Tactopus Community Connect Project is enabling learning that is inclusive and independent

By auther pic. Faiza Ruksar Arif

June 22, 2020

Tactopus Community Connect Project is enabling learning that is inclusive and independent

Re-imagining learning: Tactopus’s NUMBER LINE

Our society is developing at a rapid pace, and the message at the heart of this transformation must be one of social acceptance and inclusion. Creating a culture of inclusivity can’t be an afterthought; it has to be baked in. And that’s true for technology too. Tactopus is an organization working to create inclusive education technology for the learning needs of children of ages 3+, with a focus on ensuring those with disabilities (visual, developmental, learning) can participate equally in learning opportunities. Bridging the physical and digital, their products include textured, tactile books, flashcards, games, puzzles, and a mobile app that uses image processing to augment audio interactions and games onto the books and cards. Director & CMO of Tactopus Karen D’Mello further explains the philosophy of Tactopus, “When touch, sound, and vision come together, it makes for great and accelerated learning experiences for all children, irrespective of disability. What's more, when children with different abilities share products, they are enabled to learn on a level playing field, as equals. We solve the problem of discriminatory access giving equal opportunity to everyone to realize their full creative and constructive potential.”


Tactopus is the brainchild of Chandni Rajendran and Saloni Mehta and initially took shape as a design project at IDC, IIT Bombay to contribute towards the vision of equal access to learning for all. Dampened by the prospect of this work being reduced to a striking report collecting dust in the library, the two set off on their entrepreneurial journey to create inclusive learning aids for children through multi-sensory tech-enabled products. Through repeated testing and interactions with the target population, Tactopus has cemented the fact that tactile perception skills need to be introduced early in the learning process, to bridge the gap in learning and accessibility as early as possible so that it doesn’t become a difficult task for a child to catch up later. Interestingly, the learning material has also resonated with blind adults, given the lack of material they had growing up.Thus, what initially started as catering primarily to early needs learning, will soon also rapidly scale to address primary school level learning needs as well.


Tactopus works to ensure that accessibility is woven into the fabric of what they design and build, ensuring that their products and services provide inclusive experiences for all. Their approach is based on designing with and for people with disabilities – being constantly informed by the needs of special educators, parents, and of course the interests and needs of the children with disabilities themselves. The company’s primary target groups include teachers, school administrators, parents of children with visual impairment, learning disabilities, and developmental disorders and also include private and government schools. The secondary target groups are the publishers and content owners, with whom Tactopus seeks to collaborate and develop partnerships with, to facilitate larger accessibility and inclusivity.


With a rigorous methodology and program model in place, Tactopus addresses the gap in appropriate learning aids, through multi-sensory alternatives for use in Pre-K to Grade 3 classrooms. The USP of their approach is three-fold: audio-visual synergetic learning, inclusive modules grounded in peer-learning, and philosophy of independence and efficacy.

  •  Firstly, Tactopus has designed an experience system that assists readers through an audio guide as they touch and feel the pages of a tactile graphic and delivers the audio guide through a mobile app that uses image processing technology to be context-aware, providing the right audio guidance at the right time. This reduces the burden of special care and third party involvement.
  • Secondly, while the products are specifically designed for children with disabilities, they are not limited to them and remain exciting for all children, thus promoting diverse peer-learning culture and social integration where children learn together using the same learning aids, on a level playing field.
  • Lastly, Tactopus lays great importance on independent learning where a child’s learning process is not impeded by the availability of a special educator or parents. Their hands-on learning methods allow children to ‘learn by doing’ and practice concepts even in the absence of an adult, thus allowing them to explore and learn independently.

    Tactopus launched their products in February 2019, and now have 12 different play-based products for 3-8 year-olds in 5 different languages. They have over 600 users spread across 32 schools and resource centres, across 11 states in India and 5 countries across the globe. The schools they work with include both special needs schools and organizations such as the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf & Deafblind in Mumbai and CINI in Jharkhand. Their Math kit has proven to be a huge success among the schools where teachers use the ‘Counting Book’ and ‘Math Monster’ materials to teach and test the learning outcomes of digits and basic arithmetic. Immediate ground learnings have highlighted a rise in learning levels and enthusiasm among the children who spend more time learning when Tactopus products are used.


    Learning made fun and easy: The Tactopus RHYME DECK

    Though the global pandemic COVID-19 has brought uncertainties and impeded progress for Tactopus and the community they serve, the team was quick to expand their physical products business to include digital outreach. Over the last two months, Tactopus ran an inclusive summer camp with daily activities for parents to do with their children using regular household materials. And after hosting support-sessions and group-discussions to assess further needs, they are now building a full-fledged platform for children, their families, and specialists to connect for regular assessments, therapy and progress tracking, irrespective of geography and disability post the lockdown. While the communities remain enshrouded in uncertainty and misery in light of COVID, Tactopus continues to spread positivity and light through learning. Director, Karen is bold and resolute, as she says, “We believe that everyone deserves equal learning opportunities and we have decided to uphold this right to an equal and happy childhood in the face of pandemics or lockdown. Learning transcends spatial boundaries and teacher-student dichotomy. Through our community connect project, we seek to support and facilitate the parenting and child support journey so that learning can be- inclusive, exploratory, and unencumbered”.


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    Faiza Ruksar Arif is a content specialist and researcher based in Bangalore who has worked extensively on curating curriculum and educational programs for adolescents in Telangana. With a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Faiza is on a mission to improve social realities by equipping women and other marginalized sections, with improved access to health, education and livelihood opportunities. She also dabbles in artwork and is passionate about issues pertaining to mental health and minority politics.


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