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Blind Foundation is a multi media publisher

By September 18, 2014 September 23rd, 2014 No Comments

phil turnerIt is just another day at the Blind Foundation. A trigonometry text in braille with tactile diagrams is going to one student. Specially printed and bound children’s readers in three different print sizes – 18, 24 and 36 point complete with equivalently scaled illustrations are awaiting dispatch. In one of the recording studios, a reader is covering the day’s National Business Review while in another office braille text is being proofread.

Phil Turner (left), Accessible Formats Production Manager and Lyviana King, the Accessible Formats Facilitator, are responsible for the department’s workload, serving the 11,700 clients of the Blind Foundation.

Audio books and magazines – CDs with five narrated books on each – are the most popular outputs of the service. The aim is to have them circulated with one CD in the hands of the recipient, one on its way out to them and another being returned. Twenty thousand CDs a month are circulated this way in a service courtesy of NZ Post and the Ministry of Social Development. These all have DAISY content management system which means various parts of the content can be located easily.

Current copyright laws prevent the sharing of resources, but the process of change has begun. As PANZ members know from Neil Jarvis’ address to the recent AGM, the Marrakesh Treaty will ratify the sharing of reading material for the blind across most countries; the delay will be that those same countries will most likely have to amend their respective copyright laws to allow this to happen.  Read Neil Jarvis’ full speech from the PANZ AGM here.  Jarvis pictured below.

Neil’s other drive is for the blind and those with low vision to have access to appropriate formats at the same time, and for the same price as regular consumers. There is a lot to do to achieve this – it is estimated only 10 percent of all book output is currently available to the blind.
He would also like to have ebook reader hardware devices for blind and low vision people which are easy to use and affordably priced. This is important when two thirds of the blind community is over 65.

The Blind Foundation is now working with New Zealand publishers to make more of our local fiction and non-fiction accessible and is grateful for the support they are receiving. They are also trying to liaise more closely with public libraries to access audio books among others.

Currently the Foundation’s expenses for educational Braille, audio and large print format publishing is supported by the Ministry of Education. They also earn income providing local and government material such as census, election information forms in accessible formats.

Nevertheless, they are heavily dependent on the charitable dollar to support the work of 30 staff working to meet the needs of their community.

Balancing cost versus benefit is a major exercise for Phil and his team. They have had to outlay as much as $60,000 to make a single maths textbook available because of the number of diagrams required and the technical nature of the content. This is an exception, as publishing in formats for the sight disabled are on a par with the costs for normal publishing, Phil says.While the Blind Foundation personnel have to look at the best allocation of funds and resources, they must also bear in mind that access to information is a fundamental human right. Also, education is by government philosophy an equal opportunity in New Zealand, so services such as textbooks in Braille are mandatory.So ‘just another publisher’ maybe, but one with added degrees of difficulty not usually encountered in the mainstream!