In France, less than 8% of titles available in book shops are accessible to visually-impaired readers. Increasing this figure is a priority for BrailleNet as without full access to books, persons with disabilities do not have full access to education, work or culture.
Taking advantage of the opportunities brought about by digital technologies, BrailleNet develops tools and services that facilitate the production, distribution and reading of accessible digital books.
The BNFA digital Library
The BNFA is a digital library service for people with print disabilities. It is an initiative of BrailleNet in partnership with the Groupement des Intellectuels Aveugles ou Amblyopes (group of blind or partially sighted Intellectuals) and the Association pour le Bien des Aveugles et des Malvoyants (association for the blind and visually impaired). Today over 4500 subscribers have access to over 40,000 titles in audio, digital Braille and large print. Access to the library is free and available to those who are classified as disabled according France’s copyright exemption law.
Sharing accessible digital books
Many organisations, including charities, health services supporting special educational needs and university support staff, are involved in adapting books for the print-impaired. To encourage these organisations to share their output, which can prove very costly, BrailleNet put in place the Hélène platform in 2001. Today over 80 partners upload their accessible books and download accessible titles provided by partner organisations.
BrailleNet is accredited by the French Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Social Affairs and Persons with Disabilities to request source files from publishers under France’s copyright exemption law. BrailleNet uses these source files to produce accessible digital books in audio (synthetic speech), digital Braille and large print. BrailleNet is currently France’s primary producer of accessible books (around 5300 titles in 2017). New books are added each day to the Hélène platform and the BNFA digital library.
Accessible book production tools
As part of its Research & Development activities, BrailleNet is involved in building tools to support accessible book production, such as DAISY Pipeline software. These are developed in partnership with international organisations involved in the DAISY Consortium and are available under open licenses. As such they benefit a large community and serve millions of end users.