Visually challenged students from all over the country will have the access soon to Braille Maps designed and developed using Digital Embossing Technology, enabling them for ease of use, user friendly, better feeling and durable in terms of quality.
The digital embossing technology is a technology which eliminates the need for printing plates, moulds, chemicals, and solvents, emitting no pollutants or waste and reduces overall energy usage. This innovative technology has been introduced, designed and implemented first time in India by National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) functioning as the Attached Office of the Department of Science & Technology.
The maps produced using this technology is not only useful for high-speed production of the maps but can also produce Braille Maps that can be used by more people for years together. It has been experienced that the maps produced with earlier technology has lost its readability and feeling experience within a very short span of time. In this regard, it is also to mention that feedback from experts and students of the Braille community has encouraged and motivated us to prepare the low-cost state-of-art product in terms of reduction of volume of the atlas, enhancement of the readability features, ease of carry the maps and atlas etc.
NATMO started the journey in the year 1997, however, it has become popularized with the publication of Braille Atlas for Visually Impaired (India), edition 2017 in English Braille Script which received a huge response from the visually impaired community. It was developed with an indigenous manual embossing method. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi conferred National Award on “Science & Technology Intervention for Physically Challenged” to NATMO for this publication which was officially released on 10th February 2017 at New Delhi.
In continuation, NATMO received unexpected and overwhelming demands for Braille Atlases from different corners and it has been recognized that NATMO is the pioneer organisation in this domain. This has encouraged NATMO to prepare Braille Atlases in Hindi and other regional languages. Also, this Organisation has started for the preparation of Braille Atlases of different States of India in consultation with experts and organisations.
With encouragement and support from Department of Science & Technology, NATMO has developed Braille Unit with state-of-art cutting edge solution such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and spot UV coating methods for Digital Embossing Solution. 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 spot UV coating. Soft copy maps are masked in the area of interest for embossing. AI technology is used for 3D embossing to get the final Braille Maps. Complete map sets are bound spirally for the easy use of the visually impaired students.
Braille Atlas of India were distributed in 323 schools of India as a proof of concept (PoC). Along with this publication, NATMO also organized Braille Workshops & Quiz Contests to develop awareness among the visually impaired student, teachers and trainers. From 2017 to 2019, total 1409 students from 97 schools of 22 States & UT participated in the Braille Workshops & Quiz Contests.
The unique Braille Solution Unit will be launched soon with the expectation to fulfil the demands of larger community at PAN India level.