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Archive for December, 2009

it's about typhoons and iphonesmyths to manuals, all in one place

Seasons greetings! here’s one more reason for you to spread the word

Inclusive Planet is a live project that is changing lives of people with visual impairment! It is a community where content like journals, books and class notes, is shared in accessible digital formats. So unlike your static social network, the community shares what is relevant to them. You then end up with japanese history and iphone manuals in one place.

Help us reach out! spread the word and this could just be the best gift someone’s got in a long long time

Click on this link and spread the word ” http://www.inclusiveplanet.com/en/login_giftincp

Best
Team IP

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'a gift that works best when under construction'Cause you get to decide where it is headed

Merry Christmas all, time to spread some more good news. Here is how you can do it.

Inclusive Planet is a live project that is changing lives of people with visual impairment! It is a community where content like journals, books and class notes, is shared in accessible digital formats. So unlike your static social network, the community shapes what it wants inclusive planet to be. isn’t that wonderful?

Help us reach out! spread the word and this could just be the best gift someone’s got in a long long time

Click on this link and spread the word ” http://www.inclusiveplanet.com/en/login_giftincp

Best
Team IP


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This social network will not poke!

It has better things to do.
Inclusive Planet is a live project that is changing lives of people with visual impairment! It is a community where content like journals, books and class notes, is shared in accessible digital formats. So instead of poking around, this social network helps users bridge valuable information gaps in areas such as education and employment.

This holiday season, help us reach out! Spread the word and this could just be the best gift someone’s got in a long, long time

click here to spread the word

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Silent Learnings

Bharat Shetty is a guest blogger with Inclusive Planet and shares his experiences of how it was for him as a deaf child studying in an integrated school. Every parent of every disabled child has to at some point make this very difficult decision – the decision of choosing either a ‘special’ school or an integrated school for their child.

Read on to find out the exceptional support and care Bharat received at the Ursu Boarding School. This is what he has to say

I will narrate yet another experience of mine which proved to be one of the founding pillars during my integration with the mainstream society. Over to Ursu Boarding School located at Mysore, Karnataka, India. So it had come to a stage, where I had just finished the pre-school training for the hearing impaired in Rotary West institute for Mother and deaf child. Obviously admitting any child to its first ever normal school can be a terrifying experience for most of the parents and they would try to be careful to ensure seamless integration of the child to the schools. In my case, there was the added problem of the deafness leading to bit of a traumatic experience for my parents. If not for this school, we would have never imagined how the path would have shaped for me as years progressed.
Especially in the case of disabled and more prominently that of the hearing impaired, the first school they get admitted to is of phenomenal importance, for it is here where they get some confidence to face first instances of their integration with the hearing peers and mainstream society. So how did this school help me ? A day came when I stepped into that office of the school adorned with portraits of erstwhile Maharajas and important people from previous lineage of the school along with my parents. For the first time I saw a person who was going to be my first prominent teacher after my mother. It was none other than Vishalakshamma, the current headmistress of the school, to whom me and my parents owe a great deal of gratitude. She greeted us with her dignified smile and assured my mom that everything is going to be fine and I will get the best of support from all the teachers. Next I remember being introduced to unforgettable teachers like Pushpa, Prabha, Shobha, Saraswathi, Sumathi etc. This was the same school where I was to pick up my best friend Sudhanva and whose mom became a fierce and close family friend with us. I’ll also never forget the awesome friends circle I was fortunate to have known like Abhilash, Chandrashekar etc.
Couple of anecdotes come to my mind from my primary school days here. The first was when there was a class. I had messed up in some handwriting or forgot to complete the homework I guess. Vishalakshamma had just rolled into the class and had been complained by the teacher that almost entire class hadn’t done the homework. She had a cane in her hand. And she started giving one tight lash on hand for everybody. I was thinking may be I’m hearing impaired, so she will spare me. But she came to me; looked my eyes sternly, gave me one good tight lash on my palm. Tears swelled up in eyes. Later I realized how it meant for me to get that tight lash with everyone else. Probably that was the first instance I felt I had been truly integrated and considered among all others in the class. I will never forget that cane punishment she gave me and the love, sense of discipline she oozed into everyone of us. She just wanted her wards to be disciplined in life and get along doing work without fail. In her simple words, it was “You just do it, else you get the cane.” This also applies to life. First major lesson for us.
Another instance was when one day Pushpa madam called me to her 8th class. I went without understanding what would befall on me. Once entering the class. I was told to write on the board in chronological order – the names of all the presidents who had ruled India. And I wrote sheepishly with a grin on the board for I was a tiny self back then. Once I completed it, she said, now Bharat, go and hold the nose and give some small slap to everyone assembled here. I was horrified and started crying and said, maam I can’t do that. And still I had to do it. If any of those seniors who remember this, my apologies for that. But I guess these novel methods of punishments were instilled and unique to Ursu boarding school, so as to instill some sense of commitment in learning the basics, discipline and other important things in life deeply in our memories. We all should be thankful to this school for such memories. As for me, it gave me phenomenal amount of confidence that somebody respects my hard work and knowledge acquirement process.
Coming to the exams, my progress was fairly satisfying in main streams like Science, Maths and Social science thanks to the individual care shown by all the teachers. The teachers even interacted daily with my mother and even visited the pre-school for training in teaching hearing impaired children. I don’t think most schools in India will show this kind of commitment and passion to integrate everyone into primary schooling system. I still strongly recommend this school to parents concerned with admitting their wards to this school for the unique affordable experience it provides. I was also exposed to people from rural villages, and poor backgrounds. Everyone were treated equally without any bias in classrooms. I could not have asked for more richer experience anywhere else.
Coming to dramatics, extracurricular activities etc, the school always ensured that I get to participate with others despite my poor speech clarity. I was given subtle but important roles in the dramas for annual school days. Soon time had come for me to move to a English medium school. During my first annual day in the school, me and my parents will never forget how the school chose to bestow the best student award on me normally reserved to 10 public exam toppers. For me it meant a justification of my parents hard efforts and I remember my mother crying that day. The confidence this school gave to both me and my parents was terrific and we would never forget Vishalakshamma for this. Even when I went through various stages later in my secondary school stage and eventually entered Engineering at SJCE, Vishalakshamma, Pushpa and Shobha kept in touch with my parents actively and promoted the inclusion of hearing impaired children to the school. Thanks to this school lots of hearing impaired students get a stable and solid platform where they muster the confidence to move on to more stringent achievements in their arduous journey towards enlightenment.
In nutshell, there is always going to be someone who will be willing to guide you during your hard struggles. So if you are a parent or caretaker of a disabled child or you know someone who has a disabled child, ensure that the school they are admitted to takes immense individual care to promote and foster all-round development of the child thereby helping its smooth integration into the mainstream society for this is where the genesis to enlightenment begins.
We at inclusive planet, wish all of you readers a merry Christmas and a warm happy new year and happy holidays
Bharat Shetty

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Surprise, surprise!

If you were wondering why the BookBolé blog has merged with this one? Well that’s because BookBolé is now Inclusive Planet!

We did a bit of soul searching and realized that BookBolé, while catchy and focussed, was not something that remained relevant in languages other than English. One thing led to the other and we soon realized that we needed a name that anchored expectations better than books or even accessible content. The answer was right in front of us all this time.

Inclusive Planet summed up exactly what we wanted to be as we evolved from a site that solely focussed on books to one that was building this whole community and marketplace around a shared love for accessible content. As we realign our focus and look at the much bigger picture ahead of us, we hope the renaming gives our audience an instant understanding of what we hope to achieve.

Best

Team Inclusive Planet formerly known as BookBolé

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Planet of the Ables

You are a sum of infinite abilities and disabilities
Living, to enhance/discover our abilities and suppress our disabilities.
We are all able.

We present to you some moments of suppressed and chosen disabilities.

    Motion-less

Motion-less

Utsa Shome, Corporate Lawyer & Weekend Photographer.

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A couple of days ago, I got to catch up with one of our members who is working on the NVDA project. Tamas Geczy. Tamas has been helping us for a while now and the we made him take some time off to answer some questions we were dying to ask. So there you go ladies and gentlemen, Tamas and what he has been up to, a Bookbolé member spotlight.

Me: hey Thomas, what’s happening 🙂

Thomas: well, I spent most of it sorting through my old CDS and I came across a whole batch of books which I’m slowly uploading to BookBolé. How was yours?

Me: I saw that, thanks a ton Thomas that was a brilliant three pages of uploads

Thanks a ton

Mine was good, I had to work on a better uploader tool too

Thomas: oh it’s quite alright. But I’m very flexible when it comes to technology 🙂 been around it since age 6.

Me: I had not been too keen on tech till I joined college

Thomas: ha-ha there’s more coming down the pipe 🙂 and BookBolé desktop was a help in getting some of those up as well.

Well you see I used to love technology but somehow I realized that while it’s good, I would never be able to program in front of my computer all day (I know 3 programming languages to date) because I like being outside and around people a lot. So now I’ll probably major in communications and maybe minor in programming or networking. 🙂

Me: what do you think about the BookBolé Desktop

Thomas: well. You see I only have a very low speed internet at home, I live in a wooded area and usually use dial-up or my cell phone’s internet, so it takes about 5 minutes to upload 1 mb of data anyway.

Thomas: hmm. The Application would have to accommodate people with a wide range of visual impairments.. The application is simple to use with the keyboard shortcuts (I think that’s what most people will be using) so I’d for sure keep those. Maybe instead of having a table listing file status you could have 2 lists in the window one showing queued and the other chosen files, and the user could navigate to and from these lists with alt+1 and 2. The lists could have headers which show the status/file information. The only reason I can see the tables as a bit confusing is because of navigation and while most screen readers support web applications, there might be exceptions with others.

And of course, in general the window should pop to the for ground with a cancel button until it has logged onto CIS. Overall though, it’s a great tool 🙂

Me: ok, tell us a bit about yourself, and what you were up to in the last few days?

Thomas: As always, I would first wish to thank the team for conducting this interview – for me it is an honor because of the potentials I see in the service. I was born in the country of Hungary with a visual impairment known as ROP (retinopathy of Prematurity) and can only see light with my right eye as a result. With the help of my mom I moved to the US in 2003, having visited it for half a year in 2000. So I not only had the chance to see how accessibility progressed/progresses in my home nation, but also have the opportunity to live in the US where a lot of laws and technologies are in place and at work. That’s why I try to help the Hungarian blind community, and I translated the free NVDA screen reader into Hungarian as a result. Because my Hungarian language skills have declined however I gave the project to Robert and a few of my Hungarian boarding school friends, and to this date they work and do a great job in maintaining the translation. As for my latest projects… Well, I do my radio show three times a week as always, am working on getting more books for BookBolé, and there’s always school to worry about 🙂

Me: thanks Thomas, how is school coming along, what are you studying currently?

Thomas: Just your average high school as of yet 🙂 I’m in the 12th grade, so it’s my last year. I do however take vocational classes half the day, so I spend half of my day at another school doing computer programming credits for college and the other half of it at my home high school. Overall I’m doing well academically but socially even here I sometimes feel how the sighted perceive me because of my disability.

Me: so Thomas, when and why did you start working on NVDA?

Thomas: It was during the middle of the night that I got the idea for translating it, I was thinking of the visually impaired people back there. I think the date was sometime at the end of February 2007, so actually a while back. I already knew some Python which is NVDA’s source language, so I got to working on it that afternoon and by that night had an ok prototype of it. In Hungary, JAWS exists, but it is quite costly compared to the average salary of a Hungarian which is about $600. So NVDA was the perfect free alternative and I at least wanted to provide a screen reader to the VI of that country which was usable day-to-day and easy to navigate. NVDA of course has grown quite a lot since then and I didn’t know enough of the Hungarian language to be able to translate technical words like “tear-off Menu” which screen readers use, + my grammar wasn’t the best. So in Early 2008 I gave the project to some of my boarding school friends and to this day they maintain it frequently with newer and better Message translations.

Me: sweet, so how many iterations have you gone through till now?

Thomas: with NVDA?

Me: yes

Thomas: Well, at first there was no Hungarian eSpeak, which is NVDA’s Text to speech engine. So I worked with Jonathan in getting that speech engine to be in Hungarian. Then there were lots of updates to the actual NVDA translation and a lot of it was re-written by the community with better grammar. 🙂 I know a lot of people use NVDA today in Hungary, and actually our next project will be to get a better speech voice which is more clear, so my eventual goal will be to raise a couple thousand dollars in college and spend it on working with the Hungarian universities towards a natural, free, open-source TTS engine which speaks Hungarian.

Me: awesome. All the best for the venture Thomas

Now about your friends, how many are involved in the project! How did you meet them?

Thomas: Most of my friends are actually spread across the country. Sweden, Croatia, some in India, Columbia, but those who worked with me on NVDA was mainly friends who I met in 5th grade, when I attended the Budapest boarding school for the Blind for a year. I kept in touch with them, and there was another person from Hungary who they introduced me to, Robert. He also went to the US and so his English and Hungarian is very good. For a total, I’d say about 7 or 8 people are working on fixing things, with Robert being the main English translator. I also try to keep base with Aaron and Istvan to see what’s happening in the country and with NVDA over there. 🙂

Me: interesting. You read a lot right…

Thomas: yes, I love reading 🙂 I know English, Hungarian and Spanish Braille so sometimes I read Braille and electronic books.

Me: what genres do you specifically like? Any authors that you love? And why would you suggest them to your friends on BookBolé

Thomas: hmm. There’s a vast of them 🙂 I don’t have a limit on what genres I read, although I’m not too fond of horror books much. I’ve read Science fiction, historical books, some dealing with new-age/spirituality, some romance and fiction… It really is endless. I think my favorite Scifi/fantisy books were the City of Ember series, the Animorphs books, H. G. Wells, and Steven Hawking. I’ve read a lot of children’s books like all 7 Harry Potters, the Inheritance series, and a series of Unfortunate Events – they are all excellent ones 🙂

Me: we loved the city of ember series. Why did you like it?

Thomas: It was a good book which relayed I think a plot that could happen in our world today – where wars and plagues cause the government to build a city underground, in order to preserve Humanity. I’m an optimist, so I don’t think that such a destruction event will ever happen and the need to build an underground city, but I suppose it has a very small possibility always.

Me: I agree. I found the series to be defiantly positive and eager, something I found missing in some other books of the same genre

Thomas: 🙂 It also was as I recall one of the first American books I read in 7th grade.

Me: oh, well

I read it recently.

Thomas: did you also read the continuation (The People of Sparks)?

Me: yes, that’s when they realize the scale of the destruction, but

somehow the book was still lilting

Thomas: by the way I’m going through my cell phone for internet access when its battery dies so does my internet go. lol.

Me: you use a cell phone to access the internet for your computer?

Via Bluetooth?

Thomas: yes exactly right 🙂

Me: sweet, which

phone do you use?

Thomas: it’s a Windows Mobile phone, called the Motorola q.

Me: a lot of friends who have visual impairment, use the nokias, you are the first person I know who uses a windows phone

Thomas: yes, in India and other European countries Symbian phones are very popular. It’s very interesting, I’ve never used one, since in the US the blind can only use Windows Mobile powered phones.

Thomas: I do beta testing work for Code Factory who makes Mobile speak and there were some rough beta builds in the past ha-ha.

Me: sweet, so Thomas, about your favorite authors, who would you recommend?

Thomas: Well, a lot of the books that I’m uploading to date come from my own personal collection and I’ve read most of them through the years. So as a 7th grader the Chronicles of Narnia was my big book series (that’s by C. S. Lewis), in 9th grade I’ve read all 54 Animorph books by K. A. Applegate, in 10th the Series of Unfortunate events books… I’m not sure if any of them are “favorite” over others, they’ve all written great books. I know I’ve Mentioned some of my recommend author’s before, and all of them have also written some great works 🙂

Me: now about BookBolé, how do you expect it to evolve over time?

Thomas: hmm. I feel that the service has a lot of potentials because of the great team that’s behind it, as well as the honesty of it’s community Members. A lot of friends here in the US have complained about not having any disability checks in place (so that there is no way to know if someone who signed up is blind or not), but I’m sure that a solution will be made for that, either through the community or a dedicated team. Since BookBolé has so many people around the world, I know that a multi-language interface will also help it’s growth. I’m not sure how things are when it comes to copyrighted books, but I feel that as the BookBolé grows so will publishers extend rights to keep the copyrighted books on the site, since their removal would make an impact on the number of books people can download being visually impaired.

Me: rightly put Thomas, we really are trying hard for that, it

doesn’t make sense otherwise

Thomas: well, I’m not sure what the public domain copyright limit is in India, but in the US it takes over 100 years for a book to be put in the public domain, and to date I’d say there are only a few thousand books listed as public – most of which are really old.

Thomas: I think the saddest part of it is that we have the technologies and laws in place here in the US, and still only about 5 to 10% of books are digitalized or accessible. Of course bookshare.org and other sites are working hard, but it’s a slow process. Again that’s where I see BookBolé’s future, because it’s worldwide, I have no doubts that it will outgrow the collections of many major digital/Braille libraries that exist even here.

Me: text books are tough to come by, imagine if we could start sharing books on programming, we could get a substantial chunk of the blind employed

Thomas: I have most of my textbooks on CDs from the publisher – some, like my physics book, are actually online so you need internet to access the material.

Thomas: yes, employment is a universal problem, though I’d imagine with 17 million Visually Impaired in India versus the about a million here, it is probably a bigger issue there. I think our unemployment rate is 70% or more, though it probably rose because of the economic recession we had.

Me: exactly, anyway, one more question before I let you go to bed, Thomas. What inspires you help people

Thomas:

I think it’s what I’ve gone through in life just growing up… You know, in boarding school, because I went to America for half a year, some kids felt jealous. Not all, but some. So they would often box my lungs and beat me up (I was a shy kid) and so I would have high fevers and would be stuck on the train back and forth from the school to my dad’s house which took four hours. When I returned to the US in 2003, I was traumatized as a result. But eventually I faced the past and told myself that NO VISUALLY IMPAIRED child should ever have to go through some of the experiences I had living in poverty and with old technologies. In my mind there exists no racism, so I made this vow for any blind of any nation, or even any person. I try to stick to it as much as I can 🙂

Me: Sweet thought man, thank you so much for contributing to BookBolé. Sure hope we get to work with you more often and help change a few things around the world. Thank you so much Thomas, was great talking to you.

Thomas: 🙂 Thanks for the interview, and I will always try my best to help out Bookbolé with anything I can, as well as anyone from the community who requires help.

It was great Meeting and talking with you as well and I hope to send lots of feedback to you guys as time goes by.

Me: Thanks Thomas, your help is more than appreciated, Thank you.

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