When tech conquers disabilities

Ruchi Hajela, Hindustan TimesNew Delhi, October 31, 2008
First Published: 21:10 IST(31/10/2008)
Last Updated: 21:11 IST(31/10/2008)

Unlike millions of teenagers, 17-year-old Arpit Khansili, could not use the Internet earlier because he suffers from a motor disability that makes it difficult for him to use the mouse or the keyboard attached to his personal computer.

However, he is surfing away, thanks to a software program that identifies inputs from any device such as a joystick, wheel or a gaming console. What’s more, it is a free software and based on an Open Source platform – which makes it easily modifiable.

The user needs to be logged into the Internet, and what the special software does is to replace the keyboard or mouse with an attached device, and links it through a browser interface that offers clickable words and icons that can be manipulated.

The program, named Arpit’s Wheel, has been conceptualised by IIT alumnus Arun Mehta, who has won the Manthan Award this year for his work. “Our software is based on Rubyonrails, a language based on Open Source, and can be accessed on any Web browser,” said Mehta, who is also the managing director at Delhi-based computer training organisation Indata Com Private Limited.

Currently, the software offers about 12 modules that help a user write or edit pictures. The software is available for a free download at www.skid.org.in.

The Website says such technology is just what the doctor ordered for children who cannot speak properly, including many with cerebral palsy and autism.

On the Skid home page, icons like a smiley for “yes” and a frown for “no” – besides Up and Down icons, show the way for the surfer with disabilities that hamper the conventional use of the mouse or keyboard.

“Arpit could not even use the Internet earlier but with the software, he can now play games,” Arpit’s elder brother Rohit told HT.