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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: December 03 2007 »

Kozhikode, Nov 28 (IANS) Libraries are silent zones and it is not
different at Farook College near Kerala city. But sometimes in
its quiet ambience you may hear a voice reading aloud in English in an
accent that is not native.

Don't be perturbed - it is the Digital Talking Book Library.

The college, located about 15 km from here, has installed this
facility at the library for the benefit of visually challenged
students and aptly named it 'Insight'.

'Insight' helps 32 blind students at the college to delve into the
vast world of books without the help of Braille. The library has four
computers to help such students.

The facility consists of a few computers, a scanner and a set of
speakers and also headphones. Through voice prompts it also helps the
user operate the computer.

"Visually challenged students find it very useful. They spend hours at
these machines reading books and periodicals," said M. Ayub, the
librarian.

"Its operation is simple. You have to just scan the pages you want to
read. The computer will convert it into sound bytes. The students have
learned to operate the system and they are doing it without help from
others," he added.

The gadget looks ordinary, but the software may baffle you.

"We are using the software Jaws and Kurzweil to operate these
systems," says Habeeb C., a guest lecturer and a former student of the
college, as he operates the system with astonishing ease. He is
visually challenged.

He has played a key role in encouraging the authorities to install the
facility. A brilliant student and a winner of scholarship from the
Foundation for Academic Excellence and Access (FAEA), Habeeb had been
familiar with this system from his student days.

The talking library has also come in for praise from a UGC review
committee team, which recently visited the college.

"They said they haven't come across such a facility in any other arts
and science college in the country," said the librarian.

The college is also planning to provide more help to the visually challenged.

"We are planning to bring out compact discs of lectures and to install
a printer which can print scanned materials in Braille. The printer is
costly and it has to be imported," adds Ayub.

Farook College, affiliated to Calicut University, is run by the
Rousathul Uloom Association.

(Written by Jeevan Mathew Kurian. He can be contacted at jeevanmk72@rediffmail.com )
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