Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year from Esha

Thank you, for being a friend of Esha, this year, and in the years that went before.

This is our annual bullet point review of what we did well, and what can be done better.  We know you are very busy, so this review is always in bullet points. J

But one point is important enough to jump out and sit on top of the bullet points. Please do read this one.

The CLABIL Project – what it can do

I started the online audio library in Indian languages for one reason – to make audio content easily available to the visually challenged, who do know English.

But this year, gradually, I realised that the CLABIL is more than that. Its an important national resource. Here’s why:

1.       Our official literacy rate is around 55%. The actual literacy (where people can read and write more than just their name and the alphabet, and can use the written word for any real exchange of ideas) is likely to be around 45%. OF these, even fewer will know English. But the way we have designed our world, is that access to English controls access to knowledge resources too.

2.       Once we remove this restriction – of English = knowledge, we will be able to make real knowledge available to a lot of people. Millions of them.

3.       This access to knowledge can, and will change their lives in a very positive way – small traders will have access to better business practices, little girls and children will know what their rights are, without knowing English. Children in remote villages will know about inventions and progress that can make life better for them and their villages. Women will know about their rights, even if they are unschooled. They will have access to literature that teaches them self respect.

And my new year wish, personally, is that this library should go on to create that value that it can potentially create for those millions. This is a very, very ambitious wish.

But step by step, day by day, we will be on our way.

What went well

·         The Delhi Center is finally operational. It is extra heartening that the boy is not just visually challenged, but also a tribal. Hopefully, when he takes this tale of self reliance back home, his grit will inspire others.

·         This year, we got The REX Global Karmaveer Puraskar – for being agents of change. This award goes out to every single Friend of Esha, who has done whatever they could to make Esha, and more importantly, the idea of Esha, a reality.

·         We did very well on the Braille cards and on the Theater workshops. The workshops continue to be funny and much liked. The Braille cards continue to be used by more and more people. We added some more corporate customers this year, and hopefully, the year ahead will add a lot more.

·         The Read Fests – small one day events where we record content for the CLABIL project at one go and then upload it, was done enthusiastically by a lot of organisations. IIT Delhi, SOIL (who did it for the second year running), Copal Partners (who ran it for a week ), The Sri Ram School (where students, on their own, tested every file before saving it, so we don’t have to do any follow up work, and STILL generated the highest no. of files in a single day – 96 files in one go) , and many others.

What we can do better
·         Get more volunteers involved.  We are missing a lot of opportunities because we are just not able to go and meet people.

·         We also need to start asking the questions around funding, expansion and growth very seriously now. Whether we like it or not, growth is happening at an exponential pace for Esha and its products. Please advise – what will be the best way to take Esha forward. The questions are around getting funding when we have no time to go meet people, getting paid volunteers who have the same fire in belly(Esha is a LOT of work) . These are the growth challenges facing us today, and we need all the advice and help we can get.

Where we need help

·         We desperately need technical helpespecially on the online i spoke to some technical people on this, but we have not been able to find a viable solution yet. Anyone who knows php dynamic rendering, please do get in touch. It doesn’t have to be free. If you know someone who can take this up as a paid assignment, we’ll be happy to have them.

·         We need some content recorded in Audio.

o   Laws demystified – especially for children, women, and senior citizens.

o   “Learn English” – in Marathi in particular, which a lot of people search for, and in other Indian languages.

o   Wikipedia in Indian languages, or GK in Indian languages.

o   Career counselling and awareness about various career options in Indian languages.

If you can record at home, or conduct a theme based Read Fest around you, will help  a lot.

 We end the year in gratitude for all the good things that happened, and for all the lessons learnt. We start the year with fervent hope, and a lot of zeal. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

PS: If you have not joined Esha on facebook yet, please do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Need Help: Legal Rights in everyday language.

 Please help create some legal guidelines in Indian languages that can be used by those of us who are not english literate.

For instance, what are the rights of a married woman in her marital and parental home? what are the legal options for parents who have been abandoned by their children? or parents who are being pressurised by children to give up their financial rights to their own property.

This content will help a lot of people. please spread the word. you can record in any Indian language or even English, spoken slowly and in indian accent.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We are the Disablers - Thoughts on World Disability Day,

Why do Russians get along just fine in Russia? Why do Germans get along just fine in Germany? And why do the blind get along just fine  in a Blind School, but really poorly outside? Why do some places witness more inbound migration than some others?

Because these environments are ENABLED for them. When a culture is open and accepting, when it wants to learn, and to enrich itself through further interaction with cultures it knows nothing about, then it becomes an ENABLING culture – it enables itself to continually grow, and it enables other people to become comfortable in itself.

Therefore, if you find a certain section of people “just plain unfortunate” or “so different from us” – please remember, they are not the disabled, we are the disablers.

Compared to a dog, our sense of smell is severly hampered and we are, in the eyes of the dog, quite literally, “smell disabled”. Likewise, a cat’s ability to see in the dark is far higher than ours and to the cat, we appear quite “disabled”, almost blind for half of our lives – the entire night, since we can’t see beyond a certain range at all.

So, in effect, we are all “disabled”. But it never affects our ability to go on with our lives, and does not impact our ability to lead productive lives. Because we have enabled the world to make the best use of the faculties that we do have, and to help us with the stuff that we don’t have. Keyword: we have “enabled” the world.

Why is it not that way for the blind, or the deaf-mute, or the other  differently abled? Because we have not enabled this world for their kind of disability. Only for ours.

Today, the Wrold Disability Day is not for the people we call "disabled". It is for us - the Disablers.