Some good people at Lenape High School, New Jersey, USA wrote to me asking if I knew whether Braille copies of She Is Not Invisible were available in America. They’ve chosen the book to be their One Book/One School title for 2015/2016 and wanted to make it accessible to a couple of blind/visually impaired students. The whole point of One Book/One School is to make a book available for everyone in the community to read, after all.
Sadly it seemed that there isn’t a Braille edition in the US, so I thought it was worth asking the RNIB over here in the UK if they could help. They’d produced a Braille edition for publication day of She Is Not Invisible back in 2013, but I thought there might be some obstacles. I wasn’t sure if UK Braille and US Braille are the same, for one thing, and for another thing Braille books are VERY expensive to make. That’s the main reason why so few Braille books are produced (less than 1% of published titles) and that’s a shame because it is terrible that being blind should stop you from having access to as many books as a sighted person. Yes, there are other options, and yes, not every blind person reads Braille, but when I spoke to various people when I was writing She Is Not Invisible I couldn’t help but feel that some more money to make more books accessible to blind readers through Braille would be very welcome.
Fortunately for me, and for Lenape High School, the RNIB are just a truly wonderful organisation, and though their school is all the way over the ocean in another country, they made the decision to gift a Braille edition of the book to the school. (It turns out that UK and US Braille are almost identical: I’m told the differences are only when you come to write it, not read it).
The impact of this act of generosity is not just of benefit for the blind students, and to explain why, here’s what Jaime Fauver, Media Specialist at Lenape High had to say when she received the book:
“It arrived yesterday and we are so excited about it! I spoke with our special education teachers and they are also excited – not only for students who are blind or near blind and read Braille but also for the other students in the MD classes (multiple disabled). These students in this class suffer from a range of disabilities and the teachers are going to use this as an opportunity to discuss differences and unique challenges. When we took the book to the classroom today, all of the students were fascinated and intrigued. Most of the school materials for our partially/fully blind students are audio; however they know how to read Braille (we just didn’t have the resources). The teachers are going to spend the last week of school turning this into a lesson about diversity and acceptance and how interesting and exciting each of the students’ unique traits are!”
Diversity and acceptance. What better goals could we aim for?