Making Reading Accessible: #CustomEyes #GuideDogs @guidedogs

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As an avid reader, well an obsessive reader really, I think my worst nightmare would be not being able to pick up some of my favourite books and read! Reading is something that takes us places we have never been, teaches us about the world around us and gives us the confidence to use language and words and opens up a whole new world to us. For many people with a visual impairment this is not as easy as it seems and for young people in particular, how do we make reading and the love of books available to them. Well, here is a service that does just that! #CustomEyes. CustomEyes is a service run by Guide Dogs and they produce tailor-made large print books for children and young people.

When I met Gordon Smith, who works for Guide Dogs, he told me all about this service and I thought, you know, more people, actually everybody needs to know about this service and I was delighted when he agreed to take part in a short Q&A about the service for the blog!

 

Welcome along to Chapterinmyife. I was fascinated to hear about the Custom Eyes service run by Guide Dogs and being an obsessional reader, I am always happy to support any initiative that makes reading accessible to all.

  1. Can you tell me a little bit more about Custom Eyes?

CustomEyes is a membership service provided to enable Children and Young People (up to 25 yrs) with vision impairments or dyslexia to enjoy books like everyone else.

We produce leisure or educational titles with each book being tailored to each child’s individual needs, customising features such as:

  • Font and size
  • Spacing
  • Paper colour
  • Binding style

It is not a commercial service. As stated above, membership is free, and we only charge the RRP for any book regardless of how many volumes a large print version may run to. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix runs to 28 volumes when printed at 48pt!

This is a unique service in the UK, but it’s not widely known.

  1. Who is the service aimed at? 

Children and young people up to the age of 25 with a vision impairment or dyslexia.

  1. So how exactly do you make the books accessible? 

We have two ways of producing the books. Either the publisher releases the InDesign files to us and we create the new book from those or we have a license to transcribe from any copy and produce ourselves.

  1. How many titles do you currently have?

We currently have over 4,000 titles which include picture books, fiction, non-fiction, Oxford Reading Tree, GCSE and A Level English texts and textbooks, plus revision guides for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.

  1. Do you work alongside publishers with this initiative?

We have a selection of publishers that we work alongside; however, we’re always looking to find more!

  1. Where do you get your funding from?

We receive our funding from the donations made to Guide Dogs and from CustomEyes specific fundraisers.

  1. How can the public support the service?

There are a range of ways that the public can support CustomEyes; either through donating to Guide Dogs, keeping an eye open for CustomEyes fundraisers throughout the year or something as simple as spreading the word about CustomEyes in person, or online!

  1. How do people access the service?

The service is exclusively available to:

  • children or young people aged 25 or under with a visual impairment/dyslexia or their parent/guardian or carer
  • services working with children and young people who are partially sighted, deaf-blind, or blind

They can join by filling our online membership application (which is completely free); they can then browse the catalogue and send us an order form for their chosen titles.

Custom Eyes

  1. What has feedback from the people who use the service been like?

Superb! However, we’ll let them tell you themselves:

“Thanks so much for all the help you and your team have given us at Medina. The boys who use these books have had their lives changed by being able to access the same literature as their peers!”

Medina College

“We received all the other books yesterday and Jake is delighted with them. Thank you for all you and your team do to help children like Jake read.”

Parent

“The books arrived yesterday, they are fantastic! The child looked at them after lunch and his face was a picture we had to stop him from reading them all, he was so excited. Such an amazing service.”

Rosemellin School

  1. Where do we find out more?

You can find out more about our CustomEyes service on our webpage at

bit.ly/CustomEyesBooks

Email customeyes@guidedogs.org.uk

Phone 0118 983 8275

 

Thank you so much for all that brilliant information and for taking part in the Q&A.

WOW! Now I don’t know about everyone else but I am well impressed with this service! And as a keen book reviewer I was delighted to watch some of the video reviews the young people gave of the books they had read using Custom Eyes. Go on to the website and have a look, seriously the passion and enthusiasm these young folk show for the love of reading is immense and is all the proof that we need that this is an outstanding and valuable service.

If you are thinking of doing some fundraising, why not consider fundraising for this project? Publishers, why not give these guys a call and see how you can hook up and make the love of books even more accessible to all!

How you can help Guide Dogs/Fundraising

Guide Dogs Website

Custom Eyes

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