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New Delhi Book Fair 2019 places needs of readers with disabilities in the spotlight

January 8, 2019

From steel railings to wheelchairs to sign language interpreters the 27th edition of the New Delhi Book Fair currently on in the national Capital puts inclusion firmly in the spotlight.

This year's theme is Readers with Special Needs and the focus is on inclusive education. The books on display include a wide variety and reflect the educational needs of people with emotional, behavioural and learning disabilities.

All positive signs, says Abha Khetarpal, writer, counsellor, and teacher.

"It is a definitely a sign of attitudinal change and thinking in terms of providing accessibility. This move shows that, though gradually, societal awareness is coming regarding the needs of persons of disabilities. There are integrated print-Braille books for children with visual impairments and those with autism. This is a very thoughtful and enabling measure as why should they miss out on the fun of reading?"

The theme pavilion has an exhibition of 500 books on display. These include books in Braille, audio books, and books for children with autism and ADHD. There are about 700 publishers making their presence felt and over 1,000 stalls.

Among those with a stall is Lalit Kumar, Founder-Director, Kavita Kosh, India's largest online repository of Hindi literature. Kumar, who uses crutches, says the accessible facilities have encouraged more people with disabilities to come to the book fair.

Making readers with disabilities the focus of this year's book fair is a great way to encourage the community to come out of their homes. It has also encouraged the organizers to look at accessibility in a more focused way. The arrangements made have been great, be it ramps, railings or sign language interpreters. - Lalit Kumar, Founder-Director, Kavita Kosh

Books apart, there are interesting displays as well. Worth mentioning is All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB)'s exhibit on instruments that can be used by people with disabilities. There are theme-based kiosks by Microsoft on digital accessibility tools, photo-exhibition panels and posters.

The Guest of Honour is Sharjah which is showcasing its efforts to promote literature through a large delegation of publishers, writers and artists.

This focus on disability, hopes Upasana Makati, Founder-Publisher, White Print, India's first lifestyle magazine in Braille, will create greater awareness among commercial publishers, bookstore owners, corporates as well as the public about the need for accessible reading material.

Makati, who launched White Print five years ago, recently came out with a story book in Braille, print and sign language called Look Out, Look Within recently. She says there is a great reluctance on the part of mainstream publishers when it comes to encouraging accessibility.

"With bookstores we've had such a challenge persuading them to have a Braille section and give these books some shelf space. We've always been turned down and told to 'approach blind schools and NGOs'. There is a lack of Braille presses as corporates don't feel the need to invest in such initiatives because they don't see the numbers to be significant, bookstores don't wish to give shelf space, and it's a cycle! Another response we get is "Braille is redundant, technology is the way to go". This section at the book fair I'm certain, will facilitate in changing perceptions and opening the minds of people towards accessible reading material and formats."

To encourage more footfalls, the price of tickets has been reduced this year with free entry for children below 14 years, the elderly and disabled people. So, come and discover the joys of reading!

ALSO READ:'Look Out Look Within' explores the world of inclusion through the lens of friendship

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