|Children at Đồng Nai Province School for Students with Disabilities enjoy reading. — Photo courtesy of HCM City General Sciences Library|
HCM CITY — Despite suffering from 90 per cent visual impairment, 37-year-old Trương Phước Khải of Hậu Giang Province in the Mekong Delta has a passion for making books.
After a severe childhood disease took away his ability to see, Khải started learning Braille at home at age 15. He continued learning in HCM City, eventually graduating from the University of Social Science and Humanities there. Now, Khải works at the city’s Library of General Sciences, crafting books for visually impaired readers and processing audio books.
“Acquiring new knowledge used to be a real challenge for me because not every book is accessible for people without good vision,” Khải said. “I used to record my friends reading textbooks and listen to the recordings at home. I decided to purse a book-making career to help visually impaired students gain access to learning materials.”
Composing books is not an easy profession, even with perfect vision. Khải’s first challenge was learning to operate a Braille typewriter. Now, he types quickly and only spends 15 minutes on each page.
Khải edits audio books on a computer. Thanks to accessibility tools such as screen readers, he can trim and mix recordings of professionals who volunteer their time.
“The biggest challenge at the moment is having to work harder than normal people to make up for my shortcomings,” he said.
Nguyễn Cao Hoàng, 33, from Đồng Nai Province is another visually impaired worker at the library. After graduating from Tôn Đức Thắng University, he took charge of transcribing texts into Braille.
“Working with machines is not a big deal to me, but I sometimes need to use a magnifier to see clearly,” Hoàng said. “I find it annoying that Braille printers are so loud.”
Hoàng also follows the library’s bookmobile, serving visually impaired students.
“The students remember every one of us,” he said. “When someone is missing, they hold hands of the others and ask about them. It is such a warm feeling.”
Nguyễn Thị Thu Hà, 61, is a library volunteer responsible for recording audio books. Among various genres the library offers, she is interested in sex education documents for girls.
“It is a pity for visually impaired girls not to be properly educated about sex,” Hà said. “I hope my books can help them gain essential knowledge.”
Library officer Hồng Thị Kim Vy told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper the bookmobile was first launched in 2007.
Each internet-connected bookmobile is equipped with a Braille printer, Braille books, handheld media players and audio books.
The initiative is sponsored by a US$66,000 investment from Netherlands-based Force Foundation and South Africa’s Standard Bank.
Each year, they visit schools and hold open houses for visually impaired students in HCM City and the neighbouring provinces of Tây Ninh, Bến Tre and Trà Vinh to offer readers better access to books and encourage their love of learning. — VNS