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Software for the Visually Handicapped
(Speech Enhanced Software)
  Systems Development Laboratory, IIT Madras is pleased to offer the software discussed in this page, for use by the visually handicapped in India. The software is likely to be of help in other countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh. All the programs mentioned here are meant for use on computers running Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems. A sound card with appropriate drivers is assumed to be present in the computer.

  Please note that the software has been designed for specific use in the  developing countries where the help of a sighted friend is likely to be available for a visually handicapped person. We have not packaged the software in any form that would allow visually handicapped persons to download and install the same all by themselves.

 The desire on the part of IIT Madras to offer the software free and the desire on the part of many sighted volunteers to help their handicapped friends, has created a congenial atmosphere for the software to be distributed easily in spite of the manual effort involved.

  Please allow us to adopt this method. For those who are reading this page and residing outside India, our request is, please get a sighted friend to help you install the software. Perhaps at some future date we would be in a position to package it well enough to allow installation with greater ease.

  In India, the software is also made available to the visually handicapped through volunteers, organizations  and institutions for persons with visual disabilities. Please check with IIT Madras for a list of Institutions where persons have been trained in the use of the software. Contact information is provided at the bottom of this page.

  Vidya Vrikshah, a voluntary organization in the city of Chennai (Madras) conducts free programs each month to provide training in the use of the software. Vidya Vrikshah has set up  volunteer groups in other cities as well. A number of persons have been trained in the use of the Software.

  If you are a  sighted person and would like to help visually handicapped friends, please download and test out the software and share the same with others. If you would like to start a volunteer group yourself, please get in touch with Vidya Vrikshah.

Copyright issues

  The Sound Enhanced Multilingual Editor is a product totally conceived, designed and built at IIT Madras. IIT Madras holds the copyright on this product. All the other software has been assembled at IIT from various applications that are freely distributed on the net. IIT Madras does not claim any copyright on these and users are free to deal with the software in their own way but should comply with the license agreements stipulated by the original designers. This applies to Lynx, Pine and Mbrola as well as the freely given Jaws for Dos by Henter and Joyce.

1. Sound Enhanced Multilingual Editor.

  The sound enhanced multilingual editor is perhaps the most sought after package by the Visually handicapped persons in India. It is unique in many ways and is one of the easiest to use.  The editor allows documents to be prepared in all the Indian languages. The package uses the freely available MBROLA speech synthesizer. The total size of the editor package is in excess of forty Megabytes. Downloading the same from the IITM web site will not be easy due to the limited bandwidth available on the internet link (64 Kb). Also, visually handicapped persons will require help from a sighted volunteer who is already familiar with the application in getting the software installed on their systems.

  The sound enhanced Multilingual Editor may be used by visually handicapped persons to prepare documents in all the Indian languages as well as English. the editor may also be used as a minimal screen reader to speak out text already prepared using the Editor or some other utility included in the IITM Software package.

  For the above mentioned reason, the editor is usually distributed through volunteer organizations where persons already trained in the use and installation of the editor provide help for those desiring to become familiar with the software. Please get in touch with the development team at IIT Madras for information about contact persons in different parts of India. Please get in touch with the lab for additional details.

A short video presentation on the editor is available. This is a file in the Real media (Video) format. The video runs approximately for 3 minutes and shows the operation of the multilingual editor with screen reading features.

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2. Sound Enhanced Lynx

  This application may be used by the visually handicapped to browse the web and hear the contents of web pages. If the web pages are prepared according to the guidelines specified by the IITM software, then Indian language text will also be spoken. 

  This application is based on the text based web browser Lynx, popular with the Visually Handicapped. Screen reading features have been added to the application so that the application can run as a stand alone Web Browser. One has the advantage that this browse will also be able to speak out text in Indian languages. Such text is displayed on the page in Roman transliterated format but special tags enclosing the text identify the same as being in local language.

  Selynx, or sound enhanced Lynx also uses the MBROLA speech synthesizer effectively for multilingual speech output. It is necessary to have MBROLA installed on a system before Selynx can work.

  Selynx has been made available for Linux as well as Microsoft Windows platforms. An independent web page describes the application.

  A short video presentation on the use of this Browser is available. The file is in the Real media Video format. The video runs for approximately 4 minutes and shows the browser in operation.

  You can download the application from our site. If you are interested in developing the application further, source code is also made available.
Downloading and installation instructions are provided in the downloads page.

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3. Interface program for use with Jaws for Dos 

  This useful interface, has been contributed by the IITM design team to allow visually handicapped persons in developing countries to learn to use computers in the text mode and run several useful applications such as document preparation, reading e-books in text mode etc.

  Jaws for Dos is the first generation screen reader from Henter and Joyce and is still useful as an application for training people. It requires the use of an external speech synthesizer. In the developing world, it is perhaps easier to get a PC than an external synthesizer. What the IIT Madras team has done is to provide a suitable interface program to substitute the computer's sound interface for the external synthesizer so that the application could work on a Windows machine or a Linux system.

  The jawsreader interface uses MBROLA as the speech engine. Mbrola is required to be available in the system before the application can work. Mbrola is available for free download. Jawsreader interface is explained in a separate page.

 A short video presentation on the use of Jaws for Dos is available. The file is in the Real Media  format (rm). The video runs for about three and a half minutes and shows the features of this application.

  You can download the interface program from our site. If you are interested in developing the application further, source code is also made available. Downloading and installation instructions are provided in the download page.

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4. Utility to generate documents in Braille

  IIT Madras has made available a useful utility to generate Braille output from a Multilingual document prepared using the IITM editor. This utility is called llf2brl.exe and will run as an application in text mode. This utility may be used to produce text books and other publications in Bharati Braille and get the same embossed on a standard Braille embosser.

  The llf2brl utility runs from the command line under Windows or Linux and will convert a document prepared using the IITM software into appropriate Braille equivalent for local language as well as English. Features are provided to selectively translate English text into Grade-1 or Grade-2 Braille. The utility works in conjunction with "nfbtrans" which is used for formatting the file, consistent with embossing requirements.

  Please note that you will require nfbtrans.exe to get the output of llf2brl embossed on a Braille embosser.  "nfbtrans" is a very useful application (freely distributed) for printing standard English text on Braille Embossers. The application is also capable of applying contraction rules to the text thus producing Grade-2 Braille output. nfbtrans in used along with the llf2brl utility to get the output formatted properly as also selectively allow Grade-1 or Grade-2 translation of English text. The web page for llf2brl has all the details.

  The output produced by llf2brl may be proof-read if necessary using the braille fonts in any standard Word processor (Word, Wordpad under Windows). Any standard text editor may also be used for proof reading if one is able to relate Braille cells to their equivalent ASCII as per the Computer Braille standard. One might also be able to effect some additional formatting before actually getting the printout in Braille. Please refer to the appropriate section in these pages on using llf2brl.

 An on-line demo illustrating the use of the application for Bharati Braille as well as standard English Braille is available at this site.

5. Utility to speak out the contents of a local language file (llf2spch)

  Often it is useful to be able to read out the contents of a text file, typically one containing school or college lessons. The llf2spch utility can be used to read out the text which can be multilingual text including English. The llf2spch utility has useful navigational facilities so that portions of a file can be skipped, reread etc.. The llf2spch utility may be run under Linux as well as Windows. The llf2spch page describes the utility.

 Please remember that downloading and installing the software may require the help of a friend who is sighted. 

  In India and the countries nearby, computer resources are not yet generally available to the visually handicapped. One might wonder then "what is the point in giving the software anyway?". 

  The idea is that Information Technology can spread well through volunteers, as proven by Vidya Vrikshah where free training is offered to the Visually handicapped as well as those working with the Visually handicapped. 

  If you are sighted, please bring to the attention of organizations for the Visually handicapped, the availability of the IITM software.

The text to speech feature has been incorporated into the applications through the use of MBROLA speech synthesizer. The principles of text to speech are briefly discussed in the linked page.
List of applications

Short individual descriptions of the software applications are included on the left.

Sound Enhanced Multilingual Editor

(The sound enhanced Lynx Web Browser)

(The basic interface developed at IITM to work with JAWS for DOS without an external synthesizer)

(Utility to get Braille output from Indian language text)

(Utility to speak local language files. Runs from a command shell under Linux and Windows)


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