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Great achievements don’t happen overnight. The Tactile Images educational platform for the blind stands on an NGO’s decade of hard work. A 2010 idea is now a grand dream that gets closer and closer to its fruition with every project.

  1. The Urban Development Association
  2. The NGO’s projects for the blind

a) 2010 – The idea emerges
b) 2011-2013 – Museum exhibitions
c) 2013 – Starts the research process in the community
d) 2014 – R&D time and the first companion app
e) 2016 – The first e-learning platform
f) 2016-2018 – Contests and competitions
g) 2018 – The first online library of self-describing images
h) 2019 – Awareness raising tour in Romania
Petition
The first self-describing catalog
i) 2020 – The Tactile Images educational platform

1. The Urban Development Association

The Urban Development Association (UDA) has the mission to find solutions for various problems in the community. It engages in the fields of culture, education, community, and environment to improve the quality of life in every community.

Founded in 2009, the UDA started its first projects, entitled ”The Office for Lost, Stolen or Found Items”, in 2007. The ongoing project helps people in Romania who lost, found, or had objects stolen retrieve them.

Because it has a significant impact on the everyday lives of the citizens, traffic is one of the focus areas of the NGO. Consequently, it developed two traffic-related projects: ”I Do Not Block the Crossroad” (2008) and ”1 Million Speed Bumpers” (2010), both ongoing.

The environment is another focus area of the UDA. This is why it created in 2011 the Bad Plastic project, which comes to inform and raise awareness of the harmful effects of plastic on human health and the environment.

2. The NGO’s projects for the blind

a) 2010 – The idea emerges

Dan Patzelt, the founder of the UDA, is the one that came up with the revolutionizing idea of creating a learning the educational hardware and software infrastructure for the blind. This happened back in 2010, after the unfortunate event of his father losing an eye to cancer. Then, blindness became for him a striking problem of society, which he indented to mend.

 

b) 2011-2013 – Museum exhibitions

Feel the Art” (2011-2013) had the purpose of facilitating disabled people access to art. This is why the project meant placing special equipment and services – such as specialized and tangible exhibits, catalogs, Braille maps, tactile carpets, audio guides, sign language interpreters – in associate museums. ”Feel the Art in 6 Museum” (2013) and ”Feel the Art on the Road” (2013) followed.

c) 2013 – Starts the research process in the community

Fully understanding the blind was necessary to be able to proceed with the associated projects. This is why the UDA started contacting and visiting schools of the blind and creating workshops with both blind children and adults. It had to understand the exact needs of the blind.

 

d) 2014 – R&D time and the first companion app

2014 was an important year for the ADU. It was when they invented the first companion software to assist the exploration of tactile graphics and carried out research and development for the prototype of the first educational platform, THATS (Touch & Hear Assistive Teaching System).

In the same year, the connection with five schools of the blind was tightened, by equipping them with 10 iPad tablets (hardware to go with the invented software) – the ”Elephant Step” project.

e) 2016 – The first e-learning platform

This was the year of thats.wiki, the first digital encyclopedia for the blind (featuring images and audio tracks) which uses assistive technology. Also, the ADU proved that one can create and read tactile graphics with a mobile app.

 

f) 2016-2018 – Contests and competitions

It was time that all the inventions, research and hard work were awarded. The UDA was present at Social Impact Awards (2016) and semifinalist of Chivas Venture Romania (2017&2018).

 

g) 2018 – The first online library of self-describing images

This is the year when they invented the self-exploration system of the tactile graphics with the aid of a QR code. Eight years of hard work took the shape of imaginitactile.ro, the first online library of self-describing images. At first, the library was composed of 50 self-describing images on the subject of ”Romania in Images – How Can You See 100 Years from the Great Union”.

That same year, the library was enriched and gathered a total of 400 self-describing tactile graphics on the subject ”Romania in Accessible Images – Romania’s Centenary (1918 – 2018) and The First World War”. They also donated a catalog with 60 embossed drawings to the seven schools for the blind in Romania.

h) 2019 – Awareness-raising tour in Romania

During ”The Country of Tactile Images Tour”, the UDA presented the self-describing tactile graphics at events organized in 23 cities in Romania. Also, the library and the software solutions were presented within 8 art schools and 24 blind people’s associations in the country.

Petition
With the ”Equal Technology – Right to Education” project, the UDA launched a petition to obtain the reimbursement of expenses by the governmental body that partially subsidizes a product for people with disabilities. The open petition that was asking for smartphone reimbursement for the blind was addressed to the National Health Insurance Fund.

The first self-describing catalog
2019 also marked the creation of the first catalog of self-describing images. The catalog was created around the ”Urban Landscapes” theme. Then, two copies were donated to each of the 7 schools of the blind in Romania.

i) 2020 – The Tactile Images educational platform

Here we are, 10 years later. An NGO’s decade of hard work has materialized in a complex e-learning platform for the blind. Comprised of the first LIBRARY of self-describing tactile graphics, an EDITOR, and a mobile app called READER, Tactile Images is the place where sighted people can download and create personalized tactile graphics for the blind and the visually impaired. The platform also contains ideas on inexpensive embossing techniques.

A decade of hard work and the dream does not stop here. The UDA is still fighting to complete the educational hardware and software infrastructure for the blind. The DRAWER module, the Android version of the READER app and the DIY PRINTER are just some of the projects meant to be completed in the future.

If you believe in this dream and want to revolutionize the world of the blind, you can either join the team as a volunteer or donate.

Do you have any questions about this NGO’s decade of hard work? Write into the comment section below!

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