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Prashant Ranjan Verma develops assistive technology to help the visually impaired
Prashant Ranjan Verma remembers the doctor breaking the bad news: a fungal infection from his contact lenses had left him 90 per cent blind. The 19-year-old had just enrolled for a foundation course in Chartered Accountancy and suddenly, it seemed like the end of the road. But it wasn't; only life took him down another path. Now, 17 years later, Verma develops assistive technology for the visually impaired.
Verma says it took him over a year to come to terms with his condition. "I underwent an operation but it didn't help. The retina was completely damaged. My family tried everything they could, like alternative medicine and consulting a string of doctors. It was very depressing," says the 36-year-old.
Between 1994 and 2000, he tried his hand at various things — setting up a cable TV business, a catering business with a friend--but nothing worked as it was difficult for him to manage on his own. It was much later that he realised that with the right technology, the visually impaired can find a way. "Doctors didn't guide me about assistive technology," he says.
The turning point in his life came in 2000 when he visited the National Association for the Blind. He joined a computer training course there and got acquainted with a special screen-reading software that helped the visually impaired read and work on computers. "I put all my effort into learning about new software and would work in the NAB computer lab even after my classes got over," says Verma.
After the course, Verma joined NAB, first as a computer trainer and then assistant manager. It was then that he became associated with Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) that creates digital talking-books in an audible format for those who have trouble using print.
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