Charity celebrates 80 years of Talking Books by making service entirely free for people with sight loss
RNIB hopes that more blind and partially sighted people will now take up reading books
Aberystwyth alumni and resident Aletea Sellers will enthusiastically welcome a special literary anniversary this week.
Sight loss charity RNIB is marking the 80th anniversary of its Talking books library, a collection of over 23,000 audio recordings of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, by announcing that the service will now be completely free to use for anyone with sight loss. Previously customers contributed an annual subscription of £50.
The service began in 1935 to help soldiers blinded in the war. Back then, each book had to be recorded on a set of up to ten long-playing records. Technology progressed to bulky tape-players, smaller cassette players, and on to today's pocket-size digital technology.
Now in Wales, RNIB also produces Welsh and English language books from their Cardiff studios. Aletea is one of 6,034 Talking Books customers in Wales, adults and children, and the hope now is that many more will now join up. There are 110,000 blind or partially sighted people in Wales.
Twenty-eight year old Aletea, who was born blind due to optic nerve hypoplasia, has long been an avid subscriber to the service. She said: “I’ve been using Talking Books for over ten years now. I love the huge range of genres they have – it’s not just geared at older people, there’s something for all ages and interests. I’ve always been blind so I’ve grown up knowing about the service.”
Aletea grew up in North Wales before attending University in Aberystwyth and remembers when Welsh language audio books started to be produced. “I’m a hoarder so I have loads of different books in both languages. I like the dramas, the psychological thrillers – there are full cast dramas available, books with multiple narrators too. I loved “The Wrong Boy” by Willy Russell – that was amazing. It’s a brilliant, fantastic service and I really appreciate it. I’m so pleased that the service has gone free now too so that more people can enjoy it.”
Aletea reads audio books on disk but readers can access the audio books on CD or USB or as a digital download, so that they can listen to them however they choose, whether at home or “on-the-go”. The Talking Books library is now the largest collection of its kind in Europe.
Emma Tucker, Transcription Centre Manager for RNIB in Wales, said: “At RNIB we feel passionately that reading can change the lives of blind and partially sighted people. We produce a minimum of 25 Welsh language Talking Books in Cardiff each year, and also produce some English titles.
“RNIB can attract high profile names to work in our professional studios as narrators and there is a sense of pride from all parties in producing content of the highest standard. We love enriching the lives of people with sight loss with our recordings.”
The RNIB Library also offers a range of fiction and non-fiction titles for adults and children in braille and giant print. To find out more about the RNIB Library or to sign up for Talking Books call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visitwww.rnib.org.uk .