Audio Description- My first experience

Do you remember listening to the bedtime stories by your mom, dad or grandparents? I remember my dad narrating those stories to me, I used to close my eyes and visualize whatever he narrates to me.

Audio description is basically narrating the story to persons with visual impairment. The narration translates images or other visual information or non-dialogue portions of film into spoken words so that people who are blind or visually impaired can access, enjoy and learn from works of popular cultural and educational importance. The original track is paused and audio description is inserted between dialogues of the movie.

The narration helps a blind person to get connected with the story, he or she can easily catch the pace of the movie and understands even the silent or non-dialogue portions of it.

Recently, when I attended the screening of an audio described movie, it did remind me of those moments I and my dad spend together, it reminded me of how much I used to depend on his narration and visualize his words. Yes, for me it was going back to my childhood but for someone, it can be a way to get an access to the cinema.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting advocates for making cinema inclusive

Saksham Trust and with very valuable support from SAPIENT, The Directorate of Film Festivals, is organizing the screening of popular Bollywood film ‘Sholay’ with audio-description, subtitles, and supported by sign-language interpretation.

The audio description feature, when combined with subtitles, enhances the abilities of a person with visual and/or hearing impairment to experience and connect with the film the same way as a sighted person. The audio description refers to the narrative track added to a film that enables a person with visual impairment to understand the sequences that have a natural pause/no sound.

This year also marks the completion of 43 years of the film, a milestone worth celebrating by making the cinema a watching experience for all. Saksham Trust has in the past voluntarily audio-described 28 Bollywood films that have been shown at various film festivals and private screenings.

Saksham works in the field of education, assistive technology solutions for reading and writing and mobility solutions, inclusive entertainment, covering Pan India, with a school for children with vision impairment in Noida, since 2003.

For their devotion to the cause, they were honored with a National Award in 2015.

Saksham’s Infant to Toddler and Extension Programs

Story 1: Saksham goes beyond to reach the unreached

The Community Based Rehabilitation program

With the support of the funding partners Metlife, FISERV and Concern India, Saksham has taken the initiative to provide rehabilitation services to children with visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities from the remote villages of Noida and Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The identified children are belonging to the most deprived and marginalized sections of our society. We identify these children by making door to door home visits with the support of the local Anganwadi staff and make assessments of their strength and disabilities. These children are then called to a common point in their village (either a health care centre or the Anganwadi premises) where need-based services are provided by the Saksham team. Our services include:

  • Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Visual Stimulation Training
  • Special Education Sessions
  • Parent Training and Counselling
  • Community Awareness and sensitization

Here are a few pictures from the CBR program in Challera and Sadarpur, Noida

Story 2: Short Field Trips for our delicate children

Children from the MDVI and Junior Section are now going out for short trips in the neighbor to learn independent skills and more so experience the outer environment without their parents beside. This was a major step for us as some of these children are hyperactive and show temper tantrums in addition to their unpredictable health conditions. With the enthusiasm on the part of the parents, the keen interest of the staff and the educational need of the children we started simple outdoor activities from this year on.

By 

Supriya Das 

 

 

First Time in India- Audio Description in movie halls.

Almost a decade ago Sakham took the first step to audio describing the movie Black and prepared a special DVD of the movie that many of us enjoyed. We started with the vision that one day we will reach a stage where most of the movies released in Indian theatres will provide persons with visual impairment and blindness the option to listen to audio description through the headphone while he or she is sitting with their family and friends in the movie hall.
In this journey, we did several special DVDs, held several special screenings with audio descriptions and then moved to the next step by introducing audio description on mainstream DVDs such as in Pipli Life or PK. We also had a television screening of Dangal that provided the choice to have the audio description in it.

Why Audio Description?

In a movie, there are several silent portions or the unexplained situations where a person with difficulty in seeing and blindness at the time could not able to figure out about the scene. hence, which makes the cinema inaccessible for persons with visual impairment. Audio Description is an additional narration track intended primarily for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media. It is a narration of what is happening on the screen during the silent portions in the video and sometimes during dialogues when necessary.

We are glad to announce that we got the opportunity to have the first movie in which visually impaired persons are able to walk into any movie hall that is showing the movie “Sanju” and have an audio description of the movie spoken into their ears through the headphone.

A visually impaired person needs to go to a movie hall and purchase a ticket everyone else and sit in the hall. In addition, we have to carry a smartphone with internet connection with them. The smartphone should have an app. In this app, the person will get an audio ticket free of cost and download the audio description track of the movie which would normally take a one or two minutes. When the movie starts, he needs to press the play button and the app will synchronize itself to the place of the movie and begin playing audio description in the silent gaps.

This development is very exciting as it eliminates the need to install special equipment in every hall to be able to provide audio description. 

The name of this app is “XL Cinema”. This app is available for both Android and IOS. Thus you can enjoy the audio description on any android phone or on the iPhone. The app was created originally for listening to the movie in language other than the one being played in the movie hall. Creators of this app have introduced a special feature and a mode in this app for enabling listening to audio descriptions too. They have also spent a lot of effort into making this app accessible with the talkback and voice over.

To know more about the app you may go to the youtube link given below and know how can we access to this app and can enjoy the audio description of the movie.

How to register yourself on XL cinema app to listen to the audio described movies.

How to access audio described movies for persons with blindness through an app. XL CINEMA.

Simply Reading App- An Application for Print-Disabled and Visually Impaired

Dependence on others for reading and writing is one of the biggest hurdles in way of education, employment and leading an independent life, especially in case of people living with visual disabilities and low vision.  To empower the persons with visual disabilities, the DAISY Consortium (a network of not for profit organizations from 55 countries) has developed the “Simply Reading” app as part of Standard Chartered Bank’s global Seeing is Believing initiative to tackle avoidable (preventable or treatable) blindness. The App is based on the cost-effective and flexible Android platform which aims to unlock digital reading for people who struggle with existing, more complex touchscreen solutions.  It is the only Android application in India for reading books which connects to online accessible libraries and allows books to be read on connected Braille display and in all major Indian languages.

 

Available for free on Android (Google Play), this app enables the visually impaired to directly download and read books from any online platform such as Sugamya Pustakalya and Bookshare.

The app was launched during the Simply Reading Without Seeing Seminar held on 2 May at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi by Shri Jagmohan, former governor of Jammu and Kashmir and former LG of Delhi.  On the occasion of the launch, Mr. Jagmohan released an accessible copy of his book “My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir” on Sugamya Pustakalaya and readable on the Simply Reading app.

Saksham along with its partner organizations has been involved in several projects to provide a holistic affordable reading and writing solution for in Indian languages. Outcomes of these projects such as the Indo-NVDA screen reading software, DAISY players in all Indian languages, affordable Braille displays, and the dictation software were also demonstrated.

The organization is working wholeheartedly to introduce more such applications and devices so that persons with visual impairment could contribute their part in the country’s growth story.

 

What’s Print Disability?

Print disability is a condition related to blindness, visual impairment, specific learning disability or other physical condition in which the student needs an alternative or specialized format (i.e., Braille, Large Print, Audio, Digital text) in order to access and gain information from conventional printed materials. Print disability is easiest to understand when considering how the student interacts with printed materials. Print disability is not a new disability classification but refers to the functional ability of a student with a disability such as blindness, low vision, learning disabilities or physical disabilities. It commonly affects students with blindness, visual impairments, learning disabilities or physical conditions that make it difficult to hold a book or turn a page. In comparison to visual and physical disabilities, learning-based print disabilities are not visible. They must be identified by qualified professionals (e.g., teachers, resource teachers, speech-language pathologists) who have expertise in understanding and assessing reading development, and can provide appropriate interventions and remediation. If a student has a learning-based print disability, he or she may demonstrate the following challenges:

  • Difficulty with decoding words
  • Slow, effortful reading
  • Poor comprehension because so much effort goes into decoding text
  • Difficulty in accessing content
  • Lack of independence, self-esteem, confidence, and choice
  • Lack of exposure to text which negatively impacts growth of vocabulary and language

The challenges can have different roots, such as dyslexia, visual tracking issues, phonemic awareness, or others. They may be related to a language disorder or, may be more specifically rooted in reading itself. No matter the cause(s), the problems become worse over time when students are not provided with appropriate interventions. Students need to be assessed one-on-one to determine if an alternate format with assistive technology (such as e-text with text-to-speech) will help to bypass the problem. Many of these students enter into a vicious cycle of withdrawal from text. Frustrated, they often stop reading, losing the text exposure necessary for reading development and, ultimately, for the acquisition of knowledge and understanding in all subjects.

However, with certain level of patience and guidance, these students can be provided sufficient help to read and write efficiently.

By

Upasana Nagar

 

 

Common sports for visually impaired users

Being diagnosed as blind or partially sighted does not mean that the person has to give up on his favorite sports altogether. In fact, there are many sports which have been adapted for those who are blind or partially sighted, as well as entirely new sports only open to people with a sight condition. With that in mind here are the following sports that can be played by visually impaired.

 Football: Football is still fully accessible and there are many sports clubs and schools all over the country who field competitive teams. It can be played either indoors or outdoors, using an audible ball and standard five-a-side goals. British Blind Sport (BBS) organizes national competitions for both partially sighted and totally blind teams.

 Golf: Golfing for the blind and partially sighted has been one of the more popular sports over recent years. All blind golfers are assisted by a sighted guide who ensures the club head is correctly positioned behind the ball, provides a description of the hole and the distance to hit the shot. The handicapping system for blind golfers also allows for full competition between blind and sighted golfers. There are separate organizations that organize golf for the blind and partially sighted.

Tandem Cycling: Tandem cycling has been rapidly increasing in popularity following the home nation’s success in the Commonwealth Games this year and can be pursued recreationally or as a competitive sport. There are a number of clubs and organizations in the UK for blind and partially sighted people who organize such games.

Table Tennis: Table Tennis has been described as one of the easier sports to adapt to following a loss in sight. For many partially sighted people, table tennis can be played without any need for specialist equipment or modification to the rules.

Swimming: Many swimming pools welcome swimmers with sight loss during public sessions, and will also provide special sessions for organized groups. As swimming for the blind and partially sighted becomes more and more popular there is an increasing number of regional, national and international competitions held every year. British Blind Sport (BBS) hold a swimming gala annually for people of all ages.

Mountaineering: Rock climbing and mountaineering are very physically demanded sports and are quite the step up from rambling. A number of blind and partially sighted people take part in this sport with the help of sighted instructors and leaders.

Goalball: Goalball is another game designed specifically with the blind and partially sighted in mind and over recent years has been growing hugely in popularity with both men’s and women’s annual national competitions and involvement at international and Paralympic level. The game is played indoors on a rectangular “pitch” that has dimensions corresponding to a volleyball court. The goal posts are positioned on each team’s baseline; a heavy audible ball is used.

Archery: This is another sport which has been successfully adapted for the blind and partially sighted audience. The equipment required is the same for fully sighted archers but there are a number of extra aids available if necessary. These vary but those commonly used are a block and board for positioning the feet and a vertical stand which grips an adjustable horizontal point of flexible material, for example, paint brush bristles for guiding the position of the hand of the forward aiming arm. Electronic aiming aids have also been developed but are yet to be adopted extensively.

By

Upasana Nagar

 

 

Some great personalities with Visual Impairment

The man who gave us the laws of inertia, falling bodies and parabolic trajectories had imbibed his vision with a golden feather. Galileo Galilei, an astronomer, and mathematician, who gave us the fundamental laws of physics and astronomy, turned the tide in his way and made brief inventions of his time. Galileo was the first person to use the instrument, we now commonly refer to as the telescope, for astronomical observations. He was one of the first person to observe and state that the Moon is not blemish free and that it has a lot of hills and craters and other uneven features on its surface. However, destiny had some ‘different’ vision for him. Galileo turned blind almost a quarter century later, at the age of 72 and the most probable cause was cataract and glaucoma. Incidentally, even after losing one eye due to cataract he took excellent observations of the Moon and discovered the lunar liberation phenomenon. Galileo did observe the Sun using his telescope but did so when the Sun was almost on the horizon at sunrise and sunset. Courageously continuing with his astronomical research and with a firm refusal to look back, Galileo used the projection technique after initially observing at sunrise and sunset. Solar observation is indeed very dangerous if not carried under extreme care and expert supervision. It will cause blindness if care is not taken, but as far as Galileo goes, he was smart and careful enough and continued to study the law of falling bodies and parabolic path of projectiles.

Jhonny Depp wearing a pair of glasses.

 “Everything is just very, very blurry”. Yes, our very own Captain Jack admitted that. Johnny Depp aka Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland fame admitted that he’s blind in his left eye and near-sighted in his right. If Depp isn’t wearing glasses while acting he can only see a few inches in front of him. Something fans may have never realized until now. But what we can clearly see is his playful career ambitions and the perseverance with which he nails every role. The Golden Globe Award winner is leading us with an inspirational example to follow and firmly believes that it’s our psychological strength to look up for challenges, to do new and ‘different’ things. Putting forth your best step already makes you a winner. For now, he continues to be the creative and brilliant actor who has starred in such memorable films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands. But tackling his challenges with sight throughout his acting career is nothing compared to “The Lone Ranger” stars battle for normalcy. However, his determination and strength put in a right direction helped him in becoming what he is.

Featured image sources: Google 

By

Upasana Nagar 

Prevention of blindness and Visual Impairment

The colossal problem of blindness is well known to the ophthalmologists, planners, and administrators of this country. There are 9 million blind and 45 million visually impaired individuals. Of the 9 million 85% are curable and in 27% blindness could have been preven­ted if timely measures of promotion of ocular health, prevention of eye diseases and cure of many ocular pathologies had been taken at an early stage. This is equally true for reducing number of visually impaired. Such visual involvement, blindness and visual impairment place a huge economic and social burden on the nation. Visual impairment is a huge global challenge, both in terms of the burden of disability and the loss of productivity, resulting in a permanent loss of vision. The Ministry of Health, Govt. of India has launched a National Programme for Prevention of Visual Impair­ment and Control of Blindness to be completed in a period of 20 years. It has recognized that: “One of the basic human rights is the right to see. We have to ensure that no citizen goes blind needlessly, or being blind does not remain so, if by reasonable deployment of skill and resources his sight can be prevented from deteriorating or if already lost can be restored”. Also, in order to strengthen the eye health and prevention of blindness programme, the Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly (WHA), which took place in Geneva from 20 to 27 May 2013 endorsed a new global action plan for prevention and control of avoidable blindness “Global Action Plan 2014–2019 for Universal Eye Health”.

It is very important to have regular eye examinations to stop your eyes becoming damaged by undiagnosed conditions. Most people should have their eyes tested at least once every two years, but if there’s a health condition, such as diabetes, glaucoma or high blood pressure (hypertension), then they will probably need to have them tested more regularly. An optometrist can advise better about how often to have your eyes tested. It is very important for drivers and people whose eyesight may be affected by their occupation, such as those who use computer monitors, to have regular eye examinations. Children should also have regular eye examinations. This is because it is very important that visual problems are diagnosed early so that learning and other developmental problems can be prevented.

Preventive eye care is the first line of defense against vision problems. Early detection of vision problems may offer more effective treatment options:

  • Having periodic eye exams (every 2-3 years for healthy patients under 50, yearly for patients over 50 or those with known health risk factors).
  • Knowing your family’s history for any eye problems (hereditary problems).
  • Following a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eating a nutritious diet for eyesight.
  • Wearing durable eye protection when involved in activities that could cause traumatic risk to your vision, such as sports, dealing with firearms, playing paintball and occupations, where hammering, cutting, sawing, drilling, or working overhead are other examples.
  • Avoid hazards such as fireworks.
  • Maintaining healthy eyesight also depends on getting sufficient vitamins and dietary nutrients. These nutrients play a key role in keeping the eye moist and helping protect your eyes from infection. A well-balanced diet will provide most of what normal adults need. Foods rich in omega fatty acids, and leafy green veggies contain lots of valuable nutrients. Vitamins A, C, and E are essential for good eyesight. Lutein and zeaxanthin may protect the macula and retina.
  • Watch your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking is a major risk factor in the development of macular degeneration.

Eyestrain is common in the healthiest of people, especially today as we spend more time in front of screens- cell phones or computer. You can also try some easy steps to prevent or ease eyestrain.

  • Staying fresh: When using a computer or doing a concentrated activity such as sewing or reading, rest your eyes for five minutes every hour. Look away from your work, close your eyes, or simply stare off into space.
  • Blink regularly. Blinking helps reduce evaporation of the tear film that protects the cornea. Forceful blinking also relieves the strain of the continuous focus when you have been reading or looking at a computer screen, increasing the amount of concentrated activity you can perform.
  • While driving for long stretches, alternatively focus on the dashboard and a faraway object. Changing the focus periodically will relax the eye muscles and prevent eyestrain.

By

Upasana Nagar

Primary Reading Writing Tool for Visually Impaired- Indo-NVDA

In a country that is home to about 15 million visually impaired individuals, creating opportunities and making technological advancements becomes of utmost importance. One such unique endeavor is the NVDA (non-visual desktop access) screen reading software. It was developed originally by NV Access, Australia and further modified in order to benefit the Indian population by the research team in India, Mr. Dipendra Manocha being the principal investigator.
Making the world wide web more accessible and enhancing web inclusively opens up many doors for the visually impaired individuals. For blind people to use a computer, they need a screen reader which reads the text on the screen in a synthetic voice or with a braille display. However, most of the screen reading software available currently are too exorbitantly priced for the Indian population. In an interview with Christine Preusler, Michael Curran one of the two developers of NVDA admitted that “The extra software that enabled me as a blind person to use a computer was, in many cases, more expensive than the operating system — and, indeed, sometimes more expensive than the computer itself.” After losing his vision at the age of 15 Michael was granted a computer outfitted with accessibility software through charity.He started to develop Nvda after realizing the cost factor that limits the use of commercial software. Other software though helpful are most often prohibitive for the general population due to high costs.
Indo Nvda is an enhanced and updated version of NVDA, which is specially customized for Indian users which include 14 high-quality voices and 7 Indian languages (Indian English, British English, American English, Hindi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi). The innovation also provides support for different keyboard layouts and includes technical support and training in Indian time zone and Indian languages.
The original Nvda software, when launched in India, had two vocalizer voices for the Indian population namely ‘Lekha’ for Indian Hindi and ‘Sangeeta’ for Indian English. These being robotic and synthetic voices, users often complained about lack of clarity due to hitching sounds and other disturbances.The Indo Nvda was later developed with 14 different vocalizer voices which were customized for the Indian population for example ‘Rishi, Sangeeta and Veena’ for Indian English, ‘Neel and Lekha’ for Hindi, ‘Ananya’ for Marathi, ‘Alpna’ for Kannada, ‘Geeta’ for Telugu etc. Indo Nvda proved to be a key for education and employment for thousands of visually impaired people in India. It supports popular applications including web browsers, email, internet chatting, and office programs including word and excel.The instructions and links for downloading this software are available at Skasham website. The DVD of the software comes with Itools and self-learning tutorial package from Enable India.
In a world where technology is indispensable for every individual, it is unfortunate than computers remain inaccessible to millions of blind people which severely limits their access to employment and education.Indo Nvda currently is a small but remarkable endeavor that has in a great many ways improved quality of life for thousands of visually impaired people in India.

By

Arunima Anand