'Thaana Mallow' App for visually impaired to access information

A visually impaired woman reciting the Holy Quran. The Quran is written in braille. (Sun Photo/Ahmed Awshan Ilyas)

In a milestone move to break down barriers and improve inclusive access to information, the United Nations Development Program has partnered up with Ooredoo Maldives to launch an app that will allow blind and visually impaired people to access information in the Maldivian language online.  

The ‘Thaana Mallow’ app launched on Saturday will aid to overcome a long-standing obstacle faced by the blind and visually impaired community, stated UNDP in a statement.

UNDP stated that one of the biggest challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired community is that content written in the Maldivian language cannot be read out loud by screen readers.

Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer or phone screen with a speech synthesizer or a braille display, said UNDP.

The 'Thaana Mallow' app, now available on Google Playstore will translate written Maldivian Thaana script that is available online to a Latin script so that phone screen readers can read it out loud, making information in the written Maldivian language easily available for the blind and visually impaired.

UNDP added that the app was an idea of the 2019 social innovation camp ‘Miyaheli’, supported by the Australian Government. The camp was held in partnership with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, Maldives Association of Persons with Disabilities (MAPD), Maldives Deaf Association and Youth Co:Lab.

The app is the brainchild of the Thaana Mallow team, a winner of Miyaheli 2019, who are hoping to aid the blind and visually impaired community to readily tap into information especially during this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the public is reliant on timely information, said UNDP.

“This app has brought a great level of ease to the blind and visually impaired community. I have recently heard from blind students who previously needed assistance to access study materials during this lockdown, who are using this app to independently study. Access to information and breaking down barriers is important to us, and we are happy to help with this initiative,” said Hussain Shareef, Team Leader of Thaana Mallow.

“Australia is proud to support the talented leaders behind the Thaana Mallow app through the UNDP. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the connections that exist between all members of society,"

"Innovative use of technology such as Thaana Mallow help guide towards an inclusive recovery. Australia congratulates the development team for making this exciting contribution,” said Australian High Commissioner David Holly.