Konkani voice to guide the blind

by Prasad Krishna last modified Oct 04, 2015 06:53 AM
Those visually-impaired and well-versed only with the language of Konkani, now need not worry. Neither their blindness nor the language barrier will come between them and the use of mobile phones, computers and other technology.

The article by Gauree Malkarnekar was published in the Times of India on August 9, 2015.

Konkani will soon join 50-odd languages from across the globe, whose text will be recognized by the online engines for the visually impaired that converts text on mobile phone and computer screens into speech, enabling the blind to use the devices. The bank of sounds of Konkani alphabets for this purpose has been developed by Delhi-based NGO Saksham with the help of staffers of Goa's state central library at Patto, Panaji.

Users will be able to take the benefit of the initiative and have Konkani texts read out to them by making use of the open source or free for use text to speech engine eSpeak.

"Saksham, under Centre for Internet Society in Bangalore, is on the quest to enable text in all Indian languages to be converted into speech for the visually-impaired. We approached them to begin work on Konkani as we realized that while Romi Konkani can be read out because of its Roman alphabets, there was no correct pronunciation of the Devanagri Konkani sounds. The Marathi and Hindi alphabets have a different sound," said Taha Haaziq, incharge of the resource room for the disabled at Goa's central library.

A staffer of the library spoke out the entire range of sounds of Devanagri Konkani alphabets, which was recorded and sent by the library to the NGO in Delhi in January, based on which the sounds for use on eSpeak were developed.

"Work is nearly complete and Konkani speaking visually-impaired the world over will be able to benefit from this initiative. Regular Konkani speakers who prefer to use the text to speech option on their mobile phones instead of reading can also make use of Konkani version of eSpeak," said Haaziq.

The text to speech will also help the blind in the use of refreshable Braille display, which enables the visually-impaired to use computers as the display text on their screens are read out to them, in this case, now in Konkani said Central library curator Carlos Fernandes.

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