Friday, February 19, 2010

Unique exhibition teaches some people TECH TRICKS TO SURVIVE

From an ATM that talks to an indicator that tells whether enough water has been poured for a cup of tea, a tech exhibition gives hope to the differently-abled of a better, easier life NGOs, students and companies come together with a wide array of assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices to help those less fortunate.

The two-day Techshare India exhibition, held earlier this week, was put together by several companies, NGOs and students at India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road. From nailclippers with magnifying glasses for those with poor vision to foldable keyboards and talking ATMs to power wheelchairs, there was on display a huge range of devices to help people with different kinds of disabilities. Some of the devices are already in commercial use, while others have not yet hit the market.

Vinod Kumar Bharti, who runs an association called Astha for the differently-abled in Lal Kuan and Govindpuri, said: ‘‘Nauhar left school because of his disability. We hope to find some way to help him complete his computer lessons. The power wheelchair is another thing which will allow him to move around without help.’’

The wheelchair was part of an experimental laboratory set up at the exhibition. It ran on batteries and had a joystick for navigation. A user simply required to move it with a finger in whichever direction he/she wanted to go. Made in Germany, the wheelchair, however, costs over Rs 2 lakh, taking it beyond the reach of the common man.

There were, however, simpler and affordable assistives for the visually-impaired. The choice started with a beeper and a liquid level indicator — both developed by Vispy Mirza, who runs an assistive devices workshop in Mumbai.

‘‘The beeper makes a sound whenever it faces a an electronic device that has been left on. So, somebody who is visually impaired will know what he or she has to switch off. The liquid level indicator can be used to help make tea, for a visually-impaired person cannot check the level of hot liquid with his/her hands,’’ explained a volunteer.
Other affordable devices included GoTalk which was like a portable board with several picture cards. Each picture represented activities like eating, sleeping, need to visit the toilet etc. A disabled person would need to record what he wants by pressing the picture card relating to the activity.

‘‘A child who cannot speak simply needs to press a picture card denoting his requirement and the device will play the recorded voice. This way the parents will know whatever their child wants,’’ the volunteer said. There was also a colourful keyboard with big keys which would allow dyslexic children to remember alphabets through the colour scheme, while also benefiting those with poor vision.

According to the organisers, the exhibition was visited by hundreds of differently-abled people. ‘‘The idea was to showcase assistive technologies on a single platform,’’ said Shilpi Kapoor, managing director, Breaking Barriers technology that put up the show along with Royal National Institute of Blind People, UK and National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, Delhi.

No comments: