In its 10th year of operations, the Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) under the ADIP scheme of the Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, distributed SmartCanes and PlexTalk Vachak to 50 visually impaired students in the city.
This initiative was made possible due to a public-private partnership initiative, wherein the technology was developed by the Assistive Technologies Group at IIT Delhi. Manufactured by Phoenix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd., in conjunction with Saksham Trust, the devices will be distributed by XRCVC in the western region.
The SmartCane is an innovative and affordable navigation device that detects obstructions up to a distance of 3m above knee level. The SmartCane eliminates the need for physical contact with the obstacle in order to detect it. The PlexTalk Vachak enables content in an audio format to be available, for the first time ever, in Hindi. A Daisy-enabled reader, the Vachak allows speed recording with Hindi text-to-speech (TTS), giving access to content in both English and Hindi on a portable player.
Vidya Balan, Bollywood actress and Xavier's alumni, who launched the distribution process at a function held at XRCVC said, "These devices help us prove once again that visual disability is just a physical condition. It is inspiring that devices such as these will make the world that much smaller, and in a sense that much larger for everyone to enjoy."
Speaking about his project, Dr. Rohan Paul, member of the development team at IIT Delhi said, "For us engineers, it is very humbling to see the result of our efforts when so many beneficiaries walk away with our invention."
XRCVC, which began as a single table set-up to help visually impaired students from St. Xavier's College, has today grown into a state-of-the-art support centre working towards the holistic development of visually impaired persons.
Speaking about the latest developments, Dr. Sam Taraporevala, Director, XRCVC said, "For many of our students, the ability to read on the go is limited to English content only. But with the PlexTalk Vachak, the accessibility has been enhanced greatly. Inclusion of such devices to the ADIP scheme will ensure a wider reach across socio-economic segments."