Orca: Freeware For The Visually-Challenged, Courtesy UoP
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28 September 2010
By Samarpita Banerjee
City Anchor The Software, Which Uses The Linux Operating System, Is Being Developed At The Varsity's Advanced Technology Blind Student's Learning Centre
WITH an aim to provide visually–challenged students across the country with a software that can make advanced studies easier, the Advanced Technology Blind Student's Learning Centre, University of Pune is developing Orca. This software, which will be available free of cost for students across the country, will make study materials more accessible for the students with the disability.
Orca, which operates on Linux, is a special screen reader. A special software development team is working on the software. Speaking about the progress made in the development of the software, Dhananjay Bhole, co–ordinator of the learning centre, said, "The development of the software is an ongoing process. This particular software announces whatever appears on the screen, to assist visually impaired students. With this software, the students will not need any help from others to operate the computers."
What is different about this particular software is that once work on it is complete, it will be made available for students completely free of cost. "We use very advanced technology in our labs. But the limitation of these softwares is that they are very expensive. Orca, even if it will do the same work as the other softwares, will be available free of cost."
The centre, which was started at the university two years ago is being funded by the university and agencies like UGC and DIT. However,it need more funds for this kind of software development but are finding it difficult to get sponsors. "Any new center takes some time to establish itself. We will get more funds for our projects once we show the kind of work we have been doing for the past couple of years," added Bhole.
Another problem the centre is facing is that of having a floating research staff.
"Since we do not have enough funds, the research team we have here is on a contractual basis. The team keeps changing every six months. That is one challenge we have been facing. However, we are working with whatever resources we have," said Bhole.
Dhananjay Bhole, who was the founding person of the center is one of the few visually challenged people in the world to have done a post graduate degree in bioinfor matics. He also has done an MBA in human resources. However, he feels that there is still a lot of stigma attached to the disability.
"There still are many companies which are not employing visually impaired even if they are qualified. Hence, we at our center, are also running a few sensitising programs. There needs to be more awareness about the disability and people need to be sensitised," he said.
Apart from developing the software for higher technical studies, the center is also working on making audio books for school children. "Our aim is to remove educational barriers and make it accessible to everyone. And with proper assistance and funding, we will be able to achieve that with time," added Bhole.