Vision Australia highlights print access as part of National Simultaneous Storytime

23 May 2019

Vision Australia has highlighted the multiple ways children who live with blindness or low vision or any other print disability are able to access written material as part of a national literacy initiative.

National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) is an annual Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) event, where a particular children’s book is read at the same time in libraries and schools across Australia.

This year, “Alpacas with Maracas” was the chosen NSS book and the Vision Australia Library, Vision Australia Radio and front line staff ensured it was accessible to all.

Vision Australia Library joined NSS through the power of radio. Voiced by Vision Australia staff, a special recording of “Alpacas with Maracas” was broadcast across the Vision Australia Radio network and allowed anybody with a radio or internet connection to take part.

The Vision Australia Library also produced a braille version of the book for its collection, meaning children who are blind or have low vision will be able to continue to enjoy the alpacas and their maracas.

In Wollongong, Vision Australia occupational therapist Hannah Sutherland took part in a community event to highlight to a large number of people the services the Vision Australia Library provides and the importance of print accessibility.

Hannah’s display included Feelix Kits from the Vision Australia Library, a range of different braille equipment and a tactile and interactive “Alpacas with Maracas” activity.

“A lot of the time events around books and literacy focus on how sighted children read and we wanted to give people an insight into the ways children with a print disability are able to take part,” Hannah said.

“Braille is perhaps the method that most people know of, but for many that knowledge probably doesn’t go beyond that it’s a series of bumps on a page. With a Perkins brailler and braille labeller, we were able to give people a bit more of an idea about how braille is made and how those bumps convey information,” she said.

A young boy plays with a toy cow from a VA Library Feelix kit

“Children’s books often use a lot of drawings and other imagery to tell their story and if you don’t know what an alpaca or a maraca looks and feels like, it can be hard to follow along.

“The Feelix kits and our tactile display let kids use other senses like touch to get an understanding of what’s happening on the pages and allows them to participate alongside their sighted peers.”

VA OT Hannah kneels down as a young boy explores a tactile mat from a Feelix kit

Interested in the Vision Australia Library? Find out more about the free service and how you can become a member here