On the occasion of the 2012 International Book Fair in Havana, Handicap International co-organized an initiative geared toward optimizing the access of blind persons to literature and reading in general.
A not-to-be-missed event for all book aficionados, the Cuban Book Fair had not, until now, established projects especially for persons touched by blindness. This year, however, the idea was born to create a platform to attract this public.
Under the auspices of ANCI (the National Association for Blind Persons) and in cooperation with several Cuban governmental organs, the Belgian and Cuban embassies, Handicap International set up a stand on the premises of this event. « Firstly, we want to offer the blind the opportunity to acquire braille books and audio-CDs», explains Irene Manterola, Director of Programs at Handicap International Cuba. « Secondly, we want the stand to be easily accessible for the blind. The objective is also to establish a permanent platform to guarantee these individuals’ access to reading. »
« It is in fact a dream, which has become a reality for the members of ANCI and visually impaired persons in general, as there was a great need for this type of initiative. The stand at the fair was decorated with an image of two hands reading a braille text and the phrase ‘The world at your fingertips’, as the fruits of our culture need to be accessible for each and every one of us. »
The bulk of the work has been to publish a larger number of braille books than published by the association in the previous years. The selection of works includes literary classics by writers such as García Márquez and Boccaccio but also titles by blind writers. We quote Gilda Guimeras, one of the blind writers, to highlight the role that Handicap International and its objectives play in this project: « This initiative is important as it allows handicapped persons to improve their integration into society [...] The possibility to access of braille books is marvelous as I was an avid reader at the time when my vision allowed me to do so. »
This project at the International Book Fair is an example of what Handicap International would like to achieve through its engagement in Cuba. Present on the island since 1998, the organization participated in many important projects essential for the development and well-being of handicapped persons (manufacturing of prosthetics, school inclusion projects rehabilitation, etc.) By diversifying the nature of its projects, Handicap International hopes to contribute to improving the lives of handicapped persons.