Milpitas, Calif. — Access Braille, a non-profit organization based in the Silicon Valley, is planning a fundraiser on Dec. 6 at the Shirdi Sai Mandir here at 3:30 p.m. Started in 2007 as a chapter of the Chennai-based nonprofit Vidyavrikshah, the organization changed its name to Access Braille.

Founded by Viji Dilip, Access Braille was started in the U.S. to aid and support NGOs and people with visual impairment in India. The Indian American activist decided to start the nonprofit after she saw the difference in the educational tools available to students here in the U.S. compared to what was available in India.

“Here we were in the Silicon Valley with several startups headed by Indians and not even a bit of this IT revolution was reaching India to provide solutions to the visually impaired,” Dilip said in a press release. “India was 50 years behind the United States as far as accessibility tools for the visually impaired are concerned.”

The primary mission of Access Braille is to provide books and educational material in an accessible format to people with visual impairments. With a growing number of seniors losing their eyesight and the increase in diabetes leading to severe vision problems, India has one of the largest populations of visually impaired people in the world.

Access Braille hopes to accomplish its mission by distributing Braille kits to start young children off on an educational path; they have been funding mobile blind schools where students can attend special schools, or where the teachers at inclusive schools do not know how to teach Braille. While Braille is key to early childhood learning, Dilip said, the only way to scale up and help young blind students read on par with their sighted peers is to introduce digital talking books. Human narrated audio books take way too long to produce, she added.

Access Braille partners with the DAISY Forum of India and Saksham Trust, both based in Delhi, and with several NGOs around India to digitize books and provide them in “DAISY” (Digitally Accessible Information System” format. Last year Access Braille volunteers helped digitize NIOS books (National Institute of Open Schooling) in India.

Since good quality TTS (text to speech) software is not available in all Indian languages, Access Braille partners with Hear2Read.org. This year Access Braille has also worked to digitize college textbooks and recreational reading into accessible format.

Future plans for Access Braille include: providing 3D printed manipulatives to visually impaired children to visualize what a ‘fish feels like’, and establishing Braille centers across India.

Read more about Access Braille at http://accessbraille.org/

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