Communications News: RNIB petition demands action on book famine

The RNIB is stepping up its Right to Read campaign with a petition to the Government to establish a £1m fund to create more books in different formats.

The Right to Read Alliance of 17 organisations was launched in 2002, but has so far had little impact on Government policy.

RNIB campaigns officer Dave Mann has produced a report, Written Off, which claims that 3 million people are being denied the right to read in the UK because they have little or no access to books in large print, audio or braille. It states that 96 per cent of books are not published in these formats. "People with sight problems are able to read and want to read, but face a book famine which the Government has consistently failed to address," said Mann.

The report was sent to MPs and the Government on Monday. It calls for a task force to devise a national plan to tackle the problem.

Proposals to help the RNIB make the process of producing books in alternative formats more efficient have received backing from the publishing industry.

The charity now needs the money to fund the pilot scheme.

The charity has sent 4,000 posters to public libraries to generate public support for its online right to read charter, which calls for the £1m fund and the elimination of VAT from audio books.

Thousands of campaign bookmarks written in braille will also be sent to supporters. The petition will be presented to the Government on World Book Day on 3 March.

TV presenter Michael Palin has signed the charter and backed the campaign by recording his latest book, Himalaya, as an RNIB talking book one month before the printed version.

Palin said: "Everyone should have the right to read the same book at the same time and the same price."

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