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.

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4 thoughts on “How Stargardt’s turned grandmother into a book publisher

  1. This is a brilliant synopsis of your quest my friend! I am so glad you posted this. You have travelled an amazing road that you have built yourself. I take my hat off to you and I hope you enjoy whatever lies ahead on the next part of your exciting journey. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Belinda Crane for the beautiful feedback. It has been a beautiful journey and one I have enjoyed tremendously. I believe I will continue to enjoy this journey because it is a calling that it is enriching in every aspect. Never knew I would end up doing this so this makes this extra special. Thanks for taking the time to read, like and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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