drawings of houses and an attempt at drawing teddy bear. Engaging in making drawings improves understanding of tactile graphics while regular exposure to graphics facilitates making recognisable drawings - For tactile graphics to be accessible. One more component is necessary. Teachers with training in this area and resources for introducing and explaining spatial relations represented graphically. So what are the main components of training planned in the joining hands for tactile graphics literacy project. Where the complexity and wide range of challenges connected with introducing learners with total blindness to tactical graphics, the training will take teachers from the challenges of introducing lines and simple geometric shapes, through drawings of objects and people, to floor plans, maps, graphs and meaningful exploration of three-dimensional geometric shapes. Training will be introduced in three stages. Stage one workshops for teachers. Training stage two, work with children. Training stage three, teachers work with children under supervision, of course providers. With that such trainings ability to introduce learners with a visual impairment to attack their graphics will remain a challenge unaddressed so far on a larger scale.
ANKITA: Joining Hands is an initiative to cater to this unmet need. We have identified four locations which can serve as central training centres, conducting training and orientation programmes. For teachers all over India and serving as primary contact centre for remote secondary and tertiary training camps. These include touchvison based out of the capitol New Delhi and supported by an Institute of technology Delhi. Blind people association in the bot catering to the Western part of India, Bethany society in Shillong catering to the North and Northeastern parts of India and national income Institute for home science and higher education for women in Chennai
BOB: The training will follow contents of attack photographics graphics primer developed in Poland. One lines, two geometric shapes, three lines and geometric shapes four combinations of geometric shapes five single objects like people, animals, et cetera six groups of objects, seven maps, street plans eight talking graphics, nine grids and graphs 10 crossword puzzles, 11 tactile graphics games 12 designing and making books with tactile illustrations. Explaining the relation between 3D objects and 2D drawings of these objects is often presented as one of the biggest challenges for teachers of learners with total blinders. Indeed, in this adaptation of a drawing, showing a book on a table projection of a table shown as a horizontal line for the table top and two vertical lines for the legs was not recognised by a group of blind children. For them they were just three unrelated lines. These tactile illustrations found in this story about Goldilock, will probably make little sense to a child born blind without first explaining to the child that a front or side view of a table, and side views of a chair or a bed can be represented by just three lines. The hungry fingers transfograph was designed to help solve this problem. A model of a piece of furniture, for example the table inserted into a wooden box through an outline of the table, cut out in the lid reveals just three lines, the edge of the table top and two legs. The outline can be compared with a drawing in a tactile book. The progress reported by a geography teacher from New Zealand, made by a child in just one session with a transfer graph that is moving from a few secular lines through three horizontal lines to a recognisable drawing of a table. Certainly sounds optimistic, but the teacher must make sure that the child isn't just copying the outline but understands that the drawing shows the table from just one perspective. Time to move to resources which facilitate independent access to tactile graphics through audio input. Several technologies are available. For example, they're talking pen, pen friend or talking tactile tablet. Well, these resources are very useful. There are disadvantages that they require either graphics printed on special paper or recordable labels or a computer. A resource developed by TouchVision has no such limitations.
ANKITA: TouchVision is a multisensory inclusive education platform comprising of tactile diagrams, beat books recreational material story books, all gains assisted by simultaneous adios powered by the mobile application. It enables affordable interactive access to diagrams in audio, tactile form using image processing. The Novel mechanism allows user to interact with tactile material simultaneously, but helps in enhancing the understanding of the concept depicted in the Tacton diagram. Affordable stand is used with the tactile diagram to position smartphone camera for scanning tactile material and pointer ring on user's index finger. The bottom part of this time is fixed with the diagram and smartphone is placed at the top of the stand. The smartphone app provide simultaneous audio stimulus to the user as per index fingers location, label and description of the diagram is narrated based on different finger gestures performed by the user. Multilingual smartphone based approach provides the ease of use to teacher us as well as students to enable learning - In an inclusive setup had is a short video explaining how the touchvision device works.
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BOB: It seems that the initiative joining hands for tactile Graphics literacy comes at the right time. There are signs of growing awareness of the importance of tactile graphics materials for blind children. Activity books with tactile illustrations for young children, which are beginning to be manufactured in India, make a good introduction to tactile graphics for blind children. - The value and high standard of these books has been noticed by TIF Lou and ductus and international tactile books competition which honoured a book produced in Chennai with a special distinction. A growing number of enthusiastic teachers, interested in raising their teaching standards organisations which offered their premises for the trainings and children hungry for education or materials with tougher graphics give us hope, but the endo Polish project will find fellow wearers in other countries who will join hands for tactile graphics literacy worldwide. - Thank you. - If you'd like to learn more about the joining hands for tactile literacy in India, please visit touch vision at www.touchvision.com or www.hungryfingers.com.