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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
'Book famine' for blind people
Less than 5% of books appear in large print, audio or Braille
Scots with sight problems are facing a "book famine" due to a shortage of titles in braille or other formats, according to campaigners.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) said more than 95% of books were never made available in large print, audio or braille formats.

Most of the 180,000 Scots with sight problems cannot read a standard print book, which is usually printed in 10-point font size.

The RNIB is launching a charter urging the UK Government to set up an "access to reading fund" and scrap Value Added Tax (VAT) on audio book sales to come into line with print books.

It can stop you getting an education or a job and it stops you enjoying the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book
Bryn Merchant
RNIB Scotland
The Right to Read Charter also petitions publishers, booksellers and libraries to increase the number of books and magazines available in formats that people with sight problems can use.

RNIB Scotland's acting director, Bryn Merchant, said the campaign's message was clear: "Being denied the right to read cuts you off from the social and cultural life of the world around you.

"It can stop you getting an education or a job and it stops you enjoying the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book.

"The government must act now to support a major increase in the production of books in accessible format."

'Isolating' experience

Dr Melville Kerr, a retired professor of obstetrics and gynaecology from Edinburgh, is just one of the tens of thousands of Scots eagerly hoping the campaign will be successful.

The 73-year-old, who worked at the University of Edinburgh and in Canada and has had his own academic work published, said he has been left "functionally illiterate" for the last two decades since losing his central vision.

"It's very isolating, particularly for someone who has grown up taking reading for granted - whether a newspaper, novel or textbook," Dr Kerr added.

"To be suddenly deprived of that is very, very hard to take."

Books plea for blind people
27 May 02  |  Scotland

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