Anusha Singh is helping people with visual impairments to experience the joy of books
“I wanted to give those who can’t see the ability to experience books at the tips of their fingers, and build an image of an object in their mind,” says Bangalore student Anusha Singh. While studying for her Diploma Programme (DP), she found a way to share her love of reading with children with visual impairments by creating tactile books and games and donating them to schools. This became her creativity, activity, service (CAS) project. Along the way, she spent hours “scavenging the aisles of department stores and art shops” for materials she could use in the books to convey everything from abstract concepts to “the feel of a butterfly, or a grapevine”.
The Greenwood High International School alumna, who will head to the University of Southern California this autumn to study economics and mathematics, was introduced to tactile books at GiftAbled, a social enterprise which strives to create an ecosystem of like-minded individuals to collectively build an inclusive society. At GiftAbled, she took a course in Braille and sign language.
“There are 1.4 million blind children in the world, two-thirds of them in developing nations such as India,” she says. “Many of us take for granted our ability to read books for education and enjoyment. But what happens when our most important sense is taken away from us to enjoy these books? For this reason, I wanted to give those who can’t see the ability to experience books at the tips of their fingers.
“Tactile books use touch to help people with visual impairments to explore and perceive their environment, using various materials and textures to define what we see around us.”
As part of her Build A Vision project, Anusha created 12 games and 30 books that convey concepts such as numbers and patterns, objects such as kitchen utensils and other everyday items, and experiences relating to nature and the time of year. “I wanted to imprint Braille on each of the pages of all books and games.”
Anusha gave her entire library to GiftAbled to distribute to schools in Karnataka in India. The money she received from donors via her Build A Vision website also went to GiftAbled, to further their production of tactile items.
Her project “required hours of research”, Anusha says. “When I was interning in the US at a financial technology company in the San Francisco Bay area, I met with organizations including LightHouse For the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Public Library for the Blind and Print Disabled to learn about what they were doing. I also made a habit of asking for blind maps or tools for the impaired wherever I went, from IKEA to museums.”
During the creation process, she says, “I realized how many of Build A Vision’s elements correspond to a CAS project. I would occasionally reflect on my experiences to keep track of my growth and progress. There were many hardships along the way, but it just made the books more valuable. Patience is one of the most crucial elements I learned in the trial-and-error process.”
“Tactile opened my eyes to the perspective of someone who hadn’t seen what I had,” Anusha says. “I can see how far technology has advanced, but I can also see how many it has left behind. Many visually impaired assistance groups lack access to even a basic Braille typewriter. Tactile is just a baby step, but to me it is an effort to bridge the gap.”
This article is part of a series of stories from IB World magazine that bring to life the wonderful initiatives undertaken by IB students and educators from around the globe. Follow these stories on Twitter @IBorganization #IBcommunitystories. Share your great stories and experiences: email firstname.lastname@example.org