In Kerala, literacy among the visually impared is a high 65-75 per cent, according to Thiruvananthapuram School of Blind principal Rajendran. The school is a centre picked up for the national project. At the national level, this is as low as three to seven per cent.
Through six PCs set up by MCIT for each centre, Webel offers facilities for both Braille-typed matter to text printouts and text-typed matter to Braille printouts. The Braille keyboard has only 17 characters. A person with normal vision for example can type out on the standard keyboard and get Braille printouts for the blind. On the other hand, a blind person can type on the Braille keyboard and get ordinary printouts to communicate with normal people. Webel uses tactiles as screen-reading devices for the blind.
Out of the 30 centres in the country identified for the project, the setting up of equipment has been in place in 24 centres. In the third phase, Webel is on to get Braille-Internet linkages. It is with the help of IIT, Kharagpur and Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkatta, that Webel developed computer technology for the blind.
However, in no other place was the hunger for the roadmap to computers so gripping as among the teachers of the blind as in Kerala state, Mr Bandopadhyaya said.
A delegation of 150 teachers of the blind in Kerala rounded up the Webel nodal person, urging him to set up one more centre in the state. At present, the students and the teachers of all the blind schools in the State have to travel to Thiruvananthapuram to get acquainted with the exciting possibilities of computers.
According to a blind teacher S Sreekumar who has been teaching the blind for the last six years, “We are waiting for the e-library, which would make the cumbersome and space-consuming storage of Braille books irrelevant.”