Vidya Vrikshah is an association of people drawn together, by devotion to
the free spread of knowledge, much, as the name suggests, like a tree that
gives freely to anyone seeking it's shade and fruit. The activities of Vidya
Vrikshah rest on participation of anyone who subscribes to it's objective
of the free spread of knowledge.
In seeking to promote the free spread of knowledge, Vidya Vrikshah takes
it's guidelines from our ancient texts. The
Vidya Vrikshah is a Voluntary Service Organization based in Chennai,. It was started in 1999 and registered as a non-profit, Public Charitable Trust. (Vide - Document No 149/4 dated 25-02-1999 registered in the Office of the Sub-Registrar, Mylapore, Chennai)
Vidya Vrikshah is administered by a Board of Trustees comprised of :
Founder-Chairman : N.Krishnaswamy IPS (Retd), Former IG of Police, Tamilnadu.
Founder Trustee : Dr.C.L.Ramakrishnan IPS (Retd), Former DGP, Tamilnadu
Founder-Member : Dr. R. Kalyanakrishnan, Professor, IIT Chennai
Managing Trustee : K.V.S.Gopalakrishnan IPS (Retd) Former Spl Director, I.B., N.Delhi
Member : Dr.. Uma Krishnaswamy, Consultant Breast Surgeon
Member-Secretary : Dr.V.Aravind, Professor& Dental Surgeon
Member : Dr. Alamelu Ramakrishnan, Housewife
Member : Dr Rama Venkataraman, Housewife
Member : Mythili Gopalakrishnan, Housewife
Member : N.Venkataraman, Manager Worth Trust.
OBJECTIVES AND IMPLEMENTATION APPROACHES :
Vidya Vrikshah is committed to the spread of knowledge in two broad perspectives :
The first perspective addresses a need for preservation and dissemination for the benefit of contemporary society, of the rich ancient heritage of Indian culture going back to over three millenia and coming to us in a remarkably preserved oral tradition and also through inscriptions in stone, metal and palm leaves. All this will speak for itself through the relevant presentations in this website. The second perspective however, calls for some introductory elaboration here. This objective here is to bring literacy, education, and training for early preventive intervention and rehabilitation skills, free and at their door-step, to the millions of socially and physically disadvantaged, specially the visually impaired, using all ossible methods, old and new, including the latest tools of Information Technology wherever possible.
Vidya Vrikshah is unusual and unconventional in respect of its organization and methods for the implementation of its objectives, The key elements here that all the needed resources of money, material, time and effort for the conduct its activities are shared or contributed by its Volunteers and its two partner organizations, one from Academia and the other from Industry, in such a way that Vidya Vrikshah’s public donation income can be applied in its entirety to reach end-beneficiaries.
Details of how these two partner organizations, viz. IIT Chennai, and Worth Trust, Katpadi, supported Vidya Vrikshah, in what may well constitute a unique and one of its kind approach in India, are set out below.
ROLE OF INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, CHENNAI :
In 1998 Dr. R.Kalyanakrishnan, Professor in Department of Computer Science, assisted by a team of his students, had developed a path-breaking Software Package that provided a uniform and easy-to-learn way of using PCs in all Indian languages. The Package provided support for voice and braille output in any of these languages, so that anyone, sighted or blind, could use computers. This package was designed to enable children in schools in India, to use of Computers for education in whatever local language was the medium of instruction, and thereby overcome a prevailing constraint, where all computers were tied down to the use of English.
This development came from a conscious contribution by this IIT team to make Information Technology relevant to the educational needs of the country and thus give back to the country something substantial in return for what they themselves received from the country by way of the high level of education in the IIT. Their decision was also that the Package should be made available free of cost and thus not add to the cost overhead of use of computers by schools of the country.
The Package was a path-breaking development, in terms of both its linguistic and technical sophistication, and remains to this day in 2010, the only proven working solution of its kind. When the Package was ready for a launch, Dr.Kalyakrishnan then joined hands with Shri.N.Krishnaswamy to found Vidya Vrikshah in a new approach, resting on community participation, to visibly demonstrate its ease of use and far-reaching value. In pursuance of this, Shri Krishnaswamy provided computers and other equipment from his personal resources to set up Vidya Vrikshah’s training centre in his home garage, and mobilized and trained a team of Volunteers – mostly educated and talented housewives - in the use of computers and use of the Software Package. In the course of a year, this team then used the Package to create a vast archive of high quality IT presentations of informational and educational value in local languages, which were placed on a donated website, www.vidyavrikshah.org Dr.Kalyanakrishnan then arranged to host a mirror of this archive on the IIT’s website, http://acharya.iitm.ac.in , so that he could help in it’s maintenance. The idea was to demonstrate the use of the software to support a national reach for local language based informational and educational content, at little or no added cost, through the Internet. What is of importance here is that this is one of the unique examples in the country to demonstrate how a National Academic Institution of repute like the IIT could show how Information Technology could and should be used to serve educational objectives of the country and also how this could be accomplished through direct community involvement.
ROLE OF WORTH TRUST, KATPADI, TAMILNADU :
Worth Trust is a unique organization based in Katpadi, Tamilnadu and its
name stands for WOrkshop for
Rehabilitation of The
Handicapped. Its uniqueness lies in that
it recruits, trains and employs disabled persons in modern
machine workshop skills. It currently employs 156 disabled persons, and has
146 perons under on-the-job training. Its activities include assembly of high-tech
products and sub-assemblies outsourced to them by mainstream industry, eg
brake sub-assemblies from automobile industries, or
Braillers from Perkins of
Worth Trust is currently engaged in the following far-reaching projects initiated by Vidya Vrikshah.
Production of the Universal Braille Kit (fuller details follow later) :
is a Kit of 8 devices, some of them, new original designs of
Vidya Vrikshah and some, existing standard products. The Kit is designed
to enable any literate person to learn and teach their use
by blind children anywhere in
(ii) Production of a Braille slate of a new revolutionary design that enables braille to be punched normally from left to right (instead of punching the characters laterally inverted and from right to left as in the traditional slate). Vidya Vrikshah arranged with Larry Hawk, the American inventor of the new design, to gift the expensive steel moulds for making this slate, so that it could be produced by Worth Trust at Katpadi and offered at a much lower no-profit cost in India. The new slate is now under production.
(iii) Development of a Refreshable Braille Display on a new revolutionary design developed by Vidya Vrikshah. This may make this device available at an affordable price that could as low as one-twentieth of the prevailing market price of devices offering the same functionality and available only abroad. It is expected to launch this product by end-2010
The Universal E-Book Project :
This is for establishing an E-book Production Centre
to support the
APPROACHES OF VIDYA VRIKSHAH AND ITS VOLUNTEERS :
The following are the general operational approaches of Vidya Vrikshah :
(a) N.Krishnaswamy’s role as Founder-Chairman has been to formulate its initiatives and activities and train and guide all the Volunteers in the implementation of these initiatives and activiities. He has also personally handled the design and development of Vidya Vrikshah’s learning devices for the blind.
(b) The activities of Vidya Vrikshah are conducted directly by the members of its Board of Trustees, by functioning also as Working Volunteers. They function on a totally voluntary basis, total in the sense that they personally conduct its activities and also at the same time, personally share and absorb almost all the entire administrative expenditure so as to eliminate this overhead which otherwise could consume sizeable proportion of the financial resources. This has made it possible to apply the entirety of the Trust’s donation income to reach the end beneficiaries. A small part of this income is set aside to accumulate in a corpus to provide an interest income to augment and / or sustain the flow of benefit to the end-beneficiaries or cover occasional limited incidental expenses.
(c) Visibility of the organization and its activities to sustain adequate public awareness and support is provided by :
(i) presentations of its work in its website www.vidyavrikshah.org hosted free by the IIT Chennai
(ii) a network of around 150 Well-Wisher Volunteers, who function through a no-cost Word-of-
Mouth support methodology .
(d) Accountability of Vidya Vrikshah is primarily :
(i) to its own Board of Trustees, through the transparency of its transactions; and
(ii) to the public through presentations of its work through its website www.vidyavrikshah.org ; and
(iii) statutory accountability is through Annual Audited Accounts, through Tax returns to the Income Tax Department and through Annual Returns to the FCRA authority in respect of receipt of Foreign Contributions.
(e) All learning equipment, like the UBK (see details later) is sent to reach blind children through their schools, which are required to acknowledge receipt and certify distribution to the children, backed up with photographs of these children, who comprise the end beneficiaries.
(f) No attempt is made for independent appraisals of end results or benefits or social impacts of the activities of Vidya Vrikshah, as such arrangements require financial resources, which Vidya Vrikshah would rather use solely for end-beneficiaries. Vidya Vrikshah has preferred to leave appraisals in regard to effective use of equipment, to the receipient institutions and also trust to the natural curiosity and motivation of the receipient blind children who receive the equipment and the care and concern of members of their families and their teachers.
Details of activities of Vidya Vrikshah :
(a) Volunteers have used the IIT Software Package on Computers, to create a large archive of web presentations in Indian languages and in English and place them on Vidya Vrikshah’s website at www.vidyavrikshah.org These presentations cover among other things, presentations relevant to Literacy, Education, and Training, specially for the disabled.
(b) Volunteers trained a large number of disabled persons (mainly blind),
as also teachers and trainers
in using computers with the IIT Computer Software Package. The special software
along with training in its use, has been provided
free of charge by Vidya Vrikshah, as of end - 2007, to over
500 such persons from all over
(c) Volunteers have arranged for corporate and individual donations of used computers, which were then refurbished and given along with the software and training to over 100 blind schools and inclusive mainstream schools, mainly in Tamilnadu.
(d) Volunteers demonstrated the use of computers for producing braille material by producing and distributing a monthly children’s braille magazine in Tamil and distributing them to all Blind schools in Tamilnadu from 2004 to 2006.
(e) Volunteeers developed and demonstrated use of a variety of hardware and software solutions to enable the use of computers by persons with all types of disabilities, including biplegia, quadriplegia, autism, cerebral palsy, low vision and no vision.
(f) Volunteers played an active role in the dissemination of the Universal Braille Kit Project (UBK). This is a Kit of 8 devices, some of them, new original designs by Vidya Vrikshah and some, existing standard products. The Kit, accompanied by simple instruction manuals in the local languages, was designed to enable any literate person anywhere in India, to learn and teach their use by blind children, on how to read and write, count and calculate and draw and measure, the elements that make for basic literacy. The eight devices are as listed and illustrated below :
(i) the Vasantha Braille Cube : to form and read braille letters of the alphabet of any language;
(ii) the Natesan Block : to form and read braille words;
(iii) the Vikas Block : to form and read braille sentences;
(iv) the Braille Slate : to learn/teach how to write in braille;
(v) the Alphabet Plate : to learn / teach normal handwriting in any language;
(vi) the Abacus : to learn / teach how to count and calculate
(vii) the Taylor Frame : to learn / teach mathematics; and
(viii) the Geometry Set : to learn / teach how to draw and measure.
The UBK is manufactured as already stated, by Worth Trust, and made available
by them at a no profit price of Rs 500 per Kit (US$ 10). Vidya Vrikshah has
undertaken to collect public donations to cover this cost, and as of 01-01-2010,
over 20000 Kits have been reached to blind children all over
(g) The Nina Universal Braille Teacher : This is an electronic teaching device designed by Vidya Vrikshah, that speaks out the letter of the alphabet and its braille code in any language, when the the braille code ascertained from a ready reckoner card, is entered through switches on its keypad. This device has been developed at a unit cost of Rs 700, and 100 Units have been sent for apppraisal to blind schools in different States in January, 2010.
Our solution is to reach the UBK to huge numbers of blind children at their
homes and train them along with
their family members. This reach is accomplished by a
Developing an International reach :
The International Institute of Social Entrepreneurs,
Important conferences :
Vidya Vrikshah played a leading role in organizing and conducting important conferences for highlighting the availability and need for IT based solutions for the disabled, specially the visually impaired. Three important events were :
Technology ENablers For Persons
with Disability Conference (
INTEND 2001 - Chennai, 22 to 25-06-2001) sponsored by the Rehabilitation
(ii) The National Seminar on Print Access For All, (Chennai, 19-04-2008) sponsored by the Hindu, Chennai
This Seminar mobilized experts and representatives from the concerned fields to present solutions for the development and deployment of solutions in the Indian context, in respect of the following critical issues :
(a) Copyright issues – The need is for Publishers of books, newspapers, periodicals, audio and video products, broadcasting etc, in all possible media, to provide access to their publications to the print disabled. This was made possible for them either voluntarily or in compliance with Copyright or other laws, where legal provisions exist or need to be created.
(b) Technical Issues - National IT solutions were needed, especially in the area of multi-lingual software, including text editors, with support for inter-se conversions between text, speech and braille, and support for language translation and transliteration, scanning and optical character recognition, all within a framework of uniform national standards ; and
(c) Implementation issues – There was need for a clearly defined national implementation structure – Governmental and Non—Governmental – that would ensure efficient delivery of literacy, education, knowledge and information services to all, especially the print-disabled end-user, in accordance with the principles of Universal Design
(iii) The World Initiative For the Blind (Chennai, 30-05-2010) sponsored by the Hindu, Chennai. The event was comprised of presentations of four component Initiatives, (follow their links below) viz.
The National Initiative
presented by Vidya Vrikshah, designed to bring literacy and education to
the blind children of
(b) The Technology Initiative presented by Worth Trust, Katpadi, designed to make disability products to international standards, and make them available at no-profit prices to the disabled, through the distribution arrangements organized by Vidya Vrikshah.
(c) The Social Support Initiative presented by the Rotary Club of Chennai designed to mobilize local and international fund support to enable the low cost disability products offered by Worth Trust, to be distributed at no cost through the Vidya Vrikshah projects.
presented by the International Institute of Social Entrepreneurs, Thiruvananthapuram,
designed to implementing proven solutions and methodologies emerging from
the above three Initatives. In
4. Awards :
Dr.R. Kalyanakrishnan of IIT Chennai received the National Award for 2003 of the Government of India for the Multilingual Software Package referred to above, as the best IT solution for the Disabled.
Shri. N.Krishnaswamy received the For The Sake of Honour Award from the Rotary Club of East RA Puram, Chennai in 2004 in recognition of Vidya Vrikshah’s work for the blind.
Vidya Vrikshah received the Nina Sibal Award of the All India Womens Education Fund Association, N.Dehi, on the 2 nd August, 2008 in recognition of its wide-ranging services for the blind, run by its women volunteers.
Vidya Vrikshah Trustees, N.Krishnaswamy, C.L.Ramakrishnan and K.V.S. Gopalakrishnan, as former members of the Indian Police Service, are receipients of both the President’s Medals for Distinguished Service and the Police Meritorious Service.
Shri.K.V.S.Gopalakrishnan is also the receipient of the Government
5. CONTACT INFORMATION :
Mailing Address :
Vidya Vrikshah, New No 3,
R.K.Nagar, Chennai – 600 028
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com (Dr Alamelu Ramakrishnan)
Tele : 044-24414741 (Dr Alamelu Ramakrishnan)
Tele : 044-24937926 (N.Krishnaswamy)
Cell : 95000 40543 (K.V.S.Gopalakrishnan)
Tele : O44-24994704 (Dr. Rama Venkataraman)
Tele : 044- 24939942 (Mythili Gopalakrishnan)
Cell : 93802 41987 (Dr. V.Aravind)
Cell : 98407 60094 (N.Krishnaswamy)
Cell : 94433 09001 (N.Venkataraman)
Web : www.vidyavrikshah.org
WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN AS A VIDYA VRIKSHAH VOLUTEER ?
Just get in touch at any of the above contact points, giving your profile and area of interest