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Treading with technology

Inside story

Major Pawan Ghimire


Image of Major Pawan Ghimire, president of Criket Association of the Blind, Nepal

Any disability including blindness is not that much severe as most people perceive. If his or her few of the psychological, physical, social and environmental requirements are being fulfilled, any Disabled persons can remain as happy and as productive as his normal peers. Out of the many of the requirements needed to bring activeness in Disabled person's life, technologies are also the one. Needless to say, technologies play eminent role in giving impetus to the motionless and enhance morale and motivation to lead life independently. Proper use of technologies not only escalates ones efficiency to perform his daily and professional assignment but can also ensure Disabled persons active participation in society and nation building process.

Nepal on 27thDecember, 2009has ratified United Nation's Convention on the Right of people with Disability "UNCRPD" which has been a holy book for all Disabled persons to claim their right in all sectors of life. The "UNCRPD's" article nine ensuring pwds accessibility, article nineteen pertaining to living independently, article 20 ensuring personal mobility and article 21 ensuring freedom of expression and access to information strongly focus in the proper use of technologies and assistive devices. Hence, technologies and assistive devices can aid people with disability mainly in four sectors such as communication, mobility , access to information and performing everyday works.

Communication:

The need of assistive devices and technologies may vary from one person to another as per the nature of their disability. The technologies that a deaf needs may not be compatible with the need of Blind or wheel chair users. Unlike other disabled persons it's a deaf and Deafblind who need technologies to establish communication with each other . Use of finger sign language and tactile sign language are the most simple form of technologies that Deaf and Deafblind persons use to establish communication with each other. Deaf also prefers to apply lips reading in addition to their widely accepted finger sign language.

Tactile language a touch to touch form of language communication for the Deafblind persons are still in a developing stage in Nepal while there are many instances where Deafblind persons have acquired Phd degree in international level with the help of this tactile language. Vibrators and shapes of the objects also help Deafblind to understand the things effectively. Hence, this proves that technologies always don't need to be complex and physical materials, a simply designed or body gesture can also act as a technology to understand things better. Deaf of modern world now uses mobile to send sms to communicate with other while people with hard of hearing needs to use hearing aid to listen and communicate . This right to communicate and express opinions are ensured under the article Twenty-one of "UNCRPD".

Mobility technology:

Mobility aids are devices designed to assist walking, otherwise improve the mobility of people with a mobility impairment.
There are various walking aids which can help with impaired ability to walk and wheelchairs or mobility scooters for more severe disability or longer journeys which would otherwise be undertaken on foot. Crutches and walkers are used by the persons with mild physical disability or amputees for the easy maneuver. For people who are blind or visually impaired the white cane has a long history of use while use of a guide dog for the mobility of visually impaired person is still not in practice in Nepal. Other aids like elevator, ramps and lifts can help with mobility or transfer within a building or where there are changes of level.

Traditionally the phrase "mobility aid" has applied mainly to low technology mechanical devices.] It refers to those devices whose use enables a freedom of movement similar to that of unassisted walking or standing up from a chair.
Technical advances can be expected to increase the scope of these devices considerably, for example by use of sensors and audio or tactile feedback. As ensured by the article twenty of "UNCRPD" about pwd's freedom of movement, it has been obligatory for the Government to make disabled friendly roads, tracks, buildings and many more infrastructures so as to make best use of the available mobility aids.

Information technologies:

The article Twenty-one of "UNCRPD" ensures persons with disability's right to information. This right to information of a Disabled person can only be ensured if there is any technology which can enhance his access to an information system. A blind needs a talking technology while person having problems in using fingers or loosing both hands may need screen touch or voice operating technologies. Out of the various technologies enhancing Disabled access to information computer and mobil are the one. Blind uses a screen reader software to escalate his access to computer. 

Using the various screen reader softwares like, Jaws, NVDA, Thunder, Supernova, speak synthesizer and narrator any blind can listen and work through all the icons appearing on the computer screen. With the help of these screen reading soft wares , it is easy to browse through e – mail, face book and web browsing. Out of these screen reader softwares NVDA and Obunto are free soft wares but others are to be paid to use while apple labtop and max computers have in-built screen reading softwares. Similarly, low vision persons having capacity to read larger fronts use magic software to increase the size of the object appearing on computer screen to read. Good to say, Nepalese blind and visually impaired computer users can have their access to Nepali front with the help of Nepali screen reading software named "Dristibachak" developed by low vision nepali engineer Mr. Him Prashad Gautam. Another add for the visually challenged is refreshable Braille display, which may be used as an alternative to screen reader.

These devices convert screen text into Braille and display the Braille on a number of cells comprised of independently controlled pins. When editing and reviewing text, refreshable Braille displays can be much better to work with because a vision-impaired user can easily reread characters on the same line and check spelling. Screen readers are capable of reading words character by character, but the process of moving backwards in text to review and then moving forwards can be cumbersome. Despite their potential advantage, refreshable Braille displays are less common due to their higher cost.
In addition, a Braille embosser converts computer-generated text into embossed Braille output. Braille translation programs convert text scanned in or generated via standard word processing programs into Braille, which can be printed on the embosser. The results on thick paper are the individual dots that constitute Braille characters.

However, choice of appropriate hardware and software will depend on the user's level of functional vision. Another software called the "Natural reader "which can read and record the scanned pages of the book in natural human voice has brought a revolution among the blind students. The Digital Accessible Information System "Daisy" records and converts the recorded file in MP3 format is also popular among the blind students to listen to their course contents. Another electronic device called Braille memo has facilities to record and display the recorded text in Braille. The international World content accessible guidelines "WCAG" has also directed the screen reading software developers to keep the needs of disabled users in mind. As directed by this WCAG principle Deaf gets color beepor flash when he /she receives e –mail or alert color while chatting on computer. There are screen touch keyboards, sound operating computers and special mouse for the persons having problems to move fingers or loosing hands due to various reasons.

Use of Mobil in the modern world is growing faster and faster. It has been the inevitable parts of everybody's life. Hence to increase the Disabled persons access to the use of Mobil, Nokia Mobil having symbium operating system have facilities in which different talking soft wares like" Talk" or "Mobil Speak" can be installed to make all the commands of the Mobil speak. Nokia 66 series, N –series, E5, c-5 and E-63 have such facilities. Apple's I phone 4 has in-built voice over command, if activated can read the whole command of the Mobil applications. Most of the Nokia series do have voice operating system which facilitate to dial the phone with the help of human sound. The change in display color and vibration in a Mobil set helps deaf to find calls and SMS.
Most of the Blind persons do not know what colors of clothes they are wearing. This inquisitive has been slot out by an American company which has produced color recognizer for the blind. This mechanical device has a small lens which can read the numbers of colors that are present in a cloth. At present, this device only cost one hundred U.S dollar.

Technology for everyday work:

Because of the physical limitation blind and other disabled also need help of technology to perform their daily work. A wheelchair user needs a stand to use toilet, deaf needs color bip to identify someone outside the door and blind needs well fencing to protect themselves from unwanted mishaps. Deafblind along with well fenced balcony and stairs needs different shapes and sized in different locations to recognize where he is and what is the name of that object. For examples a coarse pavement may signal him the approach of kitchen and a hump may tell him the location of toilet. Pertaining to this example in a European country lift has audio system to tell the number of floors and Braille printed notice board in railway, bus, public toilets and in most of the public places. Unusual break down of the road and rotators with sound help any blind to cross the road.

Conclusion:

At present day world, whether it be for normal or Disabled, life cant be imagined without support of technologies. In order to over come challenges of life and to compete with the speedy world technologies play crucial role while the Disabled of the modern world are technological Disabled who need support of technology in every step of life to ensure his independency. It has also been felt imperative to develop various advance and improvised technology to respect any disabled right to life and ensure full and enjoyable participation of pwds within a society.

(Author is Major Pawan Ghimire, President at Criket Association of Blind, Nepal)

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