Library for the blind

2008-10-23 00:00

It is exactly 50 years since Tape Aids for the Blind began offering its free service to blind and print-handicapped South Africans.

In 1958, a young railways clerk, Jannie Venter, visited a friend in hospital. The friend was completely immobilised and could only lie motionless in his hospital bed. Venter had a flash of inspiration. He decided to read a book and tape it for his friend.

So successful was Venter’s idea that it prompted him to contact Professor Ken MacIntyre, at that time the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and head of the Department of Political History at the University of Natal, who was himself blind. What began as the dream of these two pioneers who saw the possibility of making information accessible to blind people, culminated in the launch of Tape Aids for the Blind.

Today this free library service is a living force for education and culture, providing for the reading needs of blind and print-handicapped South Africans in the language of their choice. With its head office in Durban and branches countrywide, Tape Aids for the Blind is one of the largest information retrieval centres in the southern hemisphere and is an internationally respected organisation.

Registered with the Department of Social Development, Tape Aids for the Blind receives no state subsidy and depends entirely on public support for its continued existence.

Books, whatever their category, remain closed for millions around the world who are blind or partially sighted. (In South Africa some four million people are blind or visually impaired.) It is estimated that 95% of books never appear in anything but conventional print.

Enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is the belief that “freedom, prosperity, and the development of society and all individuals are fundamental human values. Constructive participation and the development of democracy begin with satisfactory education as well as free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information.”

The Tape Aids for the Blind library subscribes to this belief, providing a gateway to knowledge and information. Staff at Tape Aids believe that nothing should stand in the way of sharing the knowledge and information found in books. Books must therefore be available to everyone, both in numbers and format. The task of transferring all that is available to sighted people is indeed formidable and its implementation is a lifetime commitment for Tape Aids for the Blind. Tape Aids is committed to all 11language groups and to servicing the unmet needs of the blind and partially sighted in South Africa.

In 27 studios nationwide Tape Aids’ volunteers dedicate their time and talents to provide a diversity of reading material on audiotape, to enable blind and print-handicapped library members to enjoy the literature and information that is so easily accessible to sighted people. (Copyright permission is applied for in all cases.)

The comprehensive and balanced collection of more than 32 000 titles in the main circulation library in Durban is continually being added to and is enhanced by a range of recorded magazines and newspapers.

On a daily basis some 2 000 books are mailed to members living in South Africa and beyond our borders. In the past year, Tape Aids for the Blind provided some 10,72 million free listening hours to thousands of sight-impaired library members.

As part of its outreach campaign for the provision of taped books, Tape Aids for the Blind has a mini-library programme where a collection of audio books is made available to people in homes for the aged, hospitals, hospices and schools for the mentally and physically challenged.

In addition, the Tape Aids Continuing Education programme provides an innovative stimulus to all its members engaged in study. As part of its free service, textbooks, tutorials, prescribed works and all academic material required by blind and print-handicapped students is provided in audio form.

As Tape Aids for the Blind marks its 50th anniversary year it would like to express appreciation to all volunteers and donors, whose caring, commitment and financial support have made possible its five decades of service.

Tape Aids for the Blind remains committed to answering the challenges to ensure that blind and print-handicapped people are able to enjoy equal access to information.

tape aids for the blind

Pauline Hoffman

National Director

Tape Aids for the Blind

P O Box 47016

Greyville, 4023

Phone: 031 309 4800

Fax: 031 309 1105

E-mail: director@tape

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