At the Mathru School, we try to incorporate as much relevant technology as possible. The school has 14 computers used in various sections and all computers are equipped with Microsoft Office and Jaws 5.0 screen-reading software, software which makes the computer accessible to blind users. Mathru has a computer lab which houses 6 donated computers, a scanner, and a Braille printer. The students use the lab to learn about the parts of a computer and to learn how to type. Teachers use the lab to translate textbooks into Braille. The Mathru school has a Mountbatten brailler, which is a device that is similar to a typewriter. It can be used to type notes in Braille, and these notes can be stored within the device and then transferred to the computer. Mathru is very open to learning how technology, existing or new, can help the school.
The Mathru School has worked in collaboration with technical institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research. In Summer 2006, Nidhi Kalra, a Ph.D. student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, conducted a 6-week field study at the Mathru School as a part of their independent study project with TechBridgeWorld. TechBridgeWorld is a research organization of Carnegie Mellon which uses technology innovations to bridge the gap between developed and developing communities. Based on the field study, Nidhi and her colleague Tom Lauwers developed and created the Adaptive Braille Writing Tutor, a device designed to help blind students learn how to write Braille. Since 2006 research in partnership with TechBridgeWorld has continued and newer versions of the Braille Writing Tutor have been developed.
Stand Alone Braille Tutor
The Stand Alone Braille Tutor (SABT) was first developed in 2010 as an improvement upon the original Braille Writing Tutor and has had ongoing development since then. Because it contains onboard computing and power, the SABT is not affected by power failures or a lack of computers. Further, it is portable, so it can be well integrated into any classroom environment.
As the user writes on the tutor using an enlarged braille cell of six buttons, the SABT provides immediate audio feedback by repeating the written letters, numbers or words. It also has many educational modes for users to learn how to write, practice writing, and be quizzed on letters, words, and numbers. The software can easily accommodate most braille languages and currently teaches English, Hindi, and Kannada braille patterns.
iSTEP (innovative Student Technology ExPerience) is a unique summer internship program that provides interns with the opportunity to conduct technology research projects in underserved communities around the world. iSTEP was started in 2009 by the TechBridgeWorld research group and designed so that iSTEP interns get real-world experience in applying their knowledge and skills for creative problem solving in unfamiliar settings.
The iSTEP 2015 team is working with us at Mathru in Bangalore, India on assistive technology projects. The team is comprised of a multidisciplinary mix of undergraduate students from Carnegie Mellon University’s Pittsburgh, USA campus. They continue the work of a previous iSTEP team in 2013 that developed technology for Mathru.