Free Braille maps to 300 schools

Free Braille maps to 300 schools

The government has decided to provide India’s only Braille atlas free to at least 300 schools that cater to the needs of blind students.

Created by the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), Kolkata, these maps are on a scale of 1:13 million, which make them bigger than the ones used by regular students.

Earlier, NATMO used to give these maps free to only those schools for the blind that are short of funds. A decision has now been taken to provide them free to all such schools.

“We will give away the maps free to those schools that approach us. The Department of Science and Technology will subsidise the cost. This has been decided following suggestions from some parliamentarians,” NATMO director Tapati Banerjee told DH on the sidelines of the 104th session of the Indian Science Congress here.

NATMO received a special prize for its Braille maps from Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the science meet on January 3.

There are about 350 blind schools in India, the maximum in Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra. With an estimated two million visually impaired children, the number of schools that cater to their needs is far too less.

The production cost of each map in the A3 size varies between Rs 100 and Rs 150. With each atlas containing 80-84 pages, the map book costs between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000.

Banerjee said maps were available in several categories like administrative and political as well as maps on roads, population and even on the drainage pattern. The maps come with texts in Braille and English (or a vernacular language). The demand to include vernacular languages came from state governments to benefit teachers in these schools.

NATMO purchases satellite data from the National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, which is then converted into Braille maps.

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