Saturday, January 28

Bengali Braille atlas boost for geography

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Two years after National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO) introduced the first tactile atlas in English for the visually impaired, it has relaunched the atlas and a map of West Bengal in Bengali Braille script for visually disabled students. Teachers from about 36 schools from 18 districts of the state, including Kolkata, attended a workshop on Tuesday to learn how the new tool could be used by visually disabled students to interpret India and West Bengal’s geography more effectively.

Around 60%-70% of visually disabled children in Kolkata attend schools. This is less than Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad where 70%-80% get education. The figure is higher in towns in south India. Though new audio-visual aides have evolved for teaching such students, dependence on Braille remains very high.

NATMO director Tapati Banerjee said, “We plan to release maps in multiple regional languages to make geographical learning of the country more accessible. As our headquarters is in Kolkata, the first map in a vernacular language is in Bengali Braille script.”

Quiz on Geography in schools for the visually disabled have become very popular since the introduction of the new maps. In 2017, as many as 157 students from 10 schools participated in quiz contests held in five centres. In 2018, the number shot up to 392 students from 25 schools in 20 centres.

While the India Atlas is white with the embossed patterns and dots in red and black, Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys Academy teacher Dipankar Mandal suggested use of colour for students with low vision. “This will explain the different regions of the country and its features better,” he reasoned. The West Bengal map, though, is in colour.

Nabadwip A P C Blind School vice-principal Basudeb Chatterjee, who attended the workshop, lauded the initiative. “The Braille maps have been an important tool for teaching since 2017 and the new maps have a better feel with more distinguishable patterns. The use of Bengali will help more students,” Chatterjee said.

Source: Times of India

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