The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has made Talking Books free for all blind and partially sighted people to access from today (10th November).
The charity made the announcement on the 80th anniversary of Talking Books, the service that provides 4,000 audio books every day to people with sight loss. Anyone who is registered as blind or partially sighted can borrow up to six Talking Books at any time, completely free-of-charge. Previously, customers contributed an annual subscription of £50.
The Talking Books service was launched in 1935 to help soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War and were struggling to learn braille. The National Institute for the Blind (now RNIB) and St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) joined forces to create the Sound Recording Committee which originally recorded Talking Books onto records to be played on gramophones.
Almost 30,000 blind and partially sighted adults and children use Talking Books and the RNIB library is the largest of its kind in Europe, the organisation has said.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, HarperCollins has become the first publisher to commit to delivering every new title to the RNIB library on the date of general publication; providing equal and immediate access to current bestsellers for blind and partially sighted readers.
Neil Heslop, director of RNIB Solutions, said: “At RNIB we feel passionately that reading can change the lives of blind and partially sighted people. After losing my own sight at a young age, I personally know how important the connection to the written word is, both for education and leisure.
“I am delighted that HarperCollins has chosen to support RNIB Talking Books and help improve accessibility through the library, we hope that other publishers will follow their lead. We’re committed to providing a world-class service which makes a huge difference to many people.”
Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins c.e.o., added: “At HarperCollins we are committed to ensuring that everyone in the UK can access all our books in the format of their choice on the moment of publication. As the publisher of the first ever ‘Talking Book’ it is fitting that we should extend our support and work in partnership with RNIB Talking Books to increase accessibility on its 80th anniversary and beyond.”