Accessing Alternate Format Resources

RIDBC Alternative Format Publications Coordinator, Sonali Marathe

Reading is engaging, it stimulates imagination, and allows the reader to explore worlds outside their own. For children, it develops critical learning, language and communication skills. From restaurant menus to educational resources and classic literature, alternate formats increase equality, everyday independence, learning and career opportunities for people living with vision impairment.

RIDBC pioneered the production of computerised braille in Australia, and today, is a global leader in providing accessible resources, ensuring children and adults with vision impairment have the same access as their sighted peers. “For people who are blind or have low vision, receiving books and resources in a format that is accessible to them is fundamental,” said RIDBC Alternative Format Publications Coordinator, Sonali Marathe.

“It is vital to children being able to develop literacy, to school students being able to engage with the curriculum, to university students being able to study in a mainstream setting, to adults being able to thrive in the workplace."

The team, who use 2D and 3D printing technologies to create more than 150 books and tactile resources each year, also specialise in converting educational materials into these formats. “For high school students, 3D or 2D elements provide the critical extra information that might be lost in diagrams in text books,” said Sonali. This includes the creation of detailed tactile diagrams for HSC mathematics or science courses, which can take up to 2500 hours to transcribe and print.

The team also create a wealth of resource for preschool and primary school children, bringing books to life with 3D and 2D models.

“For a story about sun safety featuring a hippopotamus, we might print a 3D model of a hippo sitting on a sun lounge – and then another with that same hippo with a rough face or peeling skin." Sonali explained.  "So then a child who is blind or has a level of vision impairment has the opportunity to interact with those models and feel the changes in the skin from the sunburn.”

To increase the production of these vital educational resources, RIDBC signed an agreement with global publisher of education resources, Pearson, who will give the team early access to the digital files, making the conversion process simpler, and ultimately, less costly. “This commitment from Pearson ensures more children with vision loss have the ability to enjoy a greater variety of books, sooner" Sonali enthused.

The team also produce commercial materials for businesses who want to provide the same experience to all customers or employees. "This could include menus, newsletters, AGM documents, manuals, conference documents, certificates, or greeting cards, to name a few" said Sonali.  "We can really create anything an individual, business, community group or schools needs to provide equal access to materials."

The highly experienced team at RIDBC Alternative Format Publications offers a range of services: early learning supports, educational supports, tertiary materials, commercial materials, and individualised support for NDIS clients.

For more information about RIDBC Alternative Format Publications, or to purchase alternative format resources, contact 02 9872 0316 or enquiries.visioned@ridbc.org.au.