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!
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.

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

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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 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 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.

Access2books first audio-visual book promo

Book Promo

Access2books has just completed its first ever audio-visual promo. It is exciting times for us here and an opportunity to do something we have never done before.

However, we have been looking at taking this direction for quite a while. So now, it is done.

In the future, look out for slicker productions. Although we are happy with this promo, we are aware that it is very visual and not accessible to people who happen to be blind or have a sight impairment because there is no narration.

That means our promo is not accessible to a huge proportion of our friends, followers and others who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

We are limited because we don’t have the facilities to record narration. Probably, when we have some software better than Microsoft Live Movie Maker, we can add narration to our videos.

However, for a first attempt on very basic editing software, we are pleased with the results. Our apologies to those who can’t access this promo because of a lack of narration.

Check out our first audio-visual attempt and enjoy it. Share it with your family, friends, followers and so on and let them know about our books. Thanks in advance for your support.

We look forward to your feedback, negative or positive. If you know better software which is relatively cheap or free which can help us make better promos, please let us know.

Have a lovely day.

Picture of the red Coca-Cola cans standing in a row. They all have Braille written on the side

Coca-Cola Braille Cans: Inclusive design or Cheap Advertising Gimmick

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Everywhere I turned last week, that is in the virtual world, I was bombarded from all angles by articles or videos talking about or showcasing Coca-Cola’s usage of Braille on their cans and bottles. It was almost impossible to avoid the trending articles and beggared the question: is it inclusive design or a cheap advertising gimmick.

The Coca-Cola initiative generated talking points within the community of people who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

Picture of a man with grey hair standing in the foreground holding a red Coca-Cola can with Braille on its surface. He is running his fingers over the Braille characters. In the background is a blind woman standing in front of a red Coca-Cola dispensing machine with white Braille characters superimposed in its front face. There is a subtitle at the bottom of the picture which reads

A frame taken from the Coca-Cola ad with the gentleman in the foreground feeling the Braille characters on the can spelling out his name.

Coca-Cola video sparked conversation and dialogue

It initiated conversations and dialogue across social media. Blogs were written about it. This article is part and parcel of all that activity.

Without it, this article, other blog posts and discussions would probably not be happening with the same intensity.

That is not to say these conversations don’t happen regularly. That would be ingenious to insinuate that.

These conversations happen regularly. The Coca-Cola initiative, if I may call it that, made this particular topic trend on social media.

The Coca-Cola adverts popped up in numerous groups I frequent and filtered into my Facebook feed. The excitement from within the the communities I interact with was palpable. It was infectious.

Addressing access issues

I can appreciate their excitement. A fundamental need was addressed, in the short term. That is the question of access. We all face it at one point in time or in different guises.

Picture of a man in a gray suit standing in front of red Coca-Cola dispensing machine with white Braille charcters on its ront and side. He is holding a Coca-cola can in his left hand.

Another frame from the same advert. The man feels the Braille characters on the can of Coca-Cola.

It may not have been Coca-Cola’s primary goal to address the question of access. However, whether or not it was, they touched on it.

Did it really address the question of inclusivity and access? That is another, or “the”, question.

Share a Coke Campaign

Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was launched in 2011. It was initiated across 80 countries worldwide.

However, this phase fizzled out but it was recently reignited when Coca-Cola realised it had missed out a section of the population. 

They personalised their cans using Braille, enabling people who happen to be blind to read their names on the cans.

Closeup picture of a woman reading Braille on Coca Cola can with her fingers. The subtitle on the screen reads Julia.

The screenshots above and below are from the video. The woman and boy run their fingers over the embossed Braille on the cans to read their names for the very first time.

Picture of a boy sitting by a piano. He is holding a can of Coca-Cola and running his fingers over the embossed Braille on the can to read his name. The subtitle on the screen reads Jose Alfredo.II

Coca-Cola collaborated with a Mexican ad agency, Anonimo, to create special editions of their cans for people who couldn’t see their names printed on the cans. Hence, the need for Braille.

They changed the names on the cans and shared the new versions with a not-for-profit, Fundacion ProCiegos: they assist adults who happen to be blind or visually impaired to find their way into the workforce.

Picture of a cinema complex. In the centre of the forecourt are four red Coca-Cola vending machines embossed with white Braille characters. A group of men and women are descending on them to purchase their cans of Coca-Cola with Braille embossed on their sides.

The Braille cans with Spanish names were presented at the Comité Internacional ProCiegos I.A.P. in Mexico City.

They used a vending machine with Braille characters to dispense personalised cans to the users of the centre, providing hundreds of students with the opportunity to read their name on a can of Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola Video and reactions

The reactions from the video, as you can see below, are touching and overwhelming.

More can be done, however, not only by Coca-Cola but by more companies to make their products more accessible to users who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

Considering the profits multinationals make annually, it wouldn’t cost them much to add Braille to their packaging to allow users who have problems reading small print to read labels by themselves so they know what they are buying, allowing them to make informed purchases.

Pharmaceuticals and Braille Packaging

It is not impossible. The pharmaceutical industry is miles ahead in this respect. By law, their packaging needs to have Braille on it as illustrated below on the pack of Paracetamol.

Picture of a blue and white box of Paracetamol with Braille and illsutration of two tablets on it's front face. It is branded Tesco in white in the left hand corner and Paracetamol in the middle of the package in a dark blue colour.

From the 30th of October 2010, all medicines now in the UK and EU display the name and the strength of the medicine embossed in Braille on the packaging or on a label affixed to the package. This is to comply with a European Directive passed in 2004.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People [RNIB] conducted a survey of about 165 adult Braille users around the UK with regards to the implementation of the European Directive passed in 2004 for Braille on pharmaceutical products. They reported that:

  1.  The Braille on packaging made a positive impact on users.
  2.  Over 95% of the participants used the Braille on the packaging.
  3.  Over 40% of Braille readers confirmed that the quality of the Braille on the product had improved than in two years.
  4. 4% believed it was worse.

The use of Braille on packaging helps people who can read it to locate products they need independently.

This addresses the question about access touched on above.

This initiative by Coca-Cola could extend beyond the realms of gimmickry and short term campaigns to create viral videos to improve their advertising or marketing campaigns or accrue social capital.

It could be a permanent fixture to their packaging: it will benefit users who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

It could be rolled out across the world empowering non-sighted users to locate their products independently.

Other companies providing Braille on their products 

It is possible. There are companies who are already providing Braille on their labels to cater for customers who can read Braille as illustrated in the pictures below.

Picture of two bottles of wine. One has a yellow label and seal and the other has a black label and seal. Next to them is a close up of the yellow label embossed with Black Braille characters.

There are already some products on the market that have Braille characters embossed on their labels to make them more accessible to consumers who happen to be print disabled. It empowers them to make informed decisions about the products they are purchasing without the need for a sighted person to read out what the contents of the products are.

Picture of a Wonderee chocolate in a dark brown like chocolate packaging with Braille. The top of the bag is folded and held together by a wooden clothes peg that has Braille on it. Also in the picture is finger running over the Braille characters on the packaging. Above the Braille characters is the word CHOCOLATE written in upper case.

As illustrated above, Braille in the packaging can extend beyond gimmickry and address the aesthetics of the packaging as well which also improves their visual appeal to sighted users as well. This illustrates innovative packaging and a company that cares for its consumers.

It’s great to include people and demonstrate it as Coca-Cola have. It is good to find a way to include access.

Coca-Cola and other companies are able to produce automatic Braille which illustrates that there are facilities to make it possible to produce products with Braille.

Irony about Coca-Cola’s inaccessible video

Considering Coca-Cola’s best intentions, their video is not accessible. Why? They did not make the visuals auditory yet the video is about a community without vision.

If you haven’t got any vision, then you need auditory access. The community of blind people in that Coca-Cola video cannot access it.

It seems like they and other people who are blind or visually impaired were not the intended audience for this video.

It is a disappointment if you consider the quality of what they are doing because the video is a good idea.

However, it looks like they were catering for the visual world; they did not include the sight impaired community, yet this video was about the non-visual community.

The video above is difficult to access for people with visual impairments but are not blind.

However, the intention by Coca-Cola is great; the video is not very accessible although it could be. It is inaccessible because they did not use people that can’t see to monitor what they were doing.  

Accessible books

Accessibility in books is central to the most popular children’s books we publish. It is a key issue in the design of our books. It is something we try to address in everything we do, including working with non-sighted users.

This is why our books are made in a dual format as illustrated in the interior pages of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? below. 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See Inside Pages

They include giant print [75] point which makes it accessible to a wide variety of groups and not only people who have visual impairments.

They have Braille to cater for readers who happen to be blind and are Braille readers or learning it. Other blind people or visually impaired readers use electronic devices to access books.

Accommodating macular conditions and sight impairments

The pictures in our books are adapted from the originals and made more accessible for people with macular conditions or other sight impairments which renders the normal pictures inaccessible.

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.

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.

People with dyslexia can access the books produced by Access2books. This includes disabled too.

About Access2book’s book design

People with general eye conditions can read large print or use Braille. The book design helps people who want to read but who have different sight impairments.

The books are also popular with children who find it difficult to read normal print. The giant characters and plenty of white space make the books easier to read.

Picture of a young girl at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre is reading an accessible version of Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell which is published by Access2books. Her grandmother is looking over her shoulder and listening to her picking her way through the large characters surrounded by plenty of white space.

A young girl at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre reads an accessible copy of Norman the Slug With the Silly Shell published by Access2books. Her grandmother is leaning over her shoulder and listening to her picking through the giant print on the page set out from the white space.

The book design makes it usable by as many people as possible. It is unlikely anyone would read anything bigger than 75 point print on paper. It is too difficult.

People with general eye conditions will either be able to read large print or use Braille. The book design helps people who want to read who have got sight impairments of different kinds.

Our books are designed to be as accessible to as many people as possible within the whole community.

People who have problems with their neck and eyes can read 75 point comfortably without moving their neck and eyes.

People who are learning disabled are supported by white space, good clear print; it can be 18 or 20 point but they can read 75, and pictures that support the text in some way. 

Access2books’ accessible formats contain as much of the easy read criteria as we can to include disabled people and other groups. The criteria is clear white space, clear printing, contrasting and clarity.

Picture of an inside page of the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The pgae is in 75 point print with Braille characters just above the footer. The text on the page reads,

The interior page of The Very Hungry Caterpillar featuring the text in 75 point print with Braille below and just above the footer. The formatting illustrates the easy read criteria: that is clear white space, clear printing, contrasting and clarity.

People with dyslexia also benefit from clarity, white space and they can use glasses to put colour over the picture. Dyslexia comes in many forms. But if you like a cream background, you use glasses to add that colour or whatever colour works for your condition.

People who are deaf or blind will be able to read with either their sight or Braille.

People with mental health issues can be confused and stressed by their environment and that includes their literature.

Our books are plain; that enables them to read text without loads going on: it doesn’t affect their stress levels and anxiety.

Picture of an interior page of the book Things I Like. In the picture is a smiling monkey dressed in a blue dungaree and green top and yellow shoes. His hands are folded behind his back as if he is hiding something. He is set against a white background. Below his feet are Braille characters: these characters are picture descriptions.

The interior page of the book Things I Like illustrating the enhanced picture of the monkey with Braille descriptions just above the footer and below his feet. The de-cluttered image against a white background makes it more accessible because of the clear white space, the contrast and clarity which adhere to the easy read criteria.

People with mental health issues are enabled by our format to share and read books.

Loads of communities benefit from our design. And the reason the Braille is there is simply because it caters for people who can’t read normal text and need it to access books.

Making products accessible

There are plenty of things Coca-Cola can and could do to make their products accessible which doesn’t only include Braille.

Using giant print to highlight one or two keywords on labels or packaging is another way to address issues surrounding accessibility. Voice activated vending machines is another. There are so many untapped opportunities.

Benefits of addressing access issues

If Coca-Cola used Braille on their products, like other companies already do, it would give them a lot of publicity. It would make them look like a good diverse community organisation. 

Their video is one of the best things they have done for their company. They have a reputation for creating great ads that work well. They are also memorable.

The impact of their viral video was really positive; they could have made it better by making it more inclusive by including the non-visual community.

They could have been seen as market leaders when it comes to inclusion if they asked the non-visual community and other disabled people to find out what would help them to identify their products and implement those changes. 

Missed opportunity

It is a missed opportunity. This missed opportunity might not cost them business. They will probably make loads of money from the back of this Braille initiative.

Personally, the initiative is a bit too gimmicky. It is about them creating great marketing and advertising material and probably social capital. It is clever advertising and nothing more.

Creating viral videos is the next big thing in putting products out there without making it too obvious that is what you are doing. 
Other companies that include Braille in their packaging don’t go about creating publicity hype. They simply do the right thing by being inclusive. 
Therefore, the Coca-Cola initiative is just another cheap advertising gimmick and not inclusive design.
A Picture of the front cover of the book Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon

Access2books publishing Braille and giant print formats of Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon

Children's Books, Publishing

Springtime is a great time for Access2booksRandom House Children’s Books granted them permission to publish Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

Access2book’s will publish this popular children’s book as an accessible book in giant print [75 point] with Braille and specially adapted pictures for people who happen to be either blind or visually impaired.

Croc and Bird explores several themes: the first is differences; second, friendship, and third is the meaning of true family.

A Picture of the front cover of the book Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon

These are all issues, not in the particular order above, that confront us all at some point in our lives.

The kernel of the story is captured in the opening lines:

Two eggs lie side-by-side on a sandy beach: one hatches to reveal a crocodile and the other a bird. The two creatures grow up together as brothers – Crocodile learns to sing and tries to fly, while his brother, Bird, learns to float in the sea and bask in the sun.

It is from this paradox at birth that the two animals’ lives become entangled and from where they must each understand more about themselves and appreciate the special bond they share or severe their ties.

The narrative is relatively simple but the underlying subtext and themes make it even more complex than it appears on face value.

This is what Deacon does best. He is a great storyteller with a great ear for rhythm and narrative development.

Deacon’s illustrations, one of the Booktrust’s 2008 Best New Illustrators, are visually sumptuous and sophisticated.

They compliment the written word. He is equally adept at using pictures or words to tell the story.

Who is Alexis Deacon?

Deacon is a graduate of the University of Brighton. He earned a first class honours degree in Illustration. As mentioned above, he was named as one of Booktrust‘s Ten Best New Illustrators.

A picture of Alexis Deacon sitting on a chair in a room with papers stuck on the wall. he is wearing a multicoloured striped jumper and is sporting a close cropped shave and a a goattee.

Photograph by Luke Tchalenko. Source: http://alexisdeacon.blogspot.co.uk/p/biography.html

Another book he wrote but he didn’t do the illustrations, Beegu – the story of an alien lost on earth, was named as the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year.

It also earned the shortlist for the Kate Greenway Medal. A book on which he illustrated, Jim’s Lion, is also on the shortlist for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal [2015]: it was written by Russell Hoban.

The fron't cover of Jim's Lion which was written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Alexis Deacon. Picture Source: http://www.walker.co.uk/Jim-s-Lion-9781406346022.aspx

The front cover of Jim’s Lion which was written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.
Picture Source: http://www.walker.co.uk/Jim-s-Lion-9781406346022.aspx

Alexis Deacon: man of many talents

When he is not writing his own books, he is experimenting with other projects in the pipeline such as comics. He is also in demand as an illustrator of the books of other authors.

In October 2014, his comic, The River, won the Observer/ Jonathan Cape/ Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.

It is no wonder why his talent and skills are in high demand. The Financial Times endorsed him as, “Alexis Deacon is a young author-illustrator of quite impressive originality and depth“. Consequently, such high profile acclaim has made him a much sought out figure in the industry.

Deacon is a busy man. When he is away from the bright spotlights of the industry, he shares interesting insights and expertise on his blog which you can access on the aforementioned link.

Works of Alexis Deacon

It is a wonder how he gets anything done because he seems to have his hands in a lot of pies. He has worked on no less than ten books either as an author, or illustrator or both.

Some of these titles include Slow Loris, Jitterbug Jam, While You Are Sleeping, Soonchild, A Place to Call Home and Henry Finch to name a few. That is not the conclusive list. There are probably many more to his name.

Picture of the front cover of the book Jitterbug Jam written by Barbara jean Hicks and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

This is the front cover of the book Jitterbug Jam written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Alexis Deacon. This is one of many of Alexis Deacon’s many collaborations with other writers.
Picture source: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/barbara-jean-hicks/jitterbug-jam.htm

He wrote his first book when he was around the age of five. However, it was not published. The first book he wrote and published was Slow Loris.

He has written about seven books but illustrated a lot of others for many different authors.

What does this mean for Access2books?

It is great news to publish a book by an illustrious author and illustrator who is making waves in the publishing industry.

His books are highly recommended by many libraries and they allow Access2books to continue publishing the most popular children’s books in the UK.

The greatest benefit of publishing children’s books like these is that the themes Alexis Deacon’s books tackle such as family, identity and friendship are issues Access2books are passionate about.

Going forward, Access2books is looking to publish children’s books that are more diverse and deal with different family setups or structures. Their Festival Time Series books illustrate this direction.

Picture of the front cover of Four Special Questions: A Passover Story Written by Jonny Zucker and illusrtated by Jan Barger Cohen.

One of the books, Four Special Questions, that forms a series of eight books collectively known as the Festival Time Series. The series tackles different religious festivals and describes what they about, what happens and how they came to be.

Therefore, Alexis Deacon’s children’s books fit in perfectly with the future plans of Access2books which makes publishing Croc and Bird so exciting.

Watch this space for more updates.

P.S. Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is now out and ready to be ordered here. Up and Down also by the same author and illustrator is now in the final stages of production and should be ready within a week or two. We will keep you updated.

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.

Access2books Behind the Scenes in Pictures: Book transcription and Development

bookmaking, Children's Books

As promised last week, here is the first instalment of the behind the scenes, shots illustrating what happens in the book transcription and development department of Access2books.

This is where all the magic occurs and accessible books come together.

This is not a snapshot of the entire production process but a slice of one of the first stages of the development of our books, taking a mainstream book and transforming it into an alternative format that can be accessed by people who happen to be blind or have a visual impairment.

As you can see in the photo below, Elvira Naidoo, our illustrator extraordinaire is working on the front pages, or inner pages of the books and starting to transcribe the book, typing in the text of the narrative in 75 point print, what we normally refer to as giant print.

Picture of an over the shoulder shot of Elvira Naidoo designing the inner pages of the book Up and Down Written by Oliver Jeffers.

A photo of Elvira typing text onto the right hand side of the page of the document on screen leaving the left free for the adapted images from the book Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

In the shot above, Elvira breaks the book down and the formatting begins. Here, she enters text on the left hand side of the document and leaves the right hand side blank because this is where the pictures and Braille picture descriptions will go at a later stage.

Picture of Elvira Naidoo studting a scanned page from the book up and down by Oliver Jeffers on screen.

Moment of contemplation and creative conceptualisation. What next? Elvira thinks, pondering how she should execute the next step in formatting this accessible book.

The picture above captures Elvira lost deep in thought thinking about how she is going to break down the scanned page on screen and adapt it to fit into our format.

There are no hard and fast rules in making accessible books. There are big and small challenges from start to beginning but this is what makes Elvira tick as her creative juices kick in and she always finds a way around every challenge she encounters.

Elvira peering into the screen lost in thought.

The toughest challenge is breaking the mainstream book down into an alternative book: it involves reformatting the book, breaking down the text and adapting the pictures to make them more accessible but remaining true to the spirit of the narrative in the process.

Only a storyteller like Elvira can explain how she does that.

Over the shadow shot of Elvira studying some scanned pages on the computer screen.

Above, Elvira looks at more scanned pages before she begins work on them to make them more accessible to readers who happen to have a visual impairment.

An overshot of Elvira working on making the penguin more visible on screen. She uses the magic wand in her hand to enhance the image.

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.

Picture of Elvira enhancing the image of the penguin on the computer screen using her magic wand.

Elvira has been making accessible books for about and a year and a half now. She has made a lot of books. She believes that she has made about twenty plus books but that is a conservative approximation.

Shot of Elvira distracted and looking away from the screen.

While she is working, Elvira enjoys copious cups of coffee and chatting to keep her creative juices flowing. Here she is reminiscing about the good old times and trying to remember how many books she has made but they all seem to be a blur in her mind’s eye because she has made so many she has lost count.

The truth is that she has truly lost count of the number of books of she has made. Chances are, if you are reading an Access2books giant print and Braille children’s book, it was Elvira who put that together.

One of the first book’s she worked on when she started was Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell by Sue Hendra. She has since worked on Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, Giraffes Can’t Dance, the entire Festival Time Series, Each Peach Pear Plum and many others on our website.

A close up shot of Elvira smiling with satisfaction at the screen.

Smile of satisfaction. We can tell who is winning here. She is in full flow and enjoying what she does best.

The smile above says it all. All’s well that ends well.

Image of the front cover of the book, Supertato, written by Sue Hendra featuring a potato with a mask over his eyes and a brown belt around his waist with the letter S and a red cape.

Access2books publishing Sue Hendra’s Supertato

Children's Books, Publishing

Spring was kind to Access2books this year. Shortly before the Easter Break, Access2books announced HarperCollins Publishers  granted them permission to publish Lost and Found and Up and Down written and illustrated by the award winning talent that is Oliver Jeffers. Now, Simon and Schuster Publishers UK have granted Access2books permission to publish a giant print [75 point] and Braille, accessible version of Supertato written and illustrated by the brilliant Sue Hendra.

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.

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.

Publishing a children’s book – Supertato

Access2books is proud to reproduce an accessible version of Supertato. It will be the second book from Sue Hendra’s impressive list of books that they are producing as an alternative format [accessible book].

They have already produced a giant print and Braille version of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell as illustrated in the picture below with Hendra holding a copy of the book at the Imagine Festival held at the Southbank Centre in London.

Author of Norman the Slug With His Silly Shell. holding up an alternative format of the book in Giant Print and Braille, at the Inclusive Minds Festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

Author of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell, holding up an alternative format of the book in Giant Print and Braille, at the Inclusive Minds Festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

Publishing Children’s Books

Access2books specialise in publishing children’s books and getting the opportunity to publish books like Supertato and Norman The Slug With The Silly Shell is a fabulous opportunity to add to their growing list of impressive titles. 

All of the alternative format children’s books published by Access2books’are individually handmade in-house with tender loving care. That means they can be adapted to suit an order depending on the requirements of the customer.

For example, if you wanted the books with 48 point print without Braille, that can be done.

Picture of Sue Hendra stepping up onto the podium to deliver her reading of  Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre.

Sue Hendra gearing up to entertain and blow away the audience with her reading of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell.

Publishing Stunning Children’s Books

This is what makes the books so special. And that is not all. They are stunning and they put a smile on the faces of those that see them for the first time because they stand out and grab your attention.

Not even Sue Hendra was immune to the surprise when she first stumbled upon Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell in giant print and Braille. The look of surprise on her face in the picture below says it all.

The look on Sue Hendra's face says it all when she stumbled upon the giant print and Braille version of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell.

The look on Sue Hendra’s face says it all when she stumbled upon the giant print and Braille version of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell. Forgive our cameraman for almost chopping her head off and the picture may not win the competition for great composition but it does capture the element of surprise that the books produced by Access2books elicit.

That look above speaks volumes. Forgive our cameraman for the shoddy camerawork. However, for all its faults, the photo captures a special moment in time and the impact the books have on individuals. 

Sue’s feedback provides more insight into what makes Access2books’ alternative formats so special.

“The Access2books team showed me popular picture books in Giant print and Braille versions. Enlarging text and adding Braille wasn’t all that was different about these books,” she said.

“It struck me that enlarging parts of the illustrations is a clever way to help tell the story for someone with a sight impairment.”

Sue Hendra with her daughter at the Imagine festival reading the giant print and Braille version of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell atThe Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre in London

Sue Hendra and her daughter, Wanda, captivated by the alternative format of Norman the Silly Slug With The Silly Shell for the first time at the Access2books’ stand

Sue Hendra – A Big Name In The Publishing Business

Sue Hendra graduated from the University of Brighton in 1994. She went on to work in the publishing industry as an illustrator of children’s books. Her skills were honed at Macmillan, Oxford University Press and Walker Books where she worked on about 70 children’s titles or more.

She is no longer working for the publishing companies: she is now a fully fledged author and illustrator of children’s books.

One of her first books, Counting in the Sea 1, 2 3! set the foundation for her publishing career.

She first made waves after the publication of Barry the Fish with Fingers in 2009. Since then, it has sold over 100 000 copies and established her not only as a popular children’s author and illustrator, but a bonafide star with her own legion of little fans.

Picture of Sue Hendra and her daughter, Wanda, surrounded by Sue's little fans waiting to get her autograph and help putting faces on Norman the Slug.

Sue Hendra and her daughter, Wanda, are the centre of attraction, posing for pictures and signing copies of the books as well as illustrating how to make Norman the Slug and put faces on him.

The wacky array of characters that litter her beautifully illustrated books proved to be a great formula for success.

The arrival of Norman the Slug With Silly Shell in 2011 reinforced her star quality. The latter book went on to become the bestselling new picture book for the first quarter of 2011.

Sue Hendra reading Norman The Sulg With The SIlly Shell at the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

Sue Hendra reading Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell to her small and big fans at the Southbank Centre in London.

She has written for various publishers like Hodder, Random House and Simon and Schuster, plus illustrated for Harper Collins, Random House US and Scholastic.

Her style is distinctive. It is fun. It is quirky. Silly and innovative plus engaging. It has a surreal and believability quality to it which children love.

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

To date, she has written and illustrated plus or minus 17 children’s books and it seems like she is not slowing down any time soon. That is great news for her legion of little fans and the likes of Access2books.

Eileen Finch, team leader at Access2books Publishers, believes publishing Supertato is an opportunity to continue in their tradition of making the most popular children’s books accessible to children and people who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

Sue Hendra also reinforces this view.

“Making picture books accessible to all adults and children can only ever be a good thing. I am fully in support of, and excited by, the work that Access2books are doing.”

Sue Hendra in action on stage reading  Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell

Sue Hendra caught in full flow delivering a reading of Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell not to be forgotten.

Keep your eyes glued to this space for updates on the progress of the book. We can’t wait to begin working on it and seeing the final book becoming a giant print and Braille version of the original Supertato. Check out more of Sue Hendra’s other books here.