Dipendra Manocha leverages technology to build a communications and training infrastructure that enables people with visual disabilities to overcome their limitations and live and work alongside other citizens in the society. He is harnessing the power of technology to improve the self-image of the disabled and the society’s perception of them.
Dipendra is adapting cutting-edge communications technology, raising expectations of the visually impaired and retraining them so they can participate in public life. Over the last two decades, Dipendra has developed standards and structures for digital books to make education accessible for the visually impaired. Along with the Daisy forum of India, he successfully lobbied for amendments to the copyright law in 2012 which allowed the production of books in alternative formats without permissions from copyright owners. Dipendra also brought digital book players and players with hindi language as an option under the Assistance to Disabled Persons Scheme (ADIP) in September 2013 and 2014 respectively. As a result, the visually impaired from economically weaker sections can access education in a language format that is compatible for them.
Saksham has developed and launched ESPEAK, a low-cost screen reading software with good quality speech format in 2013 by using an open source screen reading software (NVDA) developed in Australia. The organisation cut down costs from INR 60,000 to 2,700, making it affordable despite good quality speech formats. Dipendra continues to develop ESPEAK with Centre for Internet Society to add other Indian languages and make it accessible for all. 3,000 people are directly benefitted from these technology solutions every year. While, 200 people have registered for the talking books, each book is used by a network of 92 organisations with 40,000 registered beneficiaries.
Dipendra strategically engages his partner network in the development, modification and implementation of technology solutions for the blind. This network includes software companies, research and medical institutions, technology innovation labs, government, CSOs and international organisations working with the visually impaired and brings together the best resources. For instance, currently, Saksham is developing a smart cane that will detect waist above obstacles from a distance through sensors added to its handle and protect the blind from protruding objects. This three-party collaborative effort includes IIT Delhi and Phoenix Medical Systems, who are contributing to the design and business model development to ensure high efficacy and adoption. Dipendra is also in the process of building channel partners to train the visually impaired on how to use the cane before it is handed out.
As the president of Daisy Forum India since its inception, Dipendra has been driving the forum’s efforts in finding technology solutions and bringing policy changes in the area of digital books. As part of these efforts, he has built awareness, created accessibility and trained network member organisations with respect to digital books. Dipendra has replicated successful models to other developing countries as the consultant and head of programme for developing countries with the International Daisy Consortium. The UNESCAP declared the 2013-22 decade as the “Decade for Persons with Disabilities” because of his persuasive efforts. This declaration brings together governments, CSOs and institutions to create a strategy and an action plan addressing issues around disability. Dipendra has also developed the technology component addressing challenges faced by the disabled in the 12th five year plan along with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Dipendra plans to create solutions for a larger set of needs and address the existing technology gaps in production, distribution and user experience. He aims to reach out to a larger number of people with disabilities.
Note: This was updated in March, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile