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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 17:53 GMT
Writer supports books for blind
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Photo of children's laureate, Jacqueline Wilson
Wilson is leading the way by making her work accessible
Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson is urging fellow writers to make their work more accessible to visually impaired people.

Wilson is leading an initiative by the Royal National Institute of the Blind to make more books available in Braille, audio and large print.

The RNIB says publishers should produce work in alternative formats at the same time as standard print comes out.

Authors are being urged to amend their contracts to make this possible.

Wilson is the first author to ask her publishers to make her work more widely available.

Writer's support

"Reading means all the world to me and I can't imagine what it would be like to be denied this pleasure," she said.

"Blind and partially sighted people should enjoy the same rich library of books as everybody else, and that is why I'm supporting the Right to Read Campaign."

She says she wants to work together with her fellow writers in order to "get our books out to absolutely everyone who wants to read them".

It is estimated that about three million people in the UK have sight problems or dyslexia which means that they cannot read, or struggle to read, standard print.

The RNIB estimates that 96% of books published in the UK are never available in large print, audio or braille.

'Funding needed'

The organisation says that the government should take on the responsibility of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the printed word.

RNIB campaigns officer, David Mann, says the government should be investing money to fund the development of a pilot project to test new ways of making books available.

"But the government steadfastly refuses to find a meagre 200,000 to fund this," he said.

Mr Mann contrasts the situation with the US where the federal government invests millions of dollars to ensure that disabled people have access to books.

"The government has spent too long making excuses and empty promises about supporting people's right to read - action is well overdue."

On World Book Day last year, a petition with more than 30,000 signatures was handed in to Downing Street, asking the government to invest more to produce accessible books.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says a joint proposal for funding was submitted by the RNIB and the National Library for the Blind (NLB), but this was unacceptable.

"In 2005 we gave the RNIB/National Library for the Blind some development money so that they could work on a proposal further," a spokesperson said.

"The resulting submission still needed a lot of work and unfortunately they missed out on that funding round."

Another government department, the Department for Trade and Industry, is now working with the RNIB and NLB in order to improve the organisations' chances of getting funding.

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