Here's how BU enrolled more blind students since 2012

Here's how BU enrolled more blind students since 2012

The Braille Resource Centre at the Bangalore University. DH Photo/Janardhan B K

The number of blind students enrolling in the Bangalore University has seen a steady increase since 2012, thanks to technology.

The screen reader technology, which renders the text content on the screen in voice, has enabled many students to access study material and use the internet.

They use either the proprietary Job Access With Speech (JAWS) screen reader or the free-to-use Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) to work on personal computers, while Talk Back, the screen reader on the Android Operating System, helps them use smartphones.

These pieces of software were first provided at the varsity’s Braille Resource Centre in 2012. The faculty said that the use of technology has bolstered the pass percentage of students with vision challenge.

“Using  the  software, they  could read through the interface and use various applications. Everything is rendered through the ‘Text-To-Speech’ engine provided with the screen readers,” Dr Ismath Afshan, director, Braille Resource Centre, told DH.

Both NVDA — developed and enhanced with contribution from engineers across the globe — and JAWS can read Indian languages. Using them, students can learn subjects, such as software testing, previously inaccessible. 

Sense of equality 

“Technology has madebu us feel equal to others,” said Mallappa, a visually challenged student. “In fact, we can operate the PC faster than a sighted person since we’ve mastered the shortcuts quickly. Many visually challenged students could opt for courses like BCA (Bachelors in Computer Application) and management programmes like Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) and Bachelors in Business Management (BBM),” he added.

Dr Afshan added that technology has given the visually challenged students greater choices of subjects. “Earlier, most of them would opt for subjects like music  and arts after completing Class 10, but now they enroll in BCA and BBM with the other students,” he said.

The varsity has established the centre at a cost of Rs 25 lakh. It includes PCs, software and Braille printers.

Currently, only three universities in Karnataka have the Braille printing facility — Bengaluru, Mysuru and Dharwad. “More universities should have Braille printing, so that it would help spread education among visually challenged students,” Mallappa said.