India has made “first-of-its-kind” World’s First Fully Mass-Produced Atlas for the visually impaired. Using maps comes so very naturally to the sighted but for the millions of blind people of the world, maps were like a distant dream.
- For the blind, maps were mostly inaccessible but now that is changing for the 28 million visually-handicapped people in India with the Department of Science and Technology having released an atlas tailor-made for the blind.
- The visually impaired can get a feel of what India looks like.
- The solution was to make a map that could be felt rather than be seen. In most blind people the tactile sensation is accentuated to compensate for the loss of sight.
- The National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) of Kolkata after years of effort made this unique atlas. Here the map outlines are raised and embossed on paper using silk screen printing so that the blind can feel them and it is called a braille atlas.
- This braille atlas is an invention, which will help the Devyang.
- For people who have partial vision, NATMO makes maps with accentuated colours so they can see the maps despite their low vision.
- All the names and Meta data of the maps had to be accommodated in braille.
- As NATMO embraces the digital environment the next stage could be the embedding of audio files in the braille atlas and possibly make an app that speaks to the blind using the omnipresent global positioning system or GPS signals, the hard part would be to make smart phones get that raised tactile feel on their screens which makes the blind feel and visualise the maps.