Seminar on "Free Software for Physically Challenged Users"

Enabling the Differently-Abled People with Free Software

One Day Workshop Held in JNTU Hyderabad, College of Engineering

How free and open source software can help the differently-abled, either visually or physically challenged, in accessing computers and technology was demonstrated today in a workshop held in JNTU Hyderabad college of Engineering. The workshop organised by Swecha, a not-for-profit organisation working for promoting free software, was inaugurated by JNTUH college of engineering Principal Professor N V Ramana Rao in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) lab of the CSE Department of the University.

Prof Ramana Rao in his remarks stressed the need to share knowledge and skills with all and particularly with the less fortunate people of the society like the disabled. With the advancement of technology, it has become easier for the needy to access it. The differently-abled persons usually have more will power and can easily pick up the skills required if proper opportunities are given, he said. The Principal praised Swecha in this regard for doing its utmost to bring the technology to the needy by promoting free software. He assured all help of the JNTUH college of Engineering in this endeavour of helping the community access technology.

This half day session is held as a run-up event for the National Convention for Academics and Reseach (NCAR 2010) going to be held during 16-18th December. The workshop aimed at introducing various Free Software tools available for the differently abled persons. Tools like Orca, Fire Vox, BRTLLY, Linux Screen Reader (LSR) etc were introduced to the participants and were also given an opportunity to have a hands-on session to try these tools. The participants were highly appreciative of the user friendly tools available in free software as opposed to the proprietary software and also actively came up with a few encouraging suggestions to enhance the tools considering the nature of Free Software. A number of follow up activities have been planned by Swecha to make software much more accessible and useful to the physically challenged.

Swecha general secretary Bhuvan Krishna explained the philosophy of free software and how it helps in bridging the digital divide. He thanked the JNTUH college of Engineering for its help in conducting this workshop and expressed hope for more such collaboration in the future.

The Head of Department of CSE, Professor O B V Ramanaiah, senior Professor G Vijayakumari and Swecha women researcher Dr Padmaja Rani have helped in providing and preparing the FOSS lab for the workshop. Swecha Working Chairman Professor L Pratap Reddy of JNTUH, Swecha state office bearer Deepthi, Swecha Executive member Harikrishna and Swecha activist Madhu were involved in conducting the workshop. The Deputy Director from the Commissioner Disabled Welfare Department, Dr. S. Kumara Devi also extended her kind support to the workshop.

Press Coverage:

Eenadu    - Hyderabad Edition
Sify.com   - Run up to NCAR 2010: "Free Software for Physically Challenged Users