“In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business but the very purpose of its existence.” – JN Tata
Following his principle, the objective of Project Jyoti is to educate, empower and transform the lives of visually-challenged school students using mobile technology.
mjunction, a JV between Tata Steel and SAIL and India’a largest B2B ecommerce company, collaborated with the Chhattisgarh Government to give 50 mobile phones, preloaded with accessible textbooks, to visually-challenged students of Chhattisgarh government schools. mjunction, with partners, then provided training to these students to use the phones to study their textbooks using latest mobile applications as well as mobility training to lower their dependence on other individuals with sight using technology.
“We have been working in the field of digital literacy for the underprivileged for the last 11 years and has taken the pledge of ‘Transforming 30K’ lives in the next two years. With this project, it forays into the field of providing education via mobile literacy, and is just the beginning of more such initiatives which will touch lives positively,” said Mr Vinaya Varma, MD and CEO of mjunction.
The challenge we faced
First, there is limited availability of textbooks on Braille which hampers the learning curve and careers of bright and eager to learn visually-challenged students.
There is also limited availability of audio books which do not cover the entire range of study material, and is also very expensive.
Finally, these students have a high dependence on sighted individuals. For example, even in reading newspapers they will have to request someone to read it out to them.
mjunction planned and implemented the entire programme – from conceptualisation to making the students ready to “read” from the mobile phones. We identified and engaged with a partner for book conversion – by which all textbooks were preloaded into the mobile phones in accessible format. We bought 50 mobile phones and our employees volunteered to upload all the SCERT text books on to the mobile phones.
mjunction then identified and engaged with a training partner who trained the students to access the textbooks using mobile phone applications. These trainers, who themselves are visually-impaired trained these students in not only using the mobile device for reading, but also provided mobility training to help lower their dependence on sighted people.
The entire project was executed in three phases:
- A “Train the Trainer” programme
- The 50 visually-challenged students were trained to use the preloaded mobile phones to study their textbooks
- The training included mobility training by which they could use the mobile phones in their daily lives through assistive technology
These students learnt to “read” the books through mobile applications such as “Simply Reading,” and “Go Read” using the “Talk Back” facility in their phones, by which the phone reads out the highlighted portion of the text as it progresses and helps the student navigate.
Students put in a SIM card and use their smart devices for other important tasks also such as using Google maps for navigation, applications such as Eye-D and Smart Lens for scanning and reading printed materials, Whatsapp and other social media for connecting to the world, and many more such applications which will empower them to gain knowledge about the wonderful world around them. Students can also use “Tap tap See” and “Be my eyes” to identify objects coming in their ways.
The students also used the mobile phones to read not only their textbooks, but other books and newspapers, which opens a whole new world of learning and knowledge in front of them. They were given access to a huge online library.
“I am happy to partner with mjunction on this. The children were extremely enthusiastic about using new devices and trying new technology solutions to overcome their disability.” Mr Gaurav Dwivedi, Principal Secretary, Chhattisgarh government.
Let me conclude by sharing the voices of some students:
Dinu Patel of class 8, said, “What I could read on Braille in three days, I can now do in one day. I can also carry my books anywhere I go now as they are all on my mobile phone.”
His senior Aarzoo Banu of class 9 said, “My hands used to ache earlier while taking down class notes on Braille. Now with the recording facility on the phone, I can record my class notes and listen to them later with the ‘talk back’ facility.”
Yadeshwar Kumar Sahoo of class 9 said, “This is especially useful when English spellings get complicated and it becomes difficult on Braille. I want to thank everyone associated with this as it really makes life easy for me.”