The Union Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Harsh Vardhan released the world’s first comprehensive Braille atlas for nearly 50 lakh visually challenged people in India on February 10, 2017 in New Delhi.
- This is for the first time that such atlas has been prepared for physically challenged with such minute details. The Braille Atlas has been prepared by National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) under Department of Science & Technology.
- Aniruddha Bhattacharya, scientific officer with NATMO and Amitava Chakraborty and Devnath Sengupta, research officers, played a key role in preparing the atlas. Bhattarcharya passed away last month.
Features of the Braille Atlas
The Braille atlas has 20 maps on different themes like physical, socio-economic, river system, crops pattern, natural vegetation, cultural, metropolitan areas, roads and railways, soil types and crops.
- The map outlines in the atlas are carved on the paper made up with the help of silk screen painting technology so that the blind can sense them.
- The maps is very reader friendly for visually impaired students as it has simple lines and points as symbols as well as shapes and textures to facilitate its users realise the location.
- The maps have been made using accentuated colors so that the readers can look at the maps despite their partial sight.
- Developed in Hindi, English and Bengal, each atlas costs nearly Rs 600 and the Ministry intends to give a couple of free copies to institutes teaching visually impaired students in India. The organization is looking forward to develop the atlas in Gujarati and Telugu languages also.
- NATMO has published nearly 500 copies of the Braille atlas which cost them about Rs 1000 a piece. The atlas is very heavy because of the use of high standard glazed paper and the embossing done on the paper.
- The organization is looking forward to launch easy to carry atlas using light weight imported paper in the next edition. Besides, these atlases would also be embedded with audio files and apps that speak to the blind using the omnipresent global positioning system or GPS signals.
- For their innovative effort, NAMTO was awarded the ‘National Award for Science and Technology Intervention in Empowering the Physically Challenged’ on January 3, 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Indian Science Congress held at Tirupati.
About National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO)
The National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization, (NATMO) is a premier National Organization in the field of thematic maps and atlas making, under the ministry of science and technology of India founded in April 1954.
- Professor S P Chatterjee, drafted the plan for the foundation of the organization.
- On 18th August 1956 this small organization developed into the National Atlas Organization under the Geography Department of Kolkata University.
- The organization published the first National Atlas of India in Hindi, known as Bharat Rashtriya Atlas.
- Now it publishes Special Map Series, District Planning Map Series, and many Monographs related to thematic cartography.
- The concept of Braille maps was launched in India in 1900s and the first such map was made in 1997.
- Headquarter: Kolkata
- Director: Dr. P. Nag