• Kay Morgan-Gurr

Accessible Reading

Child with pile of books looking sad

I posted an update on Facebook late last night, all about not being able to get three books I want to ‘read’. I was frustrated that I couldn't get them in any accessible formats. And sadly - I let it spill out on social media...

But it’s not just me with this problem. Children, youth and children/youth leaders are struggling to find the resources they need in a format that works for them. These are the people I work with and care about.

I’m doing a lot of work surrounding the whole issue of spirituality in children with additional needs, and I’m convinced accessible materials would be a huge help in this area.

I’ll use myself as an initial example, to show you don't have to be registered blind to have a problem.

Some friends have helpfully tried to suggest solutions (which I appreciate), but most would either infringe copyright, or wouldn't work with my particular eye problem. I have multi directional nystagmus with added mechanical issues with how my eyes work. I can see….but I can't see to read, and the actual act of reading is painful and nauseating. I can glance at a sentence or two, look away and then read another sentence. I can get around this by enlarging my font to 24pt. But more than one chapter at a time would still be an issue.

Having a pdf from hard copy means I have to slide it from side to side which reacts with nystagmus - cue nausea. Having a pdf from a text file means I can use my ‘xodo’ pdf app to re-flow text into 24pt. Getting it to read to me from this app is fiddly.

Kindle can do this AND read text to me. Even better would be ‘Audible’ or similar. But I can't get my favourite UK authors on Audible - because publishers in the UK can't afford to do audible formats.

But as I said - It’s not just me having this problem:

It saddens me that children who struggle with reading, for what ever reason (sight, dyslexia or similar), do not have access to the same Bible resources as their peers.

Let’s take children aged 8-11 as an example, and look at the amount of Bible reading notes out there for them. Very few are available in ebook/kindle versions. None are available as an audible resource….unless you have the metal Mickey voice of the Kindle on the few Kindle resources that are available. How many 11 year olds would cope with that? Especially those who also have auditory dyslexia - where a real voice is slightly easier. Kindle do ‘Immersive Reading’ - a real voice and text side by side, making the whole reading experience slightly easier for those with Dyslexia and similar conditions - but the book needs to be available on Audible for this to work. And that is expensive. (Although the audio book is cheaper if you already have the Kindle book).

It also saddens me that there is little available for children’s workers who struggle with reading and want to expand on their learning - whether Biblical understanding or theology and learning surrounding children’s work.

There’s been much talk recently about Biblical literacy in children’s workers, and I can see some of the reasons why. Many of the children’s workers I know have dyslexia and struggle with reading stuff that would help them. Many can cope with ‘some’ reading using an ebook, but not a lot. Most would prefer having these books read to them.

They can't afford an Audible Subscription (I’m fortunate - I get mine through using a benefit designed for paying extra expenses incurred due to disability).

Even if they could afford Audible, what is available on there is probably not what they need - and certainly not the wealth of stuff available to their co-workers who can read a book.

I have pointed some children’s workers to various podcasts and recordings, but aside from good general Bible resources, very little is available as theology and ideas surrounding children’s work (‘Sticky Faith’ is the only book I have found on children’s work in an audio version).

Every conference I go to, books are recommended, or a hard copy ‘free book’ is given to you - Not much good if you can't read it or you miss out on the freebee because you then have to buy the kindle version (If it’s available). It’s the same at children/youth work conferences.

I’m talking with friends at the moment to see what can be done.

Cost is the biggest issue. Then there’s getting the copyright to record the books, then finding good readers and the time to record.

I’m hoping we can change this problem and make accessible and affordable Christian resources available in all formats.

It’s a big dream - but our kids, youth, and those who work with them need it.