Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Appeal to preserve Braille press

Bestselling author Ian Rankin is backing the campaign

A 2m appeal is being made to rehouse the UK's leading Braille printing press and protect its long-term future.

The Royal Blind's Scottish Braille Press was built in the 1960s and needs to be rebuilt and fitted with state-of-the-art printing equipment.

The press is a leading provider of the UK's Braille books, magazines and other printed materials.

Best-selling author Ian Rankin, whose son goes to the Royal Blind School, is giving his backing to the campaign.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, whose invention in 1821 of a writing system based on embossed dots has had a profound effect on the lives of millions of people worldwide ever since.

To mark the anniversary, and the appeal, the Press is printing a Braille version of Rankin's Death is Not the End.

Even today, 96% of books never become available in formats that people with sight problems can read
John Godber,
RNIB

In geographical terms, Braille is the most widely used language in the world.

Though it has been adapted to suit native tongues across the globe, its core system of embossed dotted characters remains the same everywhere enabling visually impaired people to read.

Ian Rankin is calling for more creative works to be made available to the visually impaired.

He said: "The gateway to education and inspiration that Braille represents can never be under-estimated. I support anything that can be done to improve access to reading in all formats from Braille to large print.

"It is vital that we support organisations like the Braille Press and Royal Blind and the important role they fulfil for people all over the country."

Braille
Braille was invented in 1821

John Godber, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said: "It's important that pioneering work continues to ensure Braille technology keeps up with the hi-tech age we live in, and is able to meet the demand for a wider range of Brailled items.

"Even today, 96% of books never become available in formats that people with sight problems can read. The public's support is vital for this to change."

Richard Hellewell, chief executive of Royal Blind - which runs the Edinburgh school, the press and a care home for older people - said: "The ability to read and write is an extremely important gateway to opportunity for the UK's blind or partially sighted people, enabling them to be more independent."

He said National Braille Week (4-10 January 2009) was a great way to raise awareness and inspire support for Braille.

You And Yours will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 1200 GMT on Monday, 5 January 2008. You can also listen to it for several days after that atBBC iPlayer.



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