Roshni : an ability for the disabled by Shiveesh Fotedar #kindnessmatters


On joining IIT for research and work, I primarily focused on how to build my design portfolio. There I met Dhruv, a differently abled person with a congenital hearing loss. He became my inspiration. Because of him kindness welled up inside me and my respect for the differently abled  grew. He became my friend and eventually co-worker.

I decided to start working on any modus which would help the disabled in anyway. Their dignity was important to me. When Dhruv heard about my thoughts he welcomed me to join his project Roshni. Visually impaired people frequently visited the department. We spoke to them and found out that the major problem they face was the lack of an independent indoor navigation.” That was the trigger that started this project,” Dhruv said.He wanted me to design the user interface of an app which would help in navigation for the visually impaired. Citing data from the WHO.. ‘Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment.With regards to distance vision, 188.5 million people have mild vision impairment, 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment, and 36 million people are blind.With regards to near vision, 826 million people live with a near vision impairment.Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.Approximately 80% of all vision impairment globally is considered avoidable. The majority of people with vision impairment are over the age of 50 years’. Coming up with a novel solution to help all these people navigate in their homes was indeed a brilliant idea. This was my opportunity to be kind and offer gratitude to those who inspired me like the differently abled. Keeping in mind the sustainable development goal number three of good health and well being I started to work on the project. I read and referenced about assistive design technologies. I burnt the midnight oil. I took the help of all the resources I could. Finally, the outcome was ROSHNI, my dream of making an application interface that enhances the  mobility and communication of people with disabilities. Our six-member team at Delhi IIT’s computer science department, led by Dhruv and guided by Prof M Balakrishnan, gave the final touches to Roshni. With the help of the National Association for the Blind, the research group tested the device with two dozen visually impaired persons from different age groups and got satisfactory responses.Besides Samsung, which funded one year of research and development, Indian Angel Network, a community of start-up funders, showed interest in supporting the project, and the IIT team was in talks with them.Soon there was installation of the updated version of the Roshni prototype at the National Science Centre in Pragati Maidan in the Capital. The navigation system, which consists of wall sensors, a waist-worn device to receive and detect signals, and a user interphase which I designed in the form of a mobile application, have been installed and successfully demonstrated at Bharti, the building which houses the computer science department of IIT Delhi. My challenge to win over the people.

Roshni has got many recognitions and awards.

  • It has been published at various places and has been recognized by the media.”
  • Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled People (TRANSED 2012).
  • Best Poster Award, in the Poster Presentation at 4th IBM Collaborative Academia Research Exchange (I-CARE 2012) held in Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, India
  • Best project in the institute across all departments and disciplines, IIT Delhi, IIT Delhi Alumini Award with a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakh Winners in Eureka Paper Presentation, Techkriti, IIT Kanpur’s Technical Festival, 2013 [National Award] Project Incubation award in India Innovation Initiative 2013 [National Award] Wide media recognition in Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times, Times of India etc.

Roshni, is a user centric system which conveys the position to users as and when they want, making the building entirely transparent to the user, provided that map is installed in the mobile phone application and thus, giving complete independence to the visually impaired without any need of any external sighted assistance. Use of low cost IR sensor technology makes this system affordable for any moderate user in a developing country.

I felt that this was my way to show kindness to the world. By helping someone who was in dire need I think I’ve fulfilled my responsibility as a human being.


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