The Optimist Citizen

IIT Delhi alumnus develops a low-cost audio-tactile device that helps visually impaired kids comprehend real-life images

How often we have wondered if people with visual impairment could actually perceive the images we see? Well, the good news is that there is now a solution. Comprising of a portable stand, a tactile book and a mobile app – a ready to use solution by TouchVision, an IIT Delhi incubated social enterprise is now available in the Indian markets. TouchVision’s Multi-sensory learning kit, is an inclusive education platform for making pictures and diagrams accessible for visually impaired children. It is a patent filed mechanism that facilitates audio-tactile interaction in a simultaneous manner for a child and is completely user-friendly powered by a mobile app and available for the Indian audience. The App uses computer vision techniques, along with simultaneous audio and gesture inputs to make holistic education for vision deprived possible. The innovation has already impacted hundreds of students through partner NGOs in the age group of 5 to 10 years.

A visually impaired student experiments with TouchVision’s Multi-sensory learning kit

Ankita Gulati, Founder TouchVision and the 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Awards 2018 winner, started working on it in 2015 under her mentor Prof. M. Balakrishnan who advised her to visit various special needs orphanages and organisations for research purposes. Ankita recalls, “One of the schools I visited used handmade diagrams and maps that involved pulses to achieve touch friendly graphics. Even after the development of the product, it was a challenge to introduce their device to the public. “ If there are 100 special schools in North India, only 5 out of those used handmade tactile diagrams and hardly 2-3 schools had special educators.” explains Ankita. It took their team three years, 6 iterations and alterations for the project to be completed and finally launched the product in March 2019.

Ankita Gulati (3rd from left, first row) with a group of visually impaired students who tried TouchVision’s Multi sensory kit out

During her journey, she interacted with a lot of special needs educators across India and explained to them the plight of students at special schools who used handmade tools to comprehend things. “Unavailability of accessible learning material limit the potential of students and consequently their employment opportunities are limited.” reckons Ankita. Also, the handmade maps were not reusable and unavailable in bulk.” After the initial research work for about 6 months, she started working on her dream to solve a real- world problem and soon the team received support by the Ministry of Electronics and IT to bring the concept to reality.

The enterprise has been honored with a National Award by the president of India for development of affordable assistive technologies. ATPL has received grants from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development and Department of Science and Technology,Govt. Of India for development and dissemination of inclusive products.

ATPL has recently won the DST-Lockheed Martin-Tata Trusts India Innovation Growth Programme 2.0-Open Innovation Challenge in social innovation category. Ankita has recently been honored with NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award 2019 for empowerment of persons with visual disabilities.

Ankita Gulati and her initiative TouchVision was also a winner at the 3M CII Young Innovators Challenge 2018 under the Rural Innovation category.You can know more about the awards here.

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