The first-ever radio channel for the visually impaired in the country, named 'Radio Aksh' was launched in Nagpur on Tuesday, April 12. The exclusive internet radio channel will present and engage content suitable for such people and also created by them.
The city's 96-year-old institution, The Blind Relief Association Nagpur (TBRAN) and Samdrushti Kshamata Vikas Avam Anusandhan Mandal (Saksham), serve as the pioneers of the concept that will help the visually-impaired gain seamless access to audiobooks and other education resources.
In order to run it 24x7, Radio Aksh would initially have six hours of content that would be put on repeat mode four times a day. Later, the content will be increased to 24 hours phase-wise, said Makarand Pandharipande, president of TBRAN, according to The Times of India.
"We have appealed to visually impaired artists, poets and writers to come up with the content. We are all set to record and broadcast it as Radio Aksh will be their own platform," Pandharipande added.
Substitute For Audiobooks
This concept was created as a substitute for audiobooks provided by Samdrushti Kshamata Vikas Avam Anusandhan Mandal to the visually impaired on their digital devices, access to which was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on travelling.
Through this platform, educational resources encompassing a variety of subjects are made available digitally owned by visually-impaired individuals, who can access the vast bank of information from anywhere in the world. Unlike FM and AM Radio, Internet Radio technology is used, which has no geographical boundaries.
A dedicated team of trained volunteers, mostly women, help in the content creation for the radio channel, which can be streamed to the visually impaired across the country and the world. The complex, carefully-performed processes of going through large amounts of content, sound editing, recording and making corrections do not hamper the productivity and the sense of servitude guides the entire team, ANI reported.
"For the last few years, visually impaired persons used to come to us and get their audiobooks made by us on their digital devices. But COVID-19 put all this to a sudden halt. It affected their learning badly, so we had to think of a stand-by arrangement," Shirish Darvekar, the coordinator of the channel and a member of Samdrushti Kshamata Vikas Avam Anusandhan Mandal, said.
Mandal added that he got to know of the launch of Internet Radio in India and came in contact with a company making softwares for the same.
"Though our requirements were unique to them, they promised cooperation. 'Radio Aksh' is perhaps the first Internet Radio for the visually impaired in India," he said.
No Geographical Limits
"Unlike FM and AM Radio, this format has no geographical limits. All the content is pre-recorded and we have a presenter each for different subjects covered on the radio. In addition, we have a team of 20 people, mostly women who are homemakers. They are well trained and know their work well. No one is paid, they all work free and have a sense of servitude," Mandal explained.
He pointed out that their channel has got limited, yet an enormous response from people and stated that the service will be more widespread in the coming days. Currently, the channel is available on Play Store and via Zeno Radio on Apple devices.
"In just a few days, we have nearly 161 listeners. It depicts a very encouraging picture," he said.
One of the volunteers working for the channel said, "Doing such services for the visually impaired gives me immense joy. They can study from the comfort of their homes through Radio Aksh. I get some leisure time for this Internet Radio and contribute one or two hours from my schedule at the noon every day."
One of the beneficiaries of Radio Aksh pointed out that the radio channel serves as a great alternative as books in Braille scripts are not available every time.
"Now we will gather more information and our studies will become easy. We feel as if we are attending classes inside a school. It is a great initiative for the visually impaired people," he added.
Such special internet radio channels are already running in the USA, UK, and other countries. In India, specialized radio channels for disabled people are live on online platforms only. But, Radio Aksh is the first channel exclusively for visually impaired people.