Benetech

Child with low vision/blindness using mobile phone in Benetech project

Project Name
Bookshare India

Location Implemented
Pune, Maharashtra, India

Organization Website
http://www.benetech.org/

Organization Type
Non-profit



Challenge
Mother tongue language instruction is optimal for early reading acquisition, in both braille and audio, among students who are blind/low vision. It is a challenge to deliver accessible books in mother tongue languages where no text-to-speech (TTS) engine exists to read these books aloud, and the cost of creating a high-quality TTS engine is extremely high. In Maharashtra India, classrooms lack accessible reading materials that allow students to learn at their own pace through various modalities: braille reading, print reading, and/or listening.

Solution
This innovation makes reading materials accessible to children in Pune, India through the development and launch of a pilot project focused on adding Marathi human-narrated audio capabilities to Bookshare, the world’s largest digital accessible library and Benetech’s flagship Global Literacy initiative. Primary school students who are blind/low vision will be provided with accessible Marathi educational content that can be listened to on low-cost audio devices while they simultaneously read braille . Since a TTS engine is not available in Marathi, this fills a critical gap by providing students with the ability to have a multimodal learning experience using hard-copy braille texts combined with human-narrated audio for storybooks in Marathi. Teachers will be trained to use the Bookshare platform and schools will be visited weekly by a local “Story Uncle” to encourage reading and inspire students.

Project Reach
Three schools, nine teachers, and more than 70 students with the potential for expansion to students across Maharashtra State

Collaborators/Partners
Pratham Books, University Research Co. LLC, Access Braille, Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged