Image of the It's Your Story Competition Logo. The background is white and features blue silhouettes of a girl, a bird, a butterfly and stars walking on an undulated surface. Below them the logo reads It's your story competition. Below them are logos for Through Scarlett's Eyes and Access2books.

It’s Your Story Competition

About Wiritng, bookmaking, Braille, Children's Books, Competitions, Education and Training, Giant print and Braille, Picture Books, Publishing

A few weeks ago we wrote telling you about the It’s Your Story Competition on our Facebook Page. Now, all the details have been finalised. Check them out on the link above.

It is time for you budding creative writers who are readers and contributors to Through Scarlett’s Eyes website to whip out your pens and tap away on your keyboards and let your imaginations run wild. Do what you do best – tell stories.

Write an accessible children’s picture storybook.

Parents and guardians you are welcome to help your child or children to write their story. As long as the story is:

  1. funny
  2. up to about 400 words
  3. includes your child in the story
  4. supply a front cover design: it should illustrate the main characters and the story line.

That’s simple, right? Then get writing!

There are three main categories. These are:

  1. 0 – 6 years
  2. 7- 12 years and
  3. 12 – 17 years.

Each category has prizes donated by either VICTA or John Lewis [Milton Keynes] and Access2books. You can  check out the specifics on the It’s Your Story Competition page.

An overall winner will be selected from the three pools and they will receive a copy of their story book published by Access2books.

The book will be in dual format; i.e., in giant print, and Braille with accessible illustrations.

A copy of the book will be sent over to the British Library in London as per custom. Everyone will be able to access their publication.

Four judges will be doing the judging. They are:

  1. Sue Hendra: an award winning children’s author and illustrator of books like Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell, Supertato, and many others.

    Image of Sue Hendra at the Imagine Children's Festival. She is pictured holding up a copy of Norman the Silly Shell With the Silly Shell in giant print and Braille.

    Sue Hendra, author and illustrator of books like Supertato, pictured at the Imagine Children’s Festival earlier this year. She is holding up a copy of one of her books Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell which she saw for the first time in Giant Print and Braille.

  2. Charlotte Mellor: an employee of VICTA and a representative of Through Scarlett’s Eyes.
  3. Tim O’Sullivan: the BAFTA Award winning Creative Director at Karrot animation will be on the panel. He is Series Director and Script Editor of CBeebies Sarah and Duck.
  4. Eileen Finch: she is a cofounder of Access2books and also a Director. She has published over 60 plus book titles in accessible format. 
    Picture of Eileen Finch, Sue Hendra and Mike O'Sullivan chatting at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre with the London skyline behind them.

    Sue Hendra chatting to Eileen Finch and Mike O’Sullivan [founders of Access2books] at thye Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

 The competition is now open to readers and contributors to Through Scarlett’s Eyes website. It will be closing on the 8th of January 2016.
The winners will be announced on the 31st of January 2016.
Check out the It’s Your Story Competition link for more details and how you can send in your entries. Good luck writers!
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Image of guide dogs. An all white image of a blind person walking with a guide dog and holding the harness. The picture is on a blue background. Above the dog and man is written in capital letters GUIDE DOGS

Guide Dogs Vacancy – Peterborough [UK]

Eye Health, Job Opportunity, Jobs

Hey guys thought we would give you the heads up for a vacancy that has come up in Peterborough.

This has just come to our attention and Central Beds asked us to circulate this information within our networks.

Here are the details below:

“Guide Dog have a vacancy for a Volunteering Consultant in Peterborough. £26,537-£28,100 pa. Permanent.

An exciting opportunity has arisen to join our Peterborough Mobility Team as the Volunteering Consultant. Based in the Peterborough office, you will be responsible for promoting and developing the effective and creative involvement of volunteers across the area (Cambridgeshire Norfolk and Suffolk), providing local support for volunteer managers, to enable and enhance our mobility services, fundraising, marketing and communications.

Every hour, another person in the UK goes blind. When someone loses their sight, we’re here to make sure they don’t lose their freedom as well. Guide Dogs provides a range of mobility services and works to break down barriers so that people who are blind or partially sighted can get out and about on their own terms. Our 15,000 volunteers are central to achieving that.

For further details please see https://jobs.guidedogs.org.uk  “

Hope this info is useful for anyone who is looking for an opportunity to shine. You can check out their website for more details.

If you know someone who is looking for an opportunity like this, please feel free to share this information  with them.

Good luck.

Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

30 Books to Give Away in Birmingham

Access2books, Children's Books, Picture Books

I have been granted funding from the Birmingham Bodenham Trust to distribute 30 books in Birmingham.

Picture of the front cover of Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture shows a boy and a penguin on a small boat. The boy is wearing a striped top and hat, and holding a staff in his right hand and a suitcase in his left.

The funding is to benefit children who need accessible stories.

The books are beautiful popular children’s stories in dual format in 75 point print with Braille and improved illustrations.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads, "And flapped round the room knocking over the jug". In the footer is a Braille text of that sentence. On the opposite page is a picture of a white hen flying over the shelf and a spotted jug falling over the edge. In the footer of the text is Braille picture description of the picture.

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right hand side with picture descriptions in Braille in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

We work to distribute these books as far as possible to children and adults who need these formats to read or share with their disabled or non-disabled friends and families.

In return for some books, I need feedback on the benefits they bring to you or how we might improve them.

We would also ask you to show them to your local libraries and children’s settings as we want to influence mainstream provision so you can get more titles free of charge.

Image of a book cover showing a white cat sitting in a box. Only the head and the tail are visible. The box has the text my cat likes to hide in boxes written on its side. Underneath the the box is green rectangle which reads Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. There is another blue rectangle below it with the words Giant Print and Braille written in white.

If you live in Birmingham, and would like to have the books in your home library, and talk to me about the experience of their use, please email me at efinch@access2books.org.

Best wishes,

Eileen

Image of a book cover showing a white cat sitting in a box. Only the head and the tail are visible. The box has the text my cat likes to hide in boxes written on its side. Underneath the the box is green rectangle which reads Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. There is another blue rectangle below it with the words Giant Print and Braille written in white.

My Cat Likes To Hide in Boxes

Children's Books, Giant print and Braille, Picture Books, Publishing

Access2books are publishing the first giant print and Braille version of the classic children’s book My Cat Likes To Hide in Boxes written by Eve Sutton and illustrated by Lynley Dodd.

The book was published by Puffin Books – a part of the Penguin Group.

The accessible version of the book, published by Access2books in giant print [75 point] and Braille plus specially adapted pictures, is complete.

It will be ready to be ordered within the next week or two. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information.

Alternatively, you can check our homepage and the online catalog.

My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes is going to be one of the first releases for the autumn period.

All the pictures have been modified to make them more accessible to visually impaired people.

It is now waiting to be quality checked and a Braille check done to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

The book was first published in 1974. It is a popular book in New Zealand and it has also found a way into the hearts of people in Canada and the UK.

The author and illustrator are cousins who are both from New Zealand. However, Sutton was originally born in England and moved to New Zealand as an adult.

This book was their one and only collaboration. They subsequently went on to carve solo careers as successful writers.

The image below is an example of the inner pages of the accessible version of My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes.

The texh which is 75 point print is covered by plenty of white space to make it accessible and easy to see. The pictures have a page dedicated to them.

The Braille of the text and picture descriptions appear in the footer of both pages. Therefore, the book can be enjoyed by many people.

Image of the inner pages of My Cat Likes to hide in Boxes. The text in the centre of the left hand page reads,

According to Dodd [New Zealand’s best known author and author of the Hairy Maclary series], My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes is based on a true story.

It is the story of the Dodd’s family cat that used to love hiding in boxes, cupboards, supermarket bags and the likes.

The book is catchy. It uses poetic devices. It uses rhyming couplets and run on lines to describe cats from different countries. For example:

The cat from France

likes to sing and dance.

The rhyming couplets build up as the narrative develops and describes cats from another country. With each subsequent description, the recurring refrain, “But MY cat likes to hide in boxes” is repeated at the end of each.

For example:

The cat from France

likes to sing and dance.

The cat from Spain

Flew in an aeroplane.

But MY cat likes to hide in boxes

The sentences are very simple which makes them easy to recite and remember. The musicality of the rhyming couplets aid in making the story memorable.

It is in essence a fun rhyming story. This makes it a great read for children who are learning to read.

Who doesn’t like a story about cats doing exotic and strange things? This is a story that is great for sharing between children and elder family members.

It is no surprise it first won a prize in 1975. Its longevity illustrates its staying power and how it continues to be be influential through different generations.

Children will love to take part in this fun rhyming story which can be set to music because of its musicality.

Place your order for Access2books’ accessible version of My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes and put a smile on someone’s face.

Images of a black and white photo of a man having an eye test conducted . There is a hand holding a black object which is at a 90 degree angle. The hand is holding one end of the object. the other is crossing the bridge of the man's face and covering one eye completely while leaving a slot where one eye is able to peep through.

IAPB #EyeCareForAll Photography Competition

Competitions, Eye Health

Have you heard about the #EyeCareForAll Photography Competition? The IAPB [International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness] is inviting amateur and professional photographers to photograph or document the impact of eye health in people’s lives.

Image of a small blonde boy sitting in a white plastic chair, holding a telescopic magnifier to his left eye while taking down notes on a notepad on his knees using the pen in his right hand. He is wearing a yellow and blue checked shirt and light brown - chocolate like trousers.

Image source: IAPB #eyecareforall photo competition entries. Image by VENKAT RAVINDRA – AMATEUR CHILDREN EYE-SCREENING PRIMARY-CARE.

There are three prizes to be won: one for professionals, another for amateurs and another for juniors.

The professional prize will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit a project held by the IAPB.

A lucky amateur stands the opportunity to win a Nikon D3300 camera. This is a DSLR and a great entry level camera into the world of photography for the lucky winner.

It has many cool features which are just too many too list here but you can check out more information on the link above or the video below to find out more about this fabulous prize.

The prize for juniors is supposedly special and yet to be announced in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes and ears peeled open to find out what the grand prize will be.

The two winners and five runners-up will be announced on the 14th of October 2015 at the IAPB Council of Members meetings in China.

All the pictures entered by competitors have to submitted and uploaded on the IAPB’s social pages and subjected to public voting.

A panel of judges will draw up a short-list of images based on the public votes.

If you are struggling to understand anything, you can check out the IAPB’s website or view some entries on this link to get an idea about what other entrants are doing.

Below is an example submitted by one entrée for the competition.

Image of picture of a team of four surgeonss in an operating theatre operating on patients' eyes. The patients are hidden under a cover of surgical green sheets.

Image Source: IAPB #eyecareforall photo competition entries. Picture by ALI MEARZA – AMATEUR EYE-CARE-PROFESSIONALS PARENTS-GRANDPARENTS WORKPLACE

Entering the competition is simple. Firstly, you need to upload a picture.

Secondly, you have to share your picture on social media from the IAPB’s social website gallery. You are required to use the tag #eyecareforall.

Thirdly, once you images appear in the gallery, you are required to invite friends, followers, family, etc. to re-share your images. The images with the highest shares and likes will be short-listed.

That sounds pretty easy and exciting. I know there are many of you keen visually impaired photographers out there who would enjoy making photos that deal with eye health and the opportunity to mix their hobby with something they are passionate about.

This is your chance to combine the two and document what you see regularly or discuss or share passionately on social media.

If there is anything unclear above, please check out the #eyecareforall Photo Competition for more details and clarity. Have fun and take this opportunity to get more exposure.

P.S. Access2books is not involved in any way with this competition. We are simply sharing something we thought you would find interesting. All the best of luck. Happy snapping and sharing.

Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

Access2books and The Birmingham Bodenham Trust to Distribute 30 Free Books in Birmingham

Uncategorized

The Birmingham Bodenham Trust have provided Access2books with funding to distribute 30 accessible books, giant print with Braille and specially adapted pictures, free of charge in Birmingham.

Eileen Finch, the team leader at Access2books, is overseeing the project to ensure people who need the books have access to them.

Image of Eileen Finch addressing delegates at the conference while they look on.

Eileen Finch from Access2books acquaints the delegates with her project Access2books which produces accessible books in giant print and Braille mainly for people with visual impairments and others.

The Birmingham Bodenham Trust help organisations like Access2books and other charities, individuals and voluntary and community organisations with funding, specialist equipment or care provisions for people with special educational needs who are under the age of 19.

Eileen started the Access2books project after she lost her sight and encountered problems trying to read normal print to her grandchildren.

However, she couldn’t find the books that suited her. So she was inspired to start the project to create beautiful books like the ones found in store.

You can read more about that journey here.

Picture of Eileen Finch and Lauren Child chatting and holding an accessible version of Charlie and Lola between them.

Eileen Finch shows Lauren Child an accessible version of Charlie and Lola. Lauren is seeing the book she wrote and illustrated as an accessible book for the first time at the Imagine Children’s Festival at the London Southbank.

She is one of approximately 500 000 people in the UK in the latter stages of macular degeneration: it is only one of many conditions that mean you need access to read print.

She can’t read Braille but she can read giant print [75 point]. She reads the books she publishes to her grandchildren.

Her dream is for people to share these books and read them. This is partly why she initiated this project with The Birmingham Bodenham Trust to distribute these books for free because not all the intended users have access to them or can afford them.

This project is to provide more popular books for children to read whether the child or their family need access to read to them.

Picture of Sue Hendra, Eileen Finch and Mike O'Sullivan as they chat about book related matters at the London Southbank. Behind them is the London skyline visible.

From left to right, Sue Hendra, the author of Supertato and Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell, chatting to the founders of Access2Books Eileen Finch in the centre and Mike O’Sullivan on the right.

Do you live in Birmingham?

If you live in Birmingham, then you are one of the lucky few who is eligible to receive one of the free books courtesy of The Birmingham Bodenham Trust.

The books are unique. They are beautiful. They are all individually handmade by the Access2books’ team.

The books have giant text on the left hand page and pictures or illustrations on the right.

The text or picture descriptions in Braille appear below the page text and illustrations as demonstrated by the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads, "And flapped round the room knocking over the jug". In the footer is a Braille text of that sentence. On the opposite page is a picture of a white hen flying over the shelf and a spotted jug falling over the edge. In the footer of the text is Braille picture description of the picture.

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldosn and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right had side with picture descriptions in Braille in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

As mentioned above, the pictures are specially adapted; i.e. they are enhanced to make them more accessible to people who happen to have sight impairments.

The formatting makes the books accessible to as many people as possible.

Picture of Elvira using her magic pen to improve an image on her computer's screen.

Elvira using the magic wand in her hands to conjure up the magic that transforms an image and enhances it to make it more visible to someone who happens to be visually impaired and would have problems accessing the image in a normal book.

The books are going to be distributed through the RNIB and Action for Blind People‘s members. If you happen to be one, look forward to one of these beautiful books coming your way.

Would you, a child or baby you know need access to stories and good picture books now or in the future?

Would you prefer black, big or clear print, Braille or better pictures in your story books?

Feel free to contact Eileen on 01525 853825. Alternatively email her at efinch@access2books.org.

Picture of a young mother in a black coat and dark hair listens to her daughter in a blue coat reading an accessible version of Pant at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank. Her son is also engrossed in the big, colourful pictures in the book. The mother and daughter are both running their fingers over the Braille at the bottom of the page.

A Mother and her children bond over an accessible version of Pants in giant print with Braille and large beautiful pictures at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

In the meantime, if you are in Birmingham and a member of the RNIB or Action for Blind People, keep an eye open for one of our books coming to you soon. We would like to thank The Birmingham Bodenham Trust for making it possible to distribute 30 free books from Access2books.

P.S. Birmingham is just the start. This programme is going to be rolled out across the UK as we secure more funders to distribute more books. We will keep you in the loop of more similar projects. Thanks.

Image of the delegates standing up in the hall and waving towards the camera.

Positive Approaches, Practical Outcomes Conference

About Visual Impairment

Thanks Gwyn McCormack of Positive Eye and Susan Cook for inviting me to the wonderful Positive Approaches – Practical Outcomes Conference that I attended two weeks ago in Liverpool.

I knew there would be people working with blind children, but didn’t know much more. It was another opportunity for Access2books, and a kind invitation from Gwyn, to promote our books.

Image of Gwyn standing in front of the projector screen, dressed in a black cardigan and green dress, addressing delegates at the conference in Liverpool.

Gwyn addressing delegates at the Positive Approaches – Practical Outcomes Conference in Liverpool.

What a joyful and motivated conference this was. It started with Sue managing order and Gwyn managing ‘positive bringing together’ in her usual naturally inviting way.

Martin and Judith were back up – making sure everything was working for everyone – and they did.

Well if you want to be stimulated and learn a lot of practice from those that DO then I recommend the Positive Approaches, Practical Outcomes Conference.

RNIB‘s [Royal National Institute of Blind People] Manager, Julie Jennings, talked us through latest legislation ‘Adopting a Key Working Approach through the Children and Families Act’.

Image of Julie Jennings, dressed in a black sleeveless top and floral skirt, standing to the left of the projector screen, and addressing delegates at the conference.

Julie Jennings delivering her keynote speech ‘Adopting a Key Working Approach through the Children and Families Act’.

For me, the emphasis on handling change in work practice, and an increased focus on emotional well-being and challenges and clarity of new practice caught my attention.

She gave me and our books some time and after a glance at A Squash and Squeeze by Julia Donaldson, she was generous enough to agree to help me understand new pathways for these books after the conference.  Result!

Front cover of the accessible version of A Squash and a Squeeze which was written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and produced by Access2books in Giant Print and Braille. In the picture, the little old lady is wearing a blue dress which is covered by a white apron. She is surrounded by her hen, goat, pig and black and white cow.

I also met Charlotte Mellor from Through Scarlet’s Eyes: it is a website serving as a family support network for visually disabled children.

Charlotte is calm, modest and a quiet but high achiever. She is fortunate enough to make a balance of family and work life.

She created Through Scarlet’s Eyes website when Scarlet was born, a baby with no sight so far.

Charlotte has a quiet but noticeable attraction and has made a great place for parents to share and talk and has achieved fame in this world of visually impaired people’s services and support.

We will work together, maybe a competition for parents with book prizes, or her members may want to join in our project to distribute more books to visually impaired children and parents, and link them up to places they can get more titles.

To my great benefit I’ve got Charlotte in my network – lucky me.

Karen Newell who is involved in popular and powerful Facebook campaigns like #toylikeme and Playful Explorations for Children with Visual Impairments was dynamite.

Image of Karen Newell dressed in a sleeveless blue floral dress  and addressing delegates at the conference. On the white projector screen is projected a slide which reads  - Karen Newell a.k.a. Fred's Mum.

Karen Newell also known as Fred’s Mum presenting her keynote speech and acquainting the audience with the aims, objectives and the nucleus of her work.

She is a woman who demands we are included in the mainstream. Her mission started after she found out her baby was blind.

She is fearless and abounds energy. Her platforms are for parents with disabled children and has specialised in creating fun and joy through things like production of toys that show disabled people ‘in the world’.

She had a dolly girl (a white stick user) on display and showed us a book her son, who is definitely into tactile access, created with friends and  published Off to the Park – illustrated by Stephen Cheetham, and published by Child’s Play.

A hall full of delegates, standing up and holding up placards written #Toylikeme

Karen goes for the big stuff corporate toy makers, stars to sponsor her. She is a woman who is easily inspiring.

I am looking forward to networking with Karen. I hope some of her phenomenal energy seeps through to me.

Dr Gail Bailey spoke about ‘Parental Partnership and an Introduction to emotional support for families’.

Gail is an Educational Psychologist for disabled children and their services.

I was captivated listening to her experience and advice to VI teachers and key workers about the psychological and consequent development themes to address emotional and psychological well-being for the children and their families.

I learnt more about parenting than I ever knew – shame I could have done with that.

The information was so useful to all parents and I recommend hearing what Gail has to say, if the chance is there.

And, to top it all she is a woman who uses our books to read to her grandson – high five!

Image of Eileen chatting with Teresa Dominic and a colleague about her books.

I attended Gwyn’s workshop, ’Developing Visual Skills’. She also had loads of toys that all the children in my family and myself would love: sparkling, squeaking, doing the splits, rubbery, floating, moving….

Image of Eileen Finch from Access2books and Gwyn sharing the stage and addressing the delegates.

Eileen Finch from Access2books sharing the stage with Gwyn from Positive Eye.

I didn’t want to give them back.  Alongside a really clear, simple 5 step process and activities for the work of measuring sensory capacity. Thank you Gwyneth, I loved it.

I have extended my network, made new friends and colleagues, made new clients, gained insight into the VI children’s development world, and most importantly everyone there was definitely something of interest and benefit to everyone else.

It did make me think about my experience and raise questions for blind parents and guardians for me….

When I found out I had a progressive eye condition in the 1980’s, there was no support offered to work with my non-disabled children aged 6, 2 and a baby.

I acquired this condition mid having 3 children: I know the oldest got more from me than the youngest.

Image of Eileen Finch addressing delegates at the conference while they look on.

Eileen Finch from Access2books acquaints the delegates with her project Access2books which produces accessible books in giant print and Braille mainly for people with visual impairments and others.

Development and education involve simple activities, sharing reading, writing, drawing, etc.

I remember as my sight got worse reading with a magnifier was such a drag and not a lot of pleasure any more.

So things are hard to do when your sight deteriorates and when you’re inexperienced at being disabled you don’t know what to do: you learn about access and networks and that you can be yourself, not the stereotype.

I’ve not heard too much about supporting disabled parents of non-disabled children or disabled children – the work is that I know about so far is definitely focused on the disabled child.

Fascinatingly, I got loads of support to continue my job – RNIB Employment Services did me proud and consequently I have been working all my life since then.

Image of the delegates standing up in the hall and waving towards the camera.

So Gwyneth and Sue – what a great conference at St Vincent’s School for Blind and Partially Sighted Children, a most suitable venue and very welcoming people.

Many thanks and look forward to the next one.

Eillen Finch team leader of Access2books chatting to Gwyneth McCormack from the Positive Eye at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Gwyneth McCormack Speaks at the National Conference on Visually Impaired Children and Young People 2015

Visual Impairment

Gwyneth McCormack is an Educational Consultant for Positive Eye Ltd. She is based in the UK and is at the forefront of holding training programmes that empower organisations and practitioners across the UK and Europe about how to deal with the educational needs of children or young people with a visual impairment.

In this audio clip National Conference on Visually Impaired Children and Young People 2015 – Gwyneth McCormack, delivered to over 78 different organisations and 200 delegates in Scotland last month, Gwyn shares some of the valuable insights and nuggets she has gathered over the past two decades.

Gyneth McCormack from Positive Eye shares the stage with Eileen Finch from Access2books, on the left, in front of delegates at the  Practical Approaches - Positive Outcomes Conference in Liverpool.

Gwyneth McCormack, from Positive Eye, in the black top shares the stage with Eileen Finch at the Practical Approaches – Positive Outcomes Conference in Liverpool.

The subject of her talk focusses on confidence development, promoting self esteem, having a positive outlook, enabling young people to feel better about themselves and visual impairment.

I have had the opportunity to interact with a lot of you in the groups on Facebook and have heard some of your concerns.

This speech by Gwyn is just as relevant to you, as parents or guardians, as it is to practitioners and organisations tasked with the education of children or young people with a visual impairment.

An indulgent but brief examination of the content of her speech below illustrates the thrust of her work, as she illustrates:

“You will all no doubt have experienced first hand the negative impact that visual impairment can have on a child or a young person on becoming a successful learner, a confident individual, an effective contributor and a responsible citizen.

“They might have experienced negative attitudes, low expectations, prejudice and misconceptions from family, from friends, from school and the local community. And later from employees and wider society…

“An integral role, and a core role, and at the heart of all that we do, is our responsibility to help that child or young person, and the family to develop a positive approach to be sight impaired. 

“A secondary and equally important role is to support those around the child and family to also develop a positive approach. But to do this, we have to change perceptions and attitudes, to create a deeper awareness and understanding of the ultimate capabilities of a person with sight impairment.”

I believe that the core of the paragraphs above show why this speech is relevant to anyone who is in regular contact with a child or young person with a visual impairment if we are determined to address the issues identified in Gwyn’s speech.

Picture of Gwyneth McCormack from Positive Eye Ltd standing at the extreme right of the white board addresses the delegates at the  Practical Approaches - Positive Outcomes Conference in Liverpool.

Gwyneth McCormack from Positive Eye Ltd. in the green dress and black top on the right handside of the picture addresses delegates at the Practical Approaches – Positive Outcomes Conference in Liverpool.

Gwyn, as she likes to be known, provides pointers in this speech and others, plus her training conferences on how to develop confidence in children or young people who happen to have a visual impairment.

She has over 20 years experience in this field. We have attended several of her training conferences and they are great opportunities to learn more, meet like minded practitioners and network with other organisations and professionals in our field.

I personally recommend them from personal experience. They are worth it.

Her style of training is creative, hands on, interactive and practical. Her advice is straightforward and makes common sense.

Please listen to her speech and share it with your friends and followers on social media or via email.

Visit Positive Eye to find out more about their training courses and other resources they share on Facebook and Pinterest that you might find helpful.

Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

How Stargardt’s turned grandmother into a book publisher

Access2books, Publishing, Stargardt's

Eileen Finch is a blind grandmother based in Leighton Buzzard. She was diagnosed with Stargardt’s at the age of 30.

A medium shot of Eileen Finch from Access 2 books chatting to Gwyneth Macormack the Director of the Positive Eye chatting at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch team leader from Accesss2books sharing ideas with Gwyneth McCormack, the director of Positive Eye, at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

Her central vision started disappearing along with her access to standard print but she still wanted to read to her grandchildren but there was nothing suitable on the market.

Eileen wanted to produce books of the same quality found in bookshops, the type of books children love.

Therefore, she set about starting Access2books and creating children’s books in a unique format.

They are in giant print [75 point] with Braille and specially adapted illustrations. All the books are individually handmade.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads,

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right had side with picture descriptions in Braille embossed in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

It took Eileen over a year to reach publishing status. During that time, she faced numerous challenges.

She painstakingly researched current provisions; obtained an IP Copyright License. She also had to obtain permission from the publishers of thirty of the most popular children’s books in the UK.

In addition, Eileen had to figure out her way to obtain ISBN numbers.

Apart from the legal technicalities of the publishing industry, she also had many other production challenges such as finding the right paper.

It was almost impossible binding books with a combination of Braille and print. She had to design and make her own binding equipment to ‘side-staple’ the spine.

She started off using a manual guillotine but it was heavy work and inaccurate. So, she changed to an electric one.

Her project stalled more than once because of mistakes and lack of funding.

Each time the project stalled, she got positive feedback about her work and prototype books.

She eventually launched the not-for-profit project ‘Access2books’. Her books are ordered by schools and community libraries, Special Educational Needs Settings, individual orders and charities.

Eileen is a graduate of the Lloyds sponsored programme at the London School for Social Entrepreneurs.

She has been invited to exhibit her work at the Lloyds’ Charity Event held in Loosely Park in Guildford, Surrey and other events such as the Imagine Children’s Festival in London.

Below are some photos taken at the Imagine Children’s Festival with Eileen and Lauren Childs, author and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series of children’s books.

Image of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs at the Imagine Festival. Eileen is showing Lauren a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola. Lauren is flicking through the pages and gazing at the pages as if in a trance. Image of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs at the Imagine Festival. They are holding a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola between them. Lauren is staring at the page and running her finger over the Braille embossed in the footer of the  text page. Image of a closeup picture of Eileen Finch and Lauren Childs having a chat at the Imagine Children's Festival. They are holding a giant print and Braille version of Charlie and Lola between them.

She believes that ‘the social impact of getting the books widely available will benefit not only disabled children and adults, but could be educational for those who don’t yet understand accessible information and supportive of those professionals trying to make information available to more people.’

She aims ‘to increase the number of libraries stocking these books, make in-roads into education, expand into the retail industry and publish internationally.’

She has started making inroads into this arena by establishing partnerships and contacts like Paths to Literacy, WIPO and World Blind Union and many others.

Image of Sue Hendra at the Imagine Children's Festival. She is pictured holding up a copy of Norman the Silly Shell With the Silly Shell  in giant print and Braille.

Sue Hendra, author and illustrator of books like Supertato, pictured at the Imagine Children’s Festival earlier this year. She is holding up a copy of one of her books Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell which she saw for the first time in Giant Print and Braille.

Five Facts about Access2books

  1. In September 2014, Eileen celebrated 3 years as a publisher.
  2. Access2books has distributed over 5500 books in three years.
  3. Her vision is to publish 100 titles. She has published 68 books to date.
  4. These include The Gruffalo, Aliens Love Underpants, Giraffes Can’t Dance, Who’s in the Loo, A Squash and a Squeeze, Lost and Found, etc.
  5. She runs Access2books with her partner Mike O’Sullivan and a team of part timers and volunteers.

Watch out for an update about the developments that have occurred since Eileen started off on her journey as a publisher of the most popular children’s books in the UK.

Picture of Eileen Finch, Sue Hendra and Mike O'Sullivan chatting at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre with the London skyline behind them.

Access2books hits the SENCO Bulletin

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June and July have been great months for Access2books. And we just couldn’t wait to share the news with you. First up, Access2books was featured in the SENCO Bulletin [Special Educational Needs Coordinator] last month. The article was written by Karen Nicholls who is a Visual Impairment Specialist Teacher in Essex County. She also happens to be an Access2books Director or Trustee.

Here is her article below.

Picture of article by Karen Nicholl's written in the SENCO bulleting. The heading says:  Early years resources for children with Visual Impairments- Karen Nicholls, Visual Impairment Specialist Teacher   The body of the article states:   Several months ago, while I was visiting one of my weekly braillists in a village school in mid Essex, the Library book bus arrived in the school car park.  The class of the child I was visiting and I trooped on to the bus and I went up to the driver, asking if he had any large print or braille copies of children’s books, knowing what the answer would be.  He took me to a section of the books, but the print was not very large at all.  We selected some picture books and returned to class.  A few weeks later, when I was visiting there, the child’s learning support assistant showed me some books that had come in the recent visit from the library bus. They were the most beautifully produced books, in size 72 print and also had braille! The librarian had obviously gone back to the central library and forwarded my request.  I was very impressed with the books, but I had a concern about the braille, as it was embossed on both sides and very young children need braille on only one side.  I contacted the publishers, Access2Books and mentioned my concern.  Eileen Finch contacted me several times over the following weeks and invited me to her place of work to see production. In return for my feedback, she has given me several copies of her books, each worth at least £25 and they have been distributed among the Visual Impairment Specialist Teachers in Essex.  They have acted on my advice and are also producing books with braille on only one side.  Although these books are expensive for parents to buy, I have discovered that they are available in many Essex Libraries. Parents need only ask for them to be available in their local branch.  Please see the website for more details.  http://www.access2books.org/  At the bottom of the article are some pictures. The one on the left shows the front cover of the ook The Gruffal written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. In the image,  The Gruffalo standing on the edge of a gravel path and holding onto a tree. He is lloking down at a mouse on the path. Beyond the Gruffalo is lush green grass and tall green trees.   To the right of the front page are two pictures merged into one. One of the pictures at the bottom are the inner pages of the grufalo. The left hand side is text with Braille at the bottom while the right is an enhanced picture of the mouse standing on a stone in the midle of the forest surrounded by tall, dark, brown trees. The picture above is the original picture from the original book but it is not as accessible as the one from the Access2books' picture because it hasn't been cropped and made to focus on the important things in the picture.

A SENCO, in a nutshell, is responsible for day to day operations of the school’s SEN policy. All mainstream schools have to appoint someone to be their SENCO.

Appearing in the SENCO Bulletin is wonderful news for us here at Access2books.

We are proud to be making such inroads and helping to raise awareness about what we do.

It is also great news to witness how our books are making an impact in a community that is close to our hearts and quite a distance away from us.

When we make our books in-house, they are just orders and numbers.

We don’t get to see the users and what kind of an impact the books have on them until we get  feedback from some of the users, librarians and parents who interact with someone or people who use the books.

Such feedback for us is priceless as we can gauge if our books are meeting their needs.

The feedback also drives us to improve the quality of our books as illustrated by the feedback by Karen about the double embossed Braille.

We have taken her comments on-board and duly implemented her concerns into our formatting.

In addition, as mentioned last week, we have since revamped The Gruffalo and made the pictures more lighter, colourful and improved the overall quality of the pictures.

We were not very happy with them because that book was one of the first we worked on. We were still learning the ropes then.

More than 60 books later, and we have since honed our techniques and have better software which allows us to produce better pictures and that is what we did to The Gruffalo to improve the user’s experience.

We would like to give a special shout-out to Karen for letting people know about Access2books and spreading the word about our books.

The last bit of exciting news is that we have recently had two applications for funding approved.

This means that we are going to be able to circulate the books we produce in different counties and put the books directly in the hands of those who need them.

We will keep you updated about these developments as they unfold. Once again, thanks to Karen, the county libraries, book distributors, organisations, friends and followers who are doing their bit to spread the word about what we do.

Tomorrow, we will be in Liverpool courtesy of the wonderful Gwyneth McCormack from Positive Eye at a conference to discuss our work.

A medium shot of Eileen Finch from Access 2 books chatting to Gwyneth Macormack the Director of the Positive Eye chatting at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch team leader from Accesss2books sharing ideas with Gwyneth McCormack, the director of Positive Eye, at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

We will keep you updated about how things go.

Thanks again!