Project Awaaz: Bringing Books To The Blind

If youre reading this, consider yourself lucky 15 million people in India cant. Our gift of sight is truly a gift, yet most of us take it for granted. In fact, youd be surprised to know that the majority of blind people in India have never had access to books till recently, with just 1% of all published books available as audio books in the country.

But there’s hope! A group of IIT-Bombay students, with fire in the belly and the desire to bring about a change, has started Project Awaaz to make literature available to the blind through audio books.

How it Started

During a trip to Delhi, Rishabh Bohara had a life-changing experience when he visited the National Association for the Blind. While he was impressed by the initiative, he was disturbed by the facilities which seemed rather restrictive and, he thought, were a roadblock in the way of reproducing books.

Rishabh went back to Delhi, determined to do something about it. Soon after, during a conversation with classmate Ishan Rakshit, they felt technology was the solution to the problem. Along with fellow IITians Govind Lahoti, Nihal Singh and Arpan Banerjee, in June 2016 they launched an app with which users could pick a snippet from the list and record and upload it, right from the comfort of their homes. Which means your voice will bring smiles on the faces of thousands of visually impaired, and reduce their dependence on friends and family in the process.

What it Offers

Project Aawaaz has a long list of copyright-free poems in English, Tamil, Marathi and Gujarati available for conversion to audio books. And it’s as easy as it gets. To contribute with your voice, all you need to do is log in using Facebook or Google, select a piece of literature and begin recording.

The short-form content, which is currently available, also makes it easier to generate more audio books. Poets and writers out there, you can use this avenue to promote your own works as well.

#LendYourVoice

The app was done, the website was up and running, and the focus had shifted to awareness now. For its only when people are aware of the ground-breaking work one’s doing that ‘change’ kicks in.

Project Awaaz took their initiative offline with #LendYourVoice, wherein they approached the Kendriya Vidyalaya at IIT-Bombay and Powai English High School and got students to lend their voices by recording poems from their syllabus.

Quality and Quantity

In under a month, Project Aawaaz has already generated over 100 audio books, but quality hasn’t been put on the back burner. In fact, it encourages all its users to download Audacity, an audio recording software that has special filters to block background noise and maintain clarity.

Making a Difference

So far, the response has been overwhelming and the team is now looking to take their initiative beyond Mumbai. They understand the importance of vernacular content in this context, and are hence looking at tie-ups with publishing houses to reproduce content. The plan is also to establish a base with libraries in Tamil Nadu, where they have an excellent one-village-one-library system.

If you want to make a difference, Project Aawaaz is currently looking for college and student volunteers to help them create more audio books. Get in touch with rishabh@projectawaaz.org

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