Walking around the theme pavilion at the New Delhi World Book Fair, one can spot a range of aides for the visually impaired — Braille geometry sets, chess boards, a set of playing cards, but oddly enough, not many books.
The visible shortage of literature for people with disability at the fair themed, “Books for Readers with
Special Needs”, can be attributed to the dearth of publishers working in the sector, said one of the officials from National Book Trust (NBT).
“When we started working on this theme, we realised there was very little work done in this sector by publishers, and that remains our main aim -- to sensitise the publishing fraternity to address this need,” Neera Jain, chief editor and joint director, NBT, said.
Disappointment over the lack of books for individuals with special needs was also expressed by Narayani Kaushik, a hearing-impaired student of psychology, who had been looking forward to the fair, particularly because of its theme this year.
She hoped to find material on disabilities beyond physical ones to make herself more aware.
“I like that they have done extensive work for blind people, but I could not find a single book on sign language, or books on different forms of mental disorders, that would have been helpful,” Kaushik told PTI.
To make up for the missing literature to a certain extent, NBT invited Microsoft, which has developed reading-aides for differently-abled people.
The company exhibited technologies like ‘Eye Control’ for people with mobility disorders, translator applications for speech and hearing impaired people, and learning tools for people living with mental disorders.
“We also intend to sensitise more and more people about the issues, so they can go out and treat people living with disabilities as themselves,” Jain told PTI. Kaushik said it would have felt more welcoming had there been more people living with disabilities in the managing staff.
“It is good that there are sign interpreters assigned here, but I or anyone else would feel more comfortable to approach the management if there were more people with disabilities employed,” she said. While this year’s theme was appreciated by visitors like her, she said it was difficult to overlook the miniscule footfall the theme pavilion received.
Although the response so far has been great, Sandeep Garg of All India Confederation for the Blind (AICB) said that the crowd coming in at their stall was far less than others.
“It’s not like we are not getting visitors, but look at the crowd next door. There is a staggering difference. I agree that the population of general public is more than that of disabled people, but it would have been great if more people come to visit,” Garg said.
As part of the theme, the book fair also featured special programmes for and by differently-abled people including a film festival, dance performances by autistic children, and a kavi sammelan by blind people. “We believe more people should receive the message that disability is by no means a barrier and they can still do great things in life,” Jain said. The fair came to a close on Sunday.