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What makes a book fully accessible?

The RNIB Read campaign is all about making books fully accessible to all blind and partially sighted people. To be considered fully accessible the book must be available in audio, braille and large print. This means that whichever way a blind or partially sighted person prefers to read, a book should be available to them. Some will prefer a talking book whilst others read using braille or giant print.

Standard print

When the majority of people think of a book, they will think of a physical book that has been printed in standard print and that can be bought in any book shop or online shop. This format, however, is not accessible to blind or partially sighted people and the other formats below are needed.


The growth in eBooks has had a considerably positive impact on blind and partially sighted people as they can be read using large print, electronic braille or text to speech (synthetic voice). In 2012, out of the top 1,000 titles, 84 per cent are now fully accessible – but as great as this is there is still much work to be done! This figure doesn’t take into account the thousands of books that have been produced that are still not available as an eBook.

RNIB works with the manufactures of e-readers to make sure that the technology is as easy to use as possible for blind or partially sighted people – remember you have to be able to actually use the functionality of the device to be able to access the book as text-to-speech or audio.

Also not everyone has access to this technology – for example some might not be able to afford an e-reader and some people might find the new technology too difficult and confusing. There will always be the need to have books available in other formats too.

Giant print books

When reading standard sized text becomes too difficult for a partially sighted person it might be that they start to use large or giant print to read.

RNIB’s National Library Service sends out giant print books which are in 24 point bold text. The books are A4-sized which means that each title will be in several volumes, something like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would be five volumes long!

Braille books

Braille is a great way for blind people to read and write. Braille is just the alphabet and numbers, designed to be read by fingers rather than eyes. It is a code based on six dots, arranged in two columns of three dots. By registering to RNIB Read you will have exclusive access to many braille activities for children including braille cards.

RNIB is the largest publisher of braille books in Europe and our National Library Service lent 83,200 volumes of braille and braille music last year.

Talking Books

The RNIB Talking Book Service brings back the joy of reading to thousands of blind and partially sighted people with professional actors reading the unabridged books. Many people prefer this than the synthetic speech computer generated voice of an eBook. RNIB National Library has the largest collection of unabridged audio CDs in the UK.

When a title is requested through our customer response centre, our computer system picks out the electronic file of the book and burns it onto a CD. The service is on-demand, which means there is no waiting for titles to be returned by other readers.

RNIB talking books are delivered straight to customers’ doors, free of charge, and they can borrow as many books as they like. In 2011-12 the National Library Service sent out 1.6 million talking books.

Sign up today!

Register for RNIB Read and the Reading Group Challenge to help us change the story for blind and partially sighted readers.

If you have any questions, please email us at or call us on 0845 345 0054 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).

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