Education April 25, 2021
Beyond Braille’s tactile picture books make reading fun for visually impaired kids
Tactile picture books are a great way to make reading fun for blind kids and enrich their literacy skills. Beyond Braille, the picture book series that is targeted at visually impaired kids, is bringing alive a new visual language.
The National Education Policy emphasises an interactive toy-based learning pedagogy for all levels of school education to promote hands-on learning among students. This includes tactile picture books for visually impaired children to help enrich their reading and learning experience.
Beyond Braille, has taken a big step in this regard by launching a series of tactile picture books to make reading fun for visually impaired children. These are the first such books that build reading skills in visually impaired children launched in India.
The founder Nupur Agarwal started working on her first book as a student at Ahmedabad’s CEPT University. While working on this she spent a lot of time in blind schools, meeting teachers and students to gain an understanding into the challenges faced by visually impaired children when it comes to experiencing the joys of reading.
Tactile picture books make reading fun for blind kids
Agarwal was convinced that tactile books for visually impaired kids could transform their reading experience.Her first tactile picture book for blind children called Ranchhod Sees the World was based on the story of a visually impaired teacher, Ranchhod Soni. She composed the book with the help of an old braille typewriter and thread for the tactile element.
In 2018, Agarwal started visiting blind schools again to resume her research into making tactile picture books for blind children. “This time, thanks to the advancement in technology, we could explore 3D printing and eventually achieved a similar effect with embossing methods and materials, which were also cost-effective”, she says.
In 2019, she launched Beyond Braille with the aim of enabling visually impaired blind children feel the true shapes of objects in pictures, thereby improving learning speed, efficiency, and makes the process of learning stimulating and enjoyable.
It opens the gate of potential possibilities for the community to explore picture books like never before. This would improve learning, speed and efficiency, thereby improving quality of living. – Nupur Agarwal, Founder, Beyond Braille
It took months of intense research to arrive at the right design for a tactile picture book. This involved finding the best materials, Braille text and other methods. Agarwal first used thread as the primary material. “I took a year’s break when I worked as a designer and thought of ways to mass produce this. I found a 3D designer and printer who were willing to collaborate”. She also worked on the storytelling alongside, imagining it from a child’s perspective to enrich the experience of reading for blind children.
Advantages of tactile picture books
Compared to existing books, the tactile picture books in the Beyond Braille series have simplified tactile graphics making it easier for blind children to understand. There are also braille cues/indications to support pictures in the book to build associations quickly. The books are lightweight and durable, and there is the option of customising them in the size required. There’s a choice of integrating the text to make it a mainstream resource and promote inclusiveness.
With Beyond Braille, Agarwal hopes to enable a significant attitudinal change so that visually impaired children and adults are seen as equally abled, not disabled or distinct. “By making it a tactile picture book that will enable reading for visually impaired children, the idea is to instil the idea of equality from the start and the need to build an inclusive world”.
“The children were so fascinated when their fingertips felt the illustrations for the first time”, says Vidhi Tulsyan, a project volunteer. “This was my first time working with visually impaired kids and it was all very new and refreshing. We went to the blind school in Surat, interacted with kids there and they were really into the project. It feels great to be a part of this.”
To know about Beyond Braille, click here.
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