Reinventing the reading experience
The internet, today, has made a variety of content available and easily accessible for a reader across the digital spectrum.
For a moment, imagine your life without the internet or digital access. Despite the advancements in online platforms, there aren’t systems or user-friendly modes at hand for the print disabled—those who cannot read due to vision impairment, learning or physical disabilities. They still find it a challenge to consume or download online content, especially in text.
To facilitate accessible books for those that can’t read print, a nationwide web-based digital ecosystem, ‘Sugamya Pustakalya’, was launched in 2016, powered by TCS’ Access Infinity. It is a specially designed inclusive and integrated online library, allowing multiple beneficiaries from anywhere and anytime to upload and access media in real time.
‘Sugamya Pustakalya,’ which literally translates to ‘the accessible library’, is a collaborative initiative by Daisy Forum of India (DFI), National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities (NIEPVD), and TCS.
A beneficiary of the platform described it as a “boon” for individuals who find it challenging to read print. Access to books anywhere off the internet in different consumable formats has had an enduring impact among this group of individuals.
Why accessible content
“You all know, how difficult it is to make books available for us (visually impaired), and then to make it readable as well,” says Pankaj Singh Kushwaha, a beneficiary of the platform. “The Government of India has taken a very good initiative of instituting the portal in this direction, which should be further taken to villages so people there too can download the information and read it,” he adds.
It is estimated that at least a million books are published globally every year, but less than 5% of these are made available in adaptable formats for the visually impaired. Lower reading levels mean poorer employment opportunities and stymied progress in life.
This problem is felt more in the Indian subcontinent where technology adoption is relatively slower among publishers, who don’t have access to resources or the process to create and distribute inclusive content.
Moreover, content in impairment-friendly formats is time-consuming to create, and expensive.
TCS Access Infinity
TCS Research recognized the need for accessible solutions to make reading material available and accessible to all.
TCS’ Accessibility Center of Excellence (CoE) piloted the initiative, developing TCS Access Infinity, a multimodal, multichannel technology platform for the purpose.
The tool is primarily recognized for reinventing the reading experience for those that find it a challenge to read print on account of disabilities like vision impairment, dyslexia, or loss of dexterity. It has benefited the entire content ecosystem from content creators, publishers to readers.
Access Infinity facilitates accessible digital publishing on the Sugamya Pustakalaya portal which converts the content to formats such as Braille, DAISY text/audio, and Epub3. Furthermore, all content on the platform can be accessed via Daisy players, smartphones, and analogous digital devices. Physical formats such as CDs, DVDs, and portability via USB are also available.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has enabled instant conversion of source files into various accessible formats, across languages for the print disabled. The platform also ensures watermarking of the material provided to the users, safeguarding copy right regulations, and protecting publishers’ interest.
This has encouraged publishers and content providers to partake in the initiative towards an ever-growing, ever-evolving accessible library.