Better quality, easier to use Braille maps made by using new indigenous technology coming soon

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10

Visually-challenged students will soon have access to Braille maps designed and developed using digital embossing technology, which would be user friendly and easier to handle besides being more durable and longer lasting.

Digital embossing technology (DET) is a process that eliminates the need for printing plates, moulds, chemicals, and solvents, besides releasing no pollutants or waste and reducing overall energy usage.

This technology, designed and implemented for the first time in India by the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology today.

It is not only useful for high-speed production of the maps but can also produce Braille maps that can be used for a longer period. Maps produced with older technology lost their readability and feeling experience within a very short span.

According to available information, approximately 40 million people in India, including 1.6 million children, are blind or visually impaired. India is also said to be home to over 20 per cent of the world’s blind population. A number of initiatives have been launched over the years by the government to redress their requirements, including medicare and access to public facilities.

NATMO started producing Braille maps in 1997 and published a Braille Atlas for Visually Impaired (India), in 2017 in English Braille script, which received a huge response from the visually impaired community. It was developed with an indigenous manual embossing method.

NATMO received unexpected and overwhelming demand for Braille atlases and this led it to prepare Braille atlases in Hindi and other regional languages. This organisation has started preparation of Braille atlases of different states of India in consultation with experts and associated organisations.

NATMO has developed a Braille unit, which is expected to launch soon, having state-of-art cutting edge solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI) and spot ultra-violet (UV) coating methods for digital embossing. The complete process undergoes different stages with end-to-end solution in digital platform.

Primarily thematic maps are prepared on digital platforms using GIS technology. The hard copy products are then laminated with soft sheets. The soft laminated maps are placed onto the embossing digital devices with perfect registration for UV coating. Soft copy maps are masked in the area of interest for embossing. AI technology is used for 3-D embossing to get the final Braille maps. Complete map sets are bound spirally for the easy use of the visually impaired.

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