JCB Literature Foundation makes award-winning titles accessible for visually-impaired

In a groundbreaking initiative to make current award-worthy fiction titles available for the visually-impaired, the JCB Literature Foundation has joined hands with Sugamaya Pustakalya, India’s first and largest collection of accessible books, to make books that were shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature available as eBooks for free download by the visually-impaired community.

14 Apr 2021 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The JCB Literature Foundation, which runs the JCB Prize for Literature, a Rs 25-lakh award presented each year to a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author, launched the initiative in 2020 to make books shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature more accessible to the visually-impaired.

According to the Foundation, the initiative is an extension of the foundation’s core objective to increase the readership of Indian books within India by making literature more accessible and inclusive, particularly among vulnerable communities and groups across the country.

Till now, the shortlisted books of 2019 and 2020 have been converted to digitally accessible.

For the first time, these shortlisted books will be accessible to those with a wide spectrum of visual impairment. Moreover, the eBooks will be made available to international libraries for visually-impaired communities in other countries through Sugamaya Pustakalya.

The Sugamaya Pustakalya is run by Delhi-based Saksham Trust, established in 2003 under the leadership of Dipendra Manocha and Rummi K Seth.

The Trust has played a key role in empowering persons with blindness through a combination of advocacy and by acting as a service provider in the field of rehabilitation, education, training and assistive technology and accessible content.

In 2006, the organisation established a school for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities in Noida and has since expanded its presence in India through its branch offices in Himachal Pradesh and Jalandhar in 2011 and 2012 respectively. 

One of Saksham’s key areas of work is making print accessible for persons with print disabilities.For this,the organisation works on converting existing content into accessible format and making new contents born accessible. Textbooks and reference materials of higher education courses, where maximum visually-impaired children are enrolled, are converted to accessible ePub format, daisy format or braille format and uploaded to the national online library called Sugamaya Pustakalaya.

For making books accessible, Saksham has tirelessly worked with publishers of state board textbooks and trained them for creating their master files in Unicode format so that it can be used easily by blind students for reading using screen reading software. It has worked with publishers from states like Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal in this regard. The organisation is also working with NCERT in converting all their source files into Unicode font InDesign files so that the contents become accessible for print-disabled students.