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.

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!