IIT KGP innovates technologies for children with special needs

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IIT Kharagpur develops technological aids for pedagogical requirements of children with special needs

Researchers at IIT Kharagpur have developed a whole new range of technological tools to empower children with special needs and meet their educational requirements. These tools which have been tested successfully in Indian conditions and specifically made for Indian children with such needs were displayed on October 22, 2016 at the Kolkata Extension Center of IIT Kharagpur by IIT researchers and Society for Natural Language Technology Research (SNLTR) Kolkata, to whom some of the technologies have been transferred for wider deployment. IIT Kharagpur has started a Teaching-Learning Center in the project mode, with support from the Ministry of Human Resources Development. “One of the objectives of this program is to develop new pedagogical tools and systems for the learning process of the differently-abled children. A review of the existing tools and practices are also a part of the task. The tools and systems will be made available to all through on-line access repository. The second objective of the program is to spread out the use of these tools among the teachers, through workshops and awareness programs. The execution of this activity is planned with direct participation of the teachers, special educators and parents of the children” said Prof. Anupam Basu, lead researcher and Head & Chairman, Centre for Education Technology, IIT Kharagpur.

A voice-enabled key-board named Baisakhi developed by the researchers will enable the user to hear the sound of the words typed using the key board on the computer screen thus helping a visually impaired person to write. Besides the keyboard, a software which translates any Indian language to Braille has been developed and thus text material can be printed in Braille. This initiative is named Sparsha.
The researchers from IIT Kharagpur have also developed a multimedia hardware-software communication system for the education of students with Cerebral Palsy. “We have been working on various projects to help ease educational requirements of children with special needs. Some of the tools developed by us are also been used by various organizations. We take feedback from these organizations and other professionals in this field and further enhance the capabilities of the tools to meet the requirements of the users” added Prof. Basu.
Akash-Bani is an android application wherein image icons are available which when touched will be converted to voice command. This application will be especially beneficial for people with speech as well motor disabilities. The tool Sanyog is a communication system for the speech impaired and children with Cerebral Palsy. While Sanyog is a learning software communication can be done for the speech impaired and children with cerebral palsy through various image icons. Through the software the user can select icons for various action verbs and thereafter nouns as required and then select whether it was meant in affirmative or negative sense.
The Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP) has already adopted these tools. Swati Chakraborty, Head, Information Technology, IICP said, “Akash-Bani is a breakthrough innovation. This tool can be used by not just children affected with Cerebral Palsy but even others with speech impairment. Sanyog is critical for learning. Such tools were earlier procured from abroad which were not only highly expensive but did not have the option of Indian mother tongues. IIT Kharagpur has set up a newtrend with these innovations.”
The event had participation from Experts, Organizations, NGOs and Schools from all over India working in special education. The event had a brainstorming session on the requirements to develop tools for the different disabilitiesIt focused on creating an ecosystem of technologist and evangelists to spread awareness of the technology availability and capacity building with shared responsibilities and action plans for Awareness Building, Hi-Tech and Low-tech tool development and their dissemination.