Gayatri Raman

Course: MSc (Digital Society)
Year of Joining: 2020
Year of Completion: 2022
Email ID:

Advisor : Amit Prakash

Research Interests: Accessibility issues and Assistive technology design and more broadly in the social construction of technology and HCI.

Thesis Title: The Impact of COVID-Induced Physical School Closures on the Lives and Education of Children with Visual Impairment in India: A Qualitative Study

Thesis Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 had a profound impact on the education of children, owing to the closure of physical schools to stop the spread of the disease. The suspension of offline classes, the period of uncertainty, and the need to resume learning remotely through online or other modes was a challenging journey for many schools, teachers, and students.

This study looks at the lives of children with visual impairment in primary and high school levels (classes 1 through 10) to holistically understand how their learning was affected by this transition. This was done by interviewing teachers and parents of children with visual impairment across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Mumbai, and Tripura, through their connections with the organization Vision Empower. The availability of devices and connectivity, the quality and methods used to conduct remote learning, as well as the mental health and experiences of the children were some of the core foci of this study.

These are rooted in a socio-ecological understanding of the Digital Divide framework. The findings indicate that children with visual impairment lost out on crucial skills like Braille reading and writing as well as a more thorough understanding of science and maths concepts, which were earlier enabled by special learning materials in the classroom. There were diverse instances of teachers and schools coming up with novel ways to conduct learning, share material, and assess the children in the presence of challenges like lack of connectivity, affordable device availability, and parental resistance or reluctance to continued learning. The study discusses these diverse experiences of remote learning in the presence of a Digital Divide. In the case of children with visual impairment, the dimensions along which the Divide exists and impacts education extends beyond whether they come from low or comparatively high resource families, to also include the school setting they were in prior to the pandemic – exclusive residential, or inclusive or exclusive day school.

CITAPP at IIIT Bangalore is an interdisciplinary think-tank set-up to focus on the policy challenges and the organizational demands made by technological innovation. Of particular interest to the Centre is how technological advances, along with institutional changes that harness the legitimacy and the powers of bureaucracies and market, address the needs of underserved communities.