The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is easily the largest library in the entire world. It has over 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. If you walked for ten hours a day, it’d take you a month to walk past all those bookshelves. Pick even one category—say, comic books—and it would be impossible to read through the Library of Congress’s entire catalog in one lifetime (they have 120,000 comic books, and growing).
The Library of Congress is clearly a superlative institution, so when they choose to honor an organization at their yearly Literacy Awards, it’s a sign that that organization has made a significant impact in the quest to wipe out global illiteracy.
One of the honorees for 2018 was Resources for the Blind, an organization SIL LEAD has partnered with to conduct a pilot project in the Philippines, where they will be creating accessible books for the visually impaired. As the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program stated, “Resources for the Blind Inc (RBI) is a nonprofit Christian organization focused since 1988 on serving people with visual impairment in the Philippines. Its primary objective is to enable the visually impaired to reach and understand their full potential through RBI’s varied programs and services.”
Last week RBI staff received training on the use of Bloom with a special focus on the use of Bloom’s new visual impairment tools. RBI staff will now train teachers of the visually impaired at two schools in Manila (where the students speak Tagalog) and at two schools in the southern Philippines (where students speak Cebuano) to use Bloom to create books that are appropriate for their students.
For these books to be accessible, all the images in the books must have prose descriptions, and consideration must be given to the selection of images. Some images are better than others for people who are not blind, but have other forms of visual impairment. So training in this area is a complex and nuanced task. In addition, all of the text in the book must be recorded to create a “digital talking book”.
The accessible books that are created through this exciting partnership will be published as electronic books (ePUBs and Bloom Reader files)e. Depending on the severity of visual impairment, individuals will be able to read or hear the book on a tablet or smartphone.
We were excited to attend the Library of Congress’s Literacy Awards best practices conference this year and witness RBI’s work being honored in the official program. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with them to increase the accessibility of reading materials for the visually impaired.
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The visual impairment tools to create accessible Bloom books are available through a Bloom Enterprise subscription (see our website).