ICT based solutions by jennyyingdi

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									    ICT TOOLS FOR DISABLED AND UNDERPRIVILEGED



ICT based solutions
                                               all the misery, Gartner studies have shown    •     Believes in ‘Committing to memory
                   Dr M V Ananthakrishnan
                                               that e-Learning has not been as successful          and vomiting in the examination’
                   Educational Consultant
                                               as it was projected to be at the beginning    • Practices methods that are straight
                   (freelance), Mumbai
                                               of the 21st century.                                from the book
                   muriyankulangara@yahoo.
                                                                                             • Lacks in applying concepts/rule/laws
                   co.in                       The Purpose of education                            to common everyday events in the
                                               Where’s the problem? The problem lies in            neighbourhood of the school
                                               the very method in which e-Learning is        • Restricts the students’ inquisitiveness
Introduction                                   being marketed. Marketing professionals             in the world beyond the classroom/
The word ‘disabled’ is now used universally    are moving around selling e-Learning                teachers’ comprehension
to indicate human limitations in any           ‘products’. Unfortunately, this word          • Implements laboratory work in the
form, be it physical, mental, sensory or       ‘product’ has entered the Indian marketing          form of straight-jacketed experiment
cognitive. Both clinical and social models     ‘lexicon’ around the beginning of the 21st    … and the list can go on and on!
of disability emphasises upon integration      century…from the Americans. Now, for              The challenge facing the system is: How
and assimilation of socially, neurologically   an Indian seller, everything being sold is    do we bridge the ‘Purpose-Education’ divide
and psychologically challenged people          a commodity, be it insurance, banking,        i.e., how do we move towards purposeful
in the mainstream society. The word            mutual funds, services, confectionery,        education and how can ICT facilitate this
‘underprivileged’ also refers to people        beauty, medicines, healthcare, matrimony,     change in a smooth manner.
who are compounded with problems and           funeral…what have you! So, why leave out
socio-economic handicaps. To vindicate         education from this product range? We         ICT based solutions for the
the disabled and underprivileged, the          have removed the dividing line between        disabled
role of Information and Communication          products and services and merged services     The disabilities scenario transgresses
Technologies (ICTs) as an enabler has          into products! But, then, when it comes to    physical boundaries. Many of the
expanded beyond imagination and, as a          guarantees and warranties, the ‘service-to-   disabilities in India are mental disabilities
result, the search for paradigms to exploit    product converts’ isolate themselves from     and learning-related disabilities. Each
its limitless capabilities.                                                                  disability has its consequences in terms
    Stephen Hawking and the device                                                           of education and development. While
developed for him to communicate his                                                         governments all over have laws to protect
ideas to the world was just an example of                                                    the disabled groups, focus is laid more on
how ICT has been a boon. The advent of                 ICT is a                              their survival rather their upliftment…as
the WWW has opened up possibilities for                                                      experiences and case-histories show. This is
people to keep in touch with the world.           commendable tool                           but logical and natural, but, the question
The e-Mail has made inter-personal                                                           that still remains- How are they going to
communication commonplace. VoIP and                that works as an                          progress in life subsequently?
video-transmission have made knowledge
accessible in homes. Cyber-cafes and                enabler for the                          The physical viewpoint
reasonably-priced PC and laptops have                                                        This category is amongst the largest
mushroomed even in small towns.                    disabled and the                          across the entire world, ranging from the
Broadband connectivity is on the rise. These                                                 developed USA to the remotest regions
are some of the exciting developments in           underprivileged                           in Africa. These include the physically
ICTs over the past decade with many more                                                     handicapped: the maimed, the blind and
coming up every second.                        real products by adding the conditional       the deaf. These numbers are increasing in
    But, where are we in as far as             clause (always ‘read in a hurry’ during       alarming proportions because of the after-
exploitation of ICT is concerned…for           commercials on mutual funds! )                effects of wars and regional strifes across the
useful purposes! We are still looking at           Education is no exception. No academic    globe…and, therefore, calling for solutions
computers as a technology and not a            body, worth its name, can guarantee           on a war-footing! ICT can be a tool worth
tool. Even today, most of the vendors of       performance or provide a warranty against     exploring. Multimedia could be used for
so-called ‘educational programmes’ are         failure…in terms of ‘real’ education and      educating the blind (by exploiting the
pawning off ‘page turners’ or the slightly-    that too a life-long one. The current         ‘audio’ features) and/or the deaf (by using
better PowerPoint presentations! To add to     educational system-                           the ‘video’ features). The other ‘physical
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limitations’ of individuals could be addressed through Human
Computer Interaction (HCI) methodologies.

The mental viewpoint
The mentally-challenged children form an alarming percentage in
India. Although they may not be able to perform the activities of
the normal children, they could be motivated to learn and enjoy to
the fullest. Even though Special Educators are there to handle such
children, their patience levels and consistency are still in doubt.
What is needed is a methodology that could play to the learners’
demands viz., repetition, illustration, motivation and meeting
individual learning styles. ICT could provide the solution.

People with learning disabilities
Typically, people with non-verbal Learning Disabilities (LD)
show:                                                                    Measuring weights of tribal children
• Excellent memory for things they hear
• Poor memory for things they see                                        suffer from multiple disabilities. Because of cyclic poverty,
• Good reading ability                                                   undernourishment, lack of information, illiteracy and occupational
• Very poor arithmetic ability                                           hazards, the underprivileged people become innocent victims of
• Excellent verbal expression and verbal reasoning                       social and clinical diseases. In order to mitigate the problems
• Problems with written expression (often because of poor                (mainly those pertaining to literacy, education and accessibility)
    handwriting)                                                         of the underprivileged, certain ICT-based solutions are suggested.
• Problems with sense of direction, estimation of size, shape,           One is ‘Adult Literacy (CBFL)’ and the other is ‘Using ICT for
    distance                                                             Educating the Children of Nomadic Tribes in Maharashtra’ with
• Problems reading facial expressions, gestures, social cues,            the use of MEEIT (Marshalling the Environment to Educate
    tones of voice                                                       through Information Technology).
                                                                             One of the unique features of the CBFL is that the learners
ICT based solutions for the underprivileged                              learn words, as against alphabets (normally used with children).
Most of the underprivileged groups comprising mainly of children,        This was based on the fact that adult learners were already familiar


 Type of Disability                 Suggested ICT Approach

     ‘Financial’           e-Learning/web-based courses

     ‘Mental’              What is needed is a methodology that could play to the learners’ demands viz., repetition, illustration,
                           motivation and meeting individual learning styles. ICT could provide the solution.

                           •     Excellent memory for things they hear
                           •     Poor memory for things they see
                           •     Good reading ability
  Learning                 •     Very poor arithmetic ability
  Disabilities             •     Excellent verbal expression and verbal reasoning
                           •     Problems with written expression (often because of poor handwriting)
                           •     Problems with sense of direction, estimation of size, shape, distance
                           •     Problems reading facial expressions, gestures, social cues

                           The possibilities of finding ICT solutions to the LD’s lie in exploiting the strengths to overcome the
                           weaknesses. For example
                           • Strength in (1) could be used to repair/improve the weakness in (2). This can be achieved by using audio
                               cues to reinforce visuals/videos.
                           • Strength in (3) could be used to improve the weakness in (4). This could be achieved by using narratives
                               to identify numbers, mathematical operation etc.
                           • Strength in (5) could further enhance capabilities using (a) and (b) above.
                           • (7) & (8) could be approached through appropriate multimedia solutions.
                           • (6) could be solved using writing tablets

March 2008 | www.i4donline.net
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with the vocabulary used in their transactions. The only limitation           opportunities for the disabled and underprivileged sections
lay in their inability to neither read nor write. For educating the           of the community. ICTs have a major role in spreading mass
children of Nomadic Tribes in Maharashtra, some tribes were                   awareness and creating more occupational avenues for the less
identified. Efforts were made to develop an application that would             abled people.
motivate and encourage the nomadic children to learn from
their own living environment. MEEIT was used to explore the
environment in more than one way to help the nomad child come
to know his/her environment and to identify the various factors/                     References
elements that constitute the living and non-living components of               •     MEEIT: Marshalling the Environment to Educate through Infor-
the environment, the pollutants of the environment and the ways                      mation Technology, e-learning Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, May 2007
and means to keep a clean environment. MEEIT, as the package                   •     eIT2006: National Conference on Emerging Tends in Information
is ‘fondly’ called, is made up of four modules viz.                                  Technology, Baramati, India, September 2006
• The Interactive Environment                                                  •     ICT for the Education of Children of Nomadic Tribes: Lessons
• The ‘Virtual’ Environment                                                          Learnt, IST Africa 2007, Maputo, Mozambique, May 2007
• Explore your Environment                                                     •     Denotified and Nomadic Tribes in Maharashtra, DNT Rights
• Videos                                                                             Group Newsletter, Vadodara, Apr-Jun & July-Sep 2000
                                                                               •     Learning Disabilities(www.ldao.ca)
Possible extensions of the ICT approach to
handle other disabilities
The limitations of the individuals having the other types of                   Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank Prof. Krithi
disabilities could be handled successfully using ICT, provided the             Ramamritham, Dean R&D., IIT Bombay, Mumbai, for the op-
right and appropriate adaptation is made. The table below gives                portunity provided to lead a team of professionals in discover-
a few of these adaptations.                                                    ing the appropriate methodology to successfully design, test and
                                                                               develop the application. Media Lab Asia, MIT, Government of
                                                                               India, need to be thanked for the financial assistance provided
Conclusion                                                                     by them.
ICT tools are apt in creating better learning and interaction


                        Legislations to ensure best practices for disabled
    Accessibility to information and developing an inclusive society have     as ‘Magna Carta for the Disabled Persons’, focuses on the rehabilitation,
    been main areas of concerned of nations worldwide in the recent           self-development, social integration and employment including equal
    past. Accordingly, policies regarding accessibility have been enacted     opportunities for rehabilitation, training and quality education for the
    worldwide with a specific focus on disabled people:                        disabled people.
    Australia: Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) ensures               South Africa: An anti-discrimination clause in the National
    to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of disability and to           Constitution of 1996 includes disability policies to be implemented.
    promote and provide housing, education and human rights support           The government’s policy is described in a White Paper, about the
    to disable people.                                                        Integrated National Disability Strategy of 1997. The communication
    European Union: In December 1996, EU Member States politically            stipulates that ‘Technology that will ensure inclusive use of public
    endorsed a Communication entitled ‘Equality of Opportunity for            amenities by all consumers is required (Sign Language and subtitles
    People with Disabilities - A New European Community Disability            on television, availability of documents in braille and/or on cassette,
    Strategy’ that determines best-practice procedures in creating policies   availability of communication boards for non-speaking people, and
    to achieve the goal of full participation of disabled people in all       assistive listening devices and systems for deaf people, such as TTYs
    aspects of life. In May 2000, the European Commission adopted             and closed caption decoders). However, the white paper does not cover
    ‘A Communication Towards a Barrier-Free Europe for People with            information technology.
    Disabilities’ which is intended to build the framework for improving      United Kingdom: Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and
    access for the disabled at the workplace and beyond.                      the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) Act 1999 checks the
    India: The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection     discrimination (in relation to employment provision of goods and
    of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 ensures that government       services, education and transport) against disabled people.
    and public sector establishments shall set up schemes to ensure the       United States of America: The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    employment of disabled people, by promoting training and welfare,         prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment.
    health and safety measures, and creating non-disabling environments       Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act establishes requirements for
    in the workplace.                                                         electronic and information technology developed, maintained procured,
    Philippines: There are two laws in the form of Batasang Pambansa 344,     or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal
    (passed in December 1982) and Republic Act 7277 (passed in 1992).         electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with
    Batasang Pambansa 344 focuses on the transportaion, communication         disabilities, including employees and members of the public.
    and mobility of the disabled persons. Republic Act 7277, also known                        Source: http://www.tiresias.org/guidelines/legislation.htm


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