High cost of braille books a dampener for TN students

CHENNAI: High cost of braille books which are at least 30 per cent higher than others, besides inadequate availability of textbooks for various subjects are posing a hurdle for visually challenged students in Tamil Nadu. M Vellaiyammal, a visually challenged student pursuing her bachelors degree in history at a city college, said the price of braille text-books was often prohibitive. “I request my classmates (who are not visually challenged) to read out from usual textbooks, record it and listen to it again and again to understand the subjects,” she told PTI.

Also, several subjects like comparative politics were just not available in braille editions, she said. She and other visually impaired students like Vigneshwari said the cost of braille books was at least 30 per cent higher than normal editions and it could go upto even 50-60 per cent than the usual.

Students like Vellaiyammal, inmates of a hostel here and studying at various institutions, including State-run Queen Mary’s College, are from socially and economically backward sections of society and find it extremely hard to buy such high priced books.

V Sankarlal, founder of a voluntary organisation, MRL Anbargal Nesa Karangal, that helps such students, said, “We welcome help, be it braille books or for other academic needs of visually impaired students.”

As per the 2011 census, there are 1,27,405 visually impaired persons in Tamil Nadu of the total disabled population of 11,79,963 persons.

Asked about the cost of braille books being on the higher side, programme officer of Indian Association for the Blind, R Tamilselvi agreed that it was a fact.

Printing a single page of a braille book with features like embossing to identify letters would consume about two to three pages used in a normal book, she said, adding the cost would obviously be on the higher side.

With the support of donors and patrons, the cost could be brought down, she said. “We are working to reduce the cost, we need support for it,” the IAB official said.

On inadequate availability of textbooks, she said, “It is a big grievance, with support we can address this issue.” It was possible to bring out braille editions under all titles, but the cost was an impediment, she said, adding it was possible with support.

About 500 titles covering a range of topics, including literature, history and books for competitive exams have already been published by IAB in braille.

On the cost of braille books, Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India Executive member R M Meyyappan said, “The publishing industry as a whole is facing a lot of issues, especially after implementation of the GST regime and demonetisation.”

However, the industry has not passed on the burden to consumers and had drastically cut down on profit margins, he said.

“In the ongoing book fair which commenced on January 10 and scheduled to end today 708 stalls featuring 15 lakh titles have been set up and out of which two stalls are for the visually impaired offering braille books,” he said.