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 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  “

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 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.

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


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.  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!

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.

Access2books’ first newsletter, The Forge, finally published

About Wiritng, Publishing

Phoebe reading to Ryan using their nan's accessible books.

We are happy to launch the first edition of our quarterly newsletter, The Forge. It is finally published and out now.

We have spent the last few months working on it and it is a relief and a pleasure to finally send it out and let it have a life of its own.

You can click on the following link to read it The Forge Newsletter 1st. Edition.

What kind of articles can you look forward to?

We have a variety of articles talking about what we do, recently produced work and an article about how the Access2books project came about.

It is an inspirational story about how Eileen Finch, the team leader of the project, started losing her sight because she had Stargardt’s and she wanted to read to her grandchildren.

However, she couldn’t find books that she could read and so she started off this project to make children’s books that combined giant print [75 point], Braille and specially adapted pictures to cater for people who happened to be blind or have a visual impairment because there wasn’t anything like it on the market.

She also wanted the books to be as beautiful as other popular children’s fiction books. In a nutshell, that is how it came to be.

You can read more about it in The Forge plus an article from Eileen’s column talking about her experiences as a person who happens to be blind.

There is a variety of articles including short articles written by Alex Strick, author of Max the Champion, and Sue Hendra, the author and illustrator of books such as Norman the Slug and his Silly Shell.

Shot of Sue Hendra, author of Norman the Silly Slug With His Silly Shell, standing at the podium and holding up a worried Norman in her hand while reading the book at the Inclusive Minds Festival at the Southbank centre in London.

Author and illustrator of children’s books, Sue Hendra, holds up a worried looking Norman, as she reads from her book Norman the Slug With His Silly Shell at the Inclusive Minds Festival at the Southbank Festival in London in February 2015.

Both these busy ladies are working with Access2books to help promote the project and offer guidance and support plus collaborating on projects.

In the next edition, we will have full interviews with the authors and much more. It is an exciting venture and we hope that you will enjoy it.

We look forward to your critical feedback because it will help us improve the quality and content of our newsletter.

It has been a learning curve for us and we anticipate that we will continue to learn and expand our publishing expertise in various mediums.

Thank you for been a part of our journey. By the way, have a lovely Easter.