Charudatta V. Jadhav is General Secretary, All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB), Executive Board Member, International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) & Project Manager, GTL India Ltd. (firstname.lastname@example.org). He has shared his experience with us during a face to face interaction with Dipanjan Banerjee (email@example.com)
Nothing is ‘impossible’
Imagine a visually impaired person using a mobile phone to connect to his friends and colleagues. Not a regular sight, ha? ..or for that matter, am I joking?
Definitely not! An old English saying – ‘seeing is believing’ came to my mind when I saw Charudatta V. Jadhav – a visually impaired person, using his Nokia phone with almost the same deft and dexterity like any one of us with normal vision. Of course, he uses special screen-reading software to operate his phone but the sheer the speed at which he can search through his numbers will dazzle anybody.
I was quite flabbergasted to receive a mobile number from my Editor to coordinate Jadhav on the time and venue for his interview with i4d, and more so, when I found that he takes his call by himself and even gives a callback, if he is not able to answer his call.
When you meet him for the first time he seems to be as helpless as any other visually challenged person, whom we generally come across. Put on a conversation with him and soon you will discover his gleaming intelligence and the mine of knowledge he posses.
Overcoming visual disability
Overcoming his visual disability, he has emerged as one of the very few visually impaired IT professionals to make a mark. He is currently working as a project manager in GTL – a leading network solution provider company of India. As a matter of fact, Jadhav has some other identities as well. He is an Executive Board Member of International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) and General Secretary of All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB – www.aicfb.org). He has represented India in the International Blind Chess Championship for 9 times. He has won 2 international championships and bagged 4 national championships. He has captained the Indian team for blind chess players over four consecutive years – between 2000-2004, and during this tenure he led the team to international competitions in Poland and Spain. Till now he has authored a total of 17 books on chess, the most remarkable being the one titled – ‘Spanish Opening’, released in 2003.
However, all this success came after a long, hard toil since the time he lost his eyesight at the age of 13. He defines the toughest time of his life was in making himself to learn the Braille language for completing his school and university. After completing college, he worked with a public bank for 15 long years, in the position of a clerical staff. However, he always had bigger dreams for himself and at one time he finally chose to chase them.
Leaving his bank job he trained himself in IT skills. Presently he holds a master’s degree in computer applications and
earned advance certifications in software programming and network security. For quite sometime he did freelance software development to improve his skills and eventually, in 2004 he was offered job of a software developer by GTL.
Working with this company Jadhav has handled on a number of projects, the most remarkable being the development of ‘Talk 64’ – the first chess software for blind being developed by GTL Foundation. This ‘first-of-its-kind’ complete chess training and gaming software especially designed for visually impaired persons have a high-performance chess engine coupled with simultaneous speech engine that reads out every move, instruction and detail throughout a game. A chatter feature has also been provided, whereby the software interacts with the player via comments, giving the player a feel of actually playing with another person. The voice, speed and pitch of the speech can be customized according to user’s preferences and can be set to either English or German language. Talk 64 also supports Engine Plug-in Architecture, wherein a user can download freely available chess engines supporting the Winboard protocol, and plug them in to the software very easily. It also supports a Synthesizer Plug-in Architecture, wherein the user can easily plug-in various speech synthesizers supporting the Microsoft Speech API 5.1, to get the benefit of various voices and voice quality. The software also enables users to save and resume matches, and analyse them later. In addition, it comes with 100,000 pre-loaded games of international championships and tournaments to enable self-learning and reference.
Among all his notable accomplishments the one closest to his heart was the establishment of All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB), back in the year 1995. In the very next year of its foundation, AICFB represented India in the World Chess Championship for Blind. From there it has been a never-ending story about his passion for chess and his dream to inspire more and more blind people like him to take up the game of chess. He derives great pleasure from teaching young blind chess players on the art of the game.
ICT services for differently able by DIRF
The Digital Information Research Foundation (DIRF), an organisation based in India, has been involved in enabling the disadvantaged or disabled to get integrated in the main stream of life. The oganisation believes in the concept that disable are ‘differentially abled’.
The DIRF has conducted numerous workshops and training programmes for disabled students at different institutions in Chennai (India). The main centre for the ICT for Disadvantaged programme is the St. Louis Institute for the Deaf and Blind & College for the Deaf located at Chennai which is a reputed institution for deaf and blind and has been functioning since 1962.
The organization provides service to the disabled students through email transfer. As these students do not have Internet access the general mail is sent to the school and the collective responses from the students are transferred to the organisation. The future plan is to create a portal for disabled; the portal will serve the needs of disabled. It will collect all the needed information to the disabled particularly to the deaf that would sever as a tool for self learning and help to make the disabled people independent and self supportive.
Very recently, AICFB in association with IBCA and All India Chess Federation (AICF) organised the XIth International Individual Chess Championship for the Blind from 8-19 October 2006 in Goa, India. This grand event, held for the first time outside Europe was inaugurated by the honourable Chief Minister of Goa amidst an august gathering of eminent people from national and international chess circuit. 82 players from 31 different countries contested the championship. With generous support and endorsement by Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs-Government of India, Sports Authority of Goa, Goa State Chess Association, GTL Foundation and a host of corporate sponsors, the event proved to be a grand success.
However, for Jadhav this is just the beginning of the long journey that he has embarked upon for himself and for many other fellow blind chess players in India and across the world. Currently, he is working on another noble initiative of GTL Foundation involving development of screen reader software for Windows, which can be used by blind people to learn and use computers.