Visually challenged students across India will soon have access to Braille Maps, designed and developed using Digital Embossing Technology, enabling them the ease of use, user-friendly, better feeling and durability in terms of quality.
Digital embossing is a technology that eliminates the need for printing plates, chemicals, moulds, and solvents, emitting no pollutants or waste and reducing overall energy usage.
First Time In India
This innovative technology has been introduced, designed and implemented for the first time in India by National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), the press release from the Ministry of Science and Technology said.
The maps created using this technology are beneficial for high-speed production and can also create Braille Maps that various people can use for many years.
"It has been experienced that the maps produced with previous technology have lost their readability and feeling experience within a brief period. In this regard, feedback from experts and students of the Braille community has encouraged and motivated us to prepare the low-cost state-of-art product to reduce the volume of the atlas and enhance the readability features, ease of carrying the maps and atlas etc.," the release stated.
NATMO began its journey in 1997; however, it became popular with the publication of Braille Atlas for Visually Impaired (India) in 2017 edition in English Braille Script and received a massive response from the visually impaired people. It was developed with an indigenous manual embossing method.
For this publication, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conferred the National Award on "Science & Technology Intervention for Physically Challenged" to NATMO on February 10, 2017.
In continuation, NATMO received overwhelming and unexpected demands for Braille Atlases from different parts and was recognised as the pioneer organisation in this domain.
It encouraged NATMO to prepare Braille Atlases in Hindi and other regional languages. Also, the organisation has started preparing Braille Atlases of different states across the country in consultation with experts and organisations.
With the proper support and encouragement from the Department of Science and Technology, NATMO has developed Braille Unit with state-of-art cutting-edge solutions like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and spot UV coating methods for Digital Embossing Solution. The complete process undergoes various stages with end-to-end solutions in the 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 digital embossing devices with perfect registration for spot UV coating. Soft copy maps are masked in the area of interest for embossing. Artificial intelligence is used for 3D embossing to get the final Braille Maps. Complete map sets are bound spirally so that visually impaired students can use them easily.
Braille Atlas of India were distributed among 323 schools in the country as a proof of concept (PoC). Along with the publication, NATMO also organised Braille Workshops and Quiz Contests to develop visually impaired students, teachers, and trainers. From 2017 to 2019, a total of 1409 students from 97 schools of 22 states and union territories participated in the Braille Workshops and Quiz Contests.
The unique Braille Solution Unit will be rolled out soon to fulfil the demands of the larger community at the PAN India level.