During a volunteer visit to a visually impaired couple, DISQ innovators Bonny Dave, Abhishek Baghel, and Akshita Sachdeva experienced firsthand the accessibility challenges that people with print disabilities face. Unable to read the details on medicine packaging, the couple had ended up feeding their infant expired gripe water. They realized the error only when a neighbor found the child covered in a rash.
Digging deeper into such accessibility challenges, the group understood that there was a need to make all content – whether printed or digitized, and whether machine readable or not – more accessible. Tapping into the DISQ network for resources and mentorship, the team came up with several innovations.
Accessibility at the Core
To make printed content – so far accessible only in Braille form, which is bulky, has resource prerequisites, and requires training and volunteer support – accessible, they created a physical device called KIBO (meaning ‘hope’ in Japanese). This multilingual scanning and reading device gives people access to printed resources – any content in Hindi, English, or Marathi, be it textbooks, visiting cards, or even packaging material – in real time.
Then, to help people consume machine-readable digital content more easily, the team built an Android application called KITAB that could read any file across the DAISY, Epub2 and Epub3, PDF, and .txt formats and deliver them to the end user through a voice-based output. The team also offers content digitization as a service to turn non-machine readable content into accessible machine-readable content.
Creating an Impact
KIBO was launched on World Braille Day 2018 in association with the Maharashtra unit of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU). Within six months, over 90 users were actively engaged with KIBO and KITAB, with engagement time being 30% more than that on traditional reading and learning resources for the visually impaired. The team has since received an interest in KIBO units from several organizations.
Apart from helping make the world a little more accessible for people with print and learning disabilities, these solutions have also helped universities update and revise non-machine readable content such as old textbooks, while also giving publishers an incentive to cater to an expanded market. The team hopes that its devices will eventually help society become more accessible and inclusive.