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Report on eSpeak Tamil Computing with NVDA Training Workshop in Tirunelveli

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at Jun 30, 2015 06:00 PM |
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The training workshop by the NVDA team was held at Anne Jane Askwith Higher Secondary School for the Visually Impaired, Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli from June 3 - 7, 2015. Sixteen delegates attended the workshop.

Inauguration

The eSpeak Tamil Computing with NVDA Training workshop planned for 5 days (3rd June 2015 to 7th June 2015) extensively for visually challenged college students and teachers was inaugurated on 3rd June 2015 morning by Mr. V. Jayakumar. District Project Officer for Rural Women Development, Tirunelveli. Mr. J Kingston James Paul, Principal of the School gave the Welcome Address. Mr. S. Shankar Subbiah, Assistive Technology Consultant and representative of National Association for Blind, New Delhi and The Centre for Internet & Society, Bangalore, the sponsors of the workshop explained the purpose of the Workshop with the need for Tamil computing becoming necessity among the visually challenged in the present educational and employment context. Mr. Periadurai, the Co-ordinator of the Workshop gave the Vote of Thanks and emphasized on using NVDA in Government given Cost Free Laptops as it is preloaded and supports Tamil language too. He thanked the sponsors as this is first of its kind organized in this region for the visually challenged students as hands on training.

The Training Hall in the School served as the venue for training. In order to facilitate the participants with more concentrated and time efforts, High Tea with Snacks and Lunch were also served for the Training days at the Venue. The Girl students numbering 10 who came from neighboring Districts were given free accommodation in the School. Morning breakfast and Evening Dinner was provided by the Organizers. There were volunteers from Smile Charitable Trust, Tirunelveli who gave Laptops to those students did not have and also assisted the Trainees, who were new to computer. The participant trainees numbering to 16 were from Tirunelveli district and nearby districts like Kanyakumari, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram of Tamilnadu state.

Workshop Schedule

The workshop began with Resource persons, Mr. Pandiyaraj, Mr. G. Kumaresan and Mr. S Shankar Subbiah continuing with the training activities on their expertise areas. The below were the activities conducted during the training period.

Day 1: June 3, 2015

Forenoon

  • The whole group of Trainees had few who were new to computers, few with knowledge on operating until the level of Notepad and few in an advanced level working on MS Word and Internet.
  • A general overview on Operating System, Applications available in Windows, Screen readers and other Assistive Technology like OCR, Scan and Read applications available for Visually Challenged were dealt with.
  • NVDA was loaded in Laptops who did not have them installed previously and Tamil language keyboard settings was added.

Afternoon

  • The group was divided in to three groups. First without prior knowledge on computers were given training on Keyboard mapping and basic computer operation commands through NVDA.
  • The second group was given practices on NVDA shortcuts, Windows operations and an introduction to Word.
  • The third group was given exercises to work efficiently on using MS Word through Shortcuts and Tamil computing introduction through passages to read.

Day 2: June 4, 2015

Forenoon

  • Tamil keyboard layout mapping of Microsoft Windows for default Unicode Tamil Font typing were introduced to all the trainees by the Resource person and it was decided to use Notepad for uniform training.
  • The whole group of Trainees were trained to identify the keys for vowels and consonants of Tamil language, type and practice by themselves with the volunteers supporting them, when they had difficulties.

Afternoon

  • The Trainees were trained to identify the keys for combinations of vowels for typing and practicing by themselves as few of them wanted more time. Combinations with two letter, three letter, four letter word units given as dictation to those who were bit advanced in their typing skills.
  • A play and learn session was organized to say the keystrokes for vowels and consonants at the end for memorizing.

Day 3: June 5, 2015

Forenoon

  • The Trainees were trained by giving large sets of four, five and bigger letter units of words to type and practice as a revision.
  • It was followed up by smaller phrases and then sentences to be typed by the Trainees.
  • The trainees at this point of time, were introduced with short cuts for navigation within the text, spell check, cut, copy, paste commands. Almost everyone were in the same page at this point of time, regarding Tamil typing skills. And, now they were allowed to use Notepad or MS Word, whichever is comfortable for them.

Afternoon

  • The trainees were made to listen to the Tamil text paragraphs with the help of NVDA screen-reader supported by eSpeak voice.
  • The trainees were suggested to type out the phrases listened on a separate document.
  • The settings of NVDA to change Voice, rate and other settings were given for practice to do themselves as a revision.

Day 4: June 6, 2015

Forenoon

  • The trainees were introduced to toggle language between English and Tamil for bilingual content typing and practice.
  • Next training on file operations like simple formatting, folder creation, saving the file in Unicode format to required folder and retrieval of the particular file. Similarly, for navigating, opening the file saved and continuing editing.
  • The Trainees were given a home work to listen a Tamil content, type and save it as a separate file.

Afternoon

  • Introduction to HTML, various tags and formatting that can be done, Forms and fields, Email Clients and Browsers were given to the Trainees. Usage of Tamil in Internet, and the browsers supporting the Unicode formatted content and the NVDA development efforts to support Internet browsing was discussed.
  • Introduction on DAISY books and knowledge sharing on the available resources to read a DAISY book was done.
  • Demonstration on using Android based tablets and mobile phones to access the Tamil DAISY books given to the Trainees using Bookshare.org. The Trainees were also given information to subscribe for Bookshare membership and Book search and retrieval.

Day 5: June 7, 2015

Forenoon

  • The trainees were given information on Higher Education options available as well as career opportunities ahead in Government and Private Sector. The trainees were explained of various scholarship and assistive devices schemes as they had a request have a session on this.
  • This was followed up with a game based assessment for their Computer skills and Tamil computing knowledge imparted through training. It was a two hour session, with initial 45 minutes being spent as a chain to say the right keystrokes for letters, keystrokes for different words and make a sentence using the keystrokes for Tamil alone. The next 45 minutes concentrated on their bilingual word processing skills, shortcuts, file operations, formatting through interactive questions, and group quiz. These the students felt like a revision and practiced them on their Laptops too.

The Valedictory Function

After the Lunch, The eSpeak Tamil Computing with NVDA Training workshop conducted for 5 days (3rd June 2015 to 7th June 2015) had a great Valedictory function presided by Mr. T. Manoharan, District Officer for Welfare of Differently Abled, Tirunelveli. The District Officer, also felicitated the gathering and distributed the Certificates to the participants. Few students demonstrated their Tamil computing skills to the District Officer by operating on Laptop. He was happy to note that and informed the Trainees he would discuss with the higher authorities to organize more such Workshops during the holidays or after Laptop being distributed. He thanked the organizers for choosing Tirunelveli and invited the local TV media reporter immediately to make a record of it. This would be shared in his sensitization programme for Government officials to create awareness on potential capabilities of the Visually Impaired if training opportunities were given particularly in computers. The certificates were distributed to the Trainees thereafter. The Principal of the School, Mr. Kingston also gave a felicitation talk on how the training have to be further continued through practice. He thanked the sponsors and organizers for a timely measure to use the Summer holidays much useful for the Trainees by learning Tamil computing. Vote of thanks to CIS, NAB and the organizers was given by Mr. Periadurai, the Co-ordinator. The training that one such programme to be conducted in Tirunelveli as per the District Officer felt much useful and requested to extend in coming Holidays ended up with the National Anthem.

Previously, the Tamil equivalent ‘Dinamani’ of The New Indian Express covered with a one fourth page content of the Training programme interacting with the students and the coordinator. A scanned copy of this news is attached herewith.

Feedback

Ms. Gnanam, a Tamil Teacher felt it would be now easy to type her lesson plans in Tamil and she could read more e-text novels available in Tamil. Also, do emails in Tamil. She thanked the Organizers for a good stay in their old school and a useful training with her friends coming together.

Ms. Keerthika, a graduate who exhibited her typing talent to the Officer was happy and felt that this day was a markable in Life for her. The five days training introduced her to many shortcuts not known to her and also gave her more confidence now for using computers in her higher studies and career.

The mother of Ms. Anna Sundari, felt that it was a great opportunity for all the trainees as they were able to spend their time much useful. And, as mother is happy to see her Girl typing in Tamil all their names. She thanked the organizers for the workshop in a nearby district and wanted one such run regularly in the school. This would help the students in their education, reduce dependency on scribes, readers and work independently.

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