Challenges and Inequalities:

Limited Identification of Learning Disabilities: A critical challenge lies in the under-identification of learning disabilities (LD) like dyslexia. Without proper diagnoses and support structures, many students with LD struggle academically, often falling through the cracks of the education system.

The Employment Gap: Even for those who overcome educational hurdles, the path to employment remains fraught. The lack of accessible technologies and specialized skill sets often excludes graduates with print disabilities  from mainstream job opportunities, hindering their full potential and perpetuating social inequalities. 

A group of Indian students crowd around a classroom desk to smile with a pose.

Challenges Faced by the Visually Impaired:

In addition to the broader challenges faced by all students with print disabilities, visually impaired students encounter specific obstacles: 

Scarcity of Braille Materials: The limited availability of textbooks and educational materials in Braille significantly hinders their ability to learn and keep pace with sighted peers. 

Inaccessible Infrastructure: Many educational institutions lack essential infrastructure like tactile floor markings, audio alerts, or adapted computer labs, making navigation and independent learning difficult for visually impaired students. 

Limited Assistive Technologies: The high cost of specialized assistive technologies like Braille readers and commercial screen readers can be prohibitive for many families, further restricting access to educational resources. 

A group of indian children share a tablet outside.

Benetech's Post-Pandemic Intervention:

The post-pandemic rise in technology adoption within visually impaired communities presents a window of opportunity. Benetech is championing accessible technology, actively addressing these challenges through a multi-pronged approach: 

Empowering Through Digital Literacy Programs: Benetech’s impactful digital literacy program has empowered thousands of visually impaired students across over 30 schools for the blind in India. The program which was initiated in 2021, equips them with the necessary skills to utilize smartphones and tablets effectively, fostering independence and opening doors to a vast trove of educational resources. 

Affordable Accessibility: Android + USB Keyboard: Benetech champions the use of Android devices coupled with USB keyboards as a cost-effective and widely accessible reading and writing solution. This readily available technology replaces the need for expensive, specialized tools like Braille readers, thereby promoting inclusion and empowering students with greater autonomy. 

Unlocking Knowledge with Bookshare: Benetech actively promotes Bookshare, the world’s largest repository of accessible ebooks and audiobooks. By leveraging their smartphones, students can now access a wealth of educational materials, fostering self-directed learning and enriching their academic experience. 

Teacher Training and Policy Advocacy: Recognizing the crucial role of educators, Benetech prioritizes teacher training programs. These programs equip teachers with the knowledge and tools to effectively support and cater to the diverse needs of  students with print disabilities . Additionally, Benetech advocates for changes in exam regulations, such as allowing visually impaired students to write exams independently. This crucial step towards independent exam-taking is a stepping stone towards greater employability for these students. 

Two visually-impaired indian girls stand in front of classroom with bookbags.

Conclusion:

By focusing on affordable, accessible technology, comprehensive digital literacy programs, and advocating for policy changes, Benetech is paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable education system in India. This empowers students with print disabilities to not only achieve academic success but also contribute meaningfully to the workforce and society at large. 

A group of indian children gather around a tablet to read.