Bookbole.com is seeking ideas on creating a sustainable and scalable user verification system. The goal is to ensure that Bookbole is reaching its intended users i.e. print-impaired, caregivers of print-impaired or organisations /individuals accessing for the print-impaired and NOT sighted users who are none of the above.
Archive for November, 2009
A couple of weeks earlier, Yoshi joined us as a new member on BookBole. She is a young aspiring social entrepreneur whose dream is to set up a reading caravan project in Thailand. And she is currently in the final stages of completion of a one year course at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship(IISE) in Kerala, India. So here’s a Japanese girl who is studying in India and would be setting up a venture in Thailand! So that pretty much sums up what Braille without Borders is all about!
Braille Without Borders (BWB) is an international organisation for the blind in developing countries. It was founded in Lhasa, Tibet by Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg in 1998.
Sabriye Tenberken was born in Cologne in Germany.At age 12 she became blind. She studied Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with sociology and philosophy. As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kind of studies, she could not fall back on the experiences of anyone else – and had to develop her own methods in order to follow her course of studies. Out of this need, Sabriye developed the Tibetan Braille Script. Sabriye initiated the project for the blind in Tibet along with Paul. Paul was born in Venray in the Netherlands. He has a technical background, and is responsible for all technical and maintenance aspects in the project.
After tasting success in the Tibetan project they started the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship (IISE) in Kerala, India. IISE focuses on participants who are blind and/or partially sighted. Over a one year’s course the participants will be practically trained in management, fundraising, PR activities, project planning, computer technology, English, communication and soft skills. After this training they will be in a position to fight for their rights, to negotiate with governmental leaders and help to change the attitudes towards marginalized groups through setting up social and/or environmental projects in their own regions or countries.
I guess those doubts have been put to rest, the first batch of IISE passes out in a couple of weeks from now. 23 participants from 14 different countries, each with passion, commitment and their own dreams.
Our best wishes to the first batch & the entire team at BWB , and we are confident that all of them will go places. As they rightly point out, they have right to be blind without being disabled.
We may not have a problem building a few ramps in movie theatres and malls or reserving desk-jobs. But what about areas where the average person has long held a monopoly? Or areas where we may feel disabled persons cannot be ‘accommodated’ easily. Like the army. We seem to be unwilling to even let disabled students apply to a military school. Should we draw the line here and designate some areas as ‘off-limits’ for such people? If we do, are they really equal citizens?
For the second time in ‘Geekable’, Vivek explores the meaning of equality in the context of disabled persons. This time, he takes a closer look at the issue of admitting disabled persons into military schools. Agree or disagree…your comments would make this debate more interesting.
It might be a bit strange to pick a site where all of the content is in video, but our research shows that Youtube is a pretty popular site for our users. So, today, we would like to feature the Khan Academy.
The Khan Acadamy was started by the efforts of Sal Khan to realize his goal of using technology to educate people. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started remote tutoring with his cousins and now reaches over 50,000 students and adult learners around the world.
The Sal Academy features over 800 videos (all made by Sal) covering everything from Biology to Calculus, Linear Algebra and Finance. Sal makes use a blackboard while teaching, but in most cases his lectures are quite easy to understand even without the visual aides. However, even if they weren’t, I for one would like to point to Sal as an inspiration of what one person can do to make a difference.
The Fayre couple visited India to adopt a 5-year-old boy who was born blind, abandoned at a hospital gate, and who had subsequently spent the last five years isolated in an orphanage with virtually no human contact.
Reading this blog gave me cheer and hope…. Lots of hope. Read about this loveable family and the adventurous journey they have Raising Pandu. I hope you will make an effort to drop a comment to cheer this family that stepped up lovingly to adopt a special needs child.
Here is an excerpt on their first meeting with Pandu
Wow! It finally happened. We went to Ashraya and met Pandu today! And… he’s not nearly as bad off as we had orginally thought he might be. He is walking around on his own, playing with toys, and oh my god, full of energy! He is still in the todlers room. He isn’t speaking, as we suspected, but he is deffinately understanding some words. We were able to spend around 2 hours with him before the children were put down for a nap. We then went back to our hotel for about 2 hours and then came back to the orphanage for around half an hour.
Pandu seemed to be really interested in me. I’m not sure if this is my magnetic personality, or just that he has been around very few, if any, male caregivers. He came up to me several times and grabbed onto my leg. He also let Lalena and I hold him for a while. Lalena played with him and got him laughing. He does have a long way to go, but I’m sure he will improove exponentially once he gets some one-on-one attention. It was very obvious that the orphanage is very understaffed. They just don’t have time to give each child the attention they need. As one of the workers put it, “the volunteers tend to gravitate towards those children who are the most vocal in seeking attention.” Pandu just isn’t one of those kids.
All the children in the todlers room were very fascinated with us. I’m sure they are for any new adult that comes in and pays attention to them. Because I’m blind, and carying a cane, they were that much more interested.
After we left the orphanage, we went out to dinner at a really nice restaurant downtown. The bill came out to 1000 rupees, which is around $20. That was for a restaurant on the 13th floor of a shopping complex with an incredible view of the city. I am now sitting in our hotel room writing this posting. Lalena is fast asleep. 22 hours of traveling and then 4 hours of sleep will tend to do that to a person. I’m gonna as soon as I finish this posting, if my head doesn’t hit the keyboard before I’m finished!
So, that was our day. I’ll let Lalena describe the hair-raising auto-ricshaw ride downtown to the restaurant. She’s much better at that sort of thing than I am. She did see her first cow walking down the middle of the road though. Well, not her first cow, but the frst cow in the middle of te road amoung tons of other traffic. Anyways, good night everyone out there in blog land! We’ll post more tomorrow.
Follow the Fayre family at their blog Raising Pandu
In today’s staff pick we feature Sandi Wassmer’s blog which is on the Action for Blind website. Sandi is a businesswoman based in UK, who registered blind a year ago, and blogs about the ‘shenanigans of visual impairment’.
Her posts cover her day to day experiences as a blind person, and tend to address a lot of relevant issues which sighted persons are totally unaware off.
Here’s her take on accessibility with a simple example ”You would think that, in my job and with my burning desire to make sure that all disabled folk are getting the best out of technology, I would be able to get more people to understand why it is so important for the Internet to be Inclusive and that Accessibility isn’t something that you think about as an add-on after you have built your website. It is an integral part of every website. You wouldn’t build a 50-story building without a lift now, would you?”
Her article in the guardian you don’t need sight to have vision was an attempt to open the eyes of people to change their inaccurate perceptions of disability.
We need many more Sandi’s to stand up and keep writing to raise awareness, and we hope that the perceptions will change for good, sooner than later.
The first blog which are covering as part of the BookBolé staff picks is Marco’s Accessibility Blog. Marco’s blog covers accessibility related topics, and offers musings, tips and tricks.
Marco has an overall experience of over 13 years in the assistive technology field, and has worked with companies like Freedom Scientific and Mozilla. He has quite a fan following who always comment on his blog posts, and add their own perspective, making the blog even richer. Do check out one of Marco’s most popular posts, his experience using an accessible touch screen device.
If you want to stay tuned on accessibility tips & tricks, then Marco’s Blog is something you just can’t miss.
BookBolé is all about accessible content for persons with visual impairment. During one of our team meetings we came up with the idea of BookBolé Staff Picks.
The concept is simple, the BookBolé team will share links to blogs, websites and other resources which could be relevant for the visually impaired.
We have come across brilliant blogs written by visually impaired persons, which have continued to remain hidden or have a limited following within the geography they belong to. We have also seen some fantastic websites which are popular amongst the visually impaired in a certain countries whilst the people in other countries are not aware of the existence of such a website.
Since BookBolé has members from all corners of the globe, the idea behind this initiative was to provide access to content which is already accessible! These resources could act as a means of learning from each other, in many cases these could be a source of inspiration to achieve the goals which once seemed impossible, and in some cases just provide a good entertaining read!
So are we experts who can recommend websites? No, we are just sharing our learning, and hope to discover true gems from all parts of the world.
Hope you enjoy the staff picks!
This post briefly describes the BookBolé project and seeks to articulate our vision
One of the biggest challenges in the world of the visually impaired – the lack of accessible content i.e. content in formats accessible by the blind such as audio, digital text that can be ‘read out’ by a screen reading software, or braille.
With the digitization of content as a result of the internet, as well as specific governmental and non-governmental initiatives to increase the volume of accessible content, there is now much more accessible content* though the volume of content remains a major issue. However the problem is not just one of quantity but of relevancy i.e. of not just responding to general needs but specific user requirements. Large-scale global initiatives to convert books into accessible formats are just a drop in the ocean. They can only cater to some needs of some people in some parts of world. With so much information captured in partially or fully inaccessible formats (print or digital non-readable formats) how does one respond to culture, language, industry and domain specific needs?
The Ideal Solution
The answer to this decentralized and hydra-headed problem is a decentralized community-driven solution. If similarly placed print and visually impaired across the world can connect with each other and share their efforts to fulfil their specific needs then there is a durable and dynamic solution at hand.
If Kevin from Holland shares his accessible biology notes with Rajat from India; Jose from Brazil shares his law school research with Lee Kyun from Korea; Nick shares his accessible collection of Gandhi’s writings with Shantifrom Sri Lanka, then we have a solution like no other.
A vibrant universe where people reach out, connect and fulfill each other’s needs. A universe created by aggregating the pools of accessible content that the visually impaired community has created for itself. A place where the value to the community of an individual effort is truly unlocked. Sharing that goes to the heart of the problem.
Bookbole.com, Inclusive Planet’s first creation, is the consequence of this thought process. Designed exclusively for the 300 million-strong global print impaired community, it enables them to connect with each other and share accessible content, including books, notes, articles, blogs, audio recordings and so on, and furthermore, to build conversations around this content. It is a social network, with a difference. In the fashion of all things simple and useful, Bookbolé will no doubt come to mean different things to different people across the world – a learning tool for some, an entertainment platform for others, and for all, a place to make friends and have conversations.
Inclusive Planet’s vision for Bookbolé is that of a large, vibrant, pulsating community that shares useful content and conversations in a more-that-just-accessible environment, and where publishers and content-creators across the world, see the value of making available their content in mutual beneficial arrangements. Going forward, the largest community of visually and print impaired people in the world could see Bookbolé become a social network, content platform, marketplace and policy platform rolled into one. The makings of a true social venture.
* It is estimated that in India only 0.5% of books are available in accessible formats while in the US this is only 5%.