Sudeepto Brings Stories Alive for the Blind
Sudeepto is the founder of ‘Shruto’, an organisation dedicated to creating audiobooks for the visually impaired in Bangladesh to provide them access to various literary works. The 18 year old, who started his venture back in 2016 when he was in grade 11, envisions a creative society in the future where the visually disabled are no longer seen as a burden, but instead are able to express their creativity through their writings while possessing free thinking capability.
‘Shruto’ has already published over 50 audiobooks which are being used by around 400 visually impaired children. Currently, the organisation has around 20 to 25 people working for them and also recently partnered up with International School of Dhaka (ISD), whose students are helping in creating the audiobooks. Along with joining Ashoka as a youth venturer, Sudeepto also attended a conference in India to represent his organisation and attended the ‘Global Partnership Summit’ in 2017.
In creating the audiobooks Sudeepto primary challenge was his lack of knowledge regarding copyright laws, therefore, in the beginning many publishers mailed Sudeepto regarding these issues. He also lacked financial support which he knows in the long run will pose as a big challenge for his work. He is aware that he cannot continue funding himself and understands that he could have progressed a lot more if he had access to more funds. However, Sudeepto perseveres through the obstacles he faces and keeps on working to make audiobooks because of the incident that led to the formation of ‘Shruto’, something which still motivates him to continue with his work.
Back in 2016, during a book fair Sudeepto met with a young boy who had gone to the fair with his older brother. He noticed how the older brother kept reading out lines to the younger one who seemed to be deciding whether or not to buy the books. Upon asking, Sudeepto realised that the boy was blind from birth and his elder brother has been reading to him since the boy was 7 years old. Sudeepto was even more amazed by how knowledgeable the little boy was about different literary works. He was moved by the fact that the boy did not allow his visual impairment to get in the way of his love for books. On the same night Sudeepto came across a post online which stated that Bangladesh, at the time, had almost 3 and a half lakh of visually impaired teenagers.
Both these events sparked Sudeepto’s curiosity and he went to visit a school for the visually impaired. He noticed how, despite having study-materials in braille, the children did not have access to thousands of books and novels that are normally available to children of their age solely because they were differently abled. Realising this, he wanted to do something about it.
At first he thought of creating braille books but then realized that making it will be extremely expensive and could not be used by more than one person at a time. In the end, Sudeepto decided to go ahead with the idea of making audiobooks. Initially he made the audiobooks himself, later two of his friends joined in. They gave these initial audiobooks to the school for the children to listen to. At one point a major national newpaper found out about his work and featured it as a story. After this people all over Bangladesh started asking to join them
Throughout his journey so far Sudeepto has received immense support from his parents and Ashoka. His work has allowed him to get many heartfelt messages from the people that his work has reached and helped. Sudeepto states that it is important to identify problems that people face and come up with a solution for it quickly.in order to do so, one must think about it long and hard so that they can come up with multiple solutions to access the different groups of people involved. Thus, when someone thinks of a solution, instead of waiting they should act on it as quickly as possible.
If you or someone you know is, like Sudeepto, making a big or small change in their community, and is between the ages of 12 and 20, then get them to apply for Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. Apply here.
Written - Maesha Rashedin
Edited - Jake Smaje