Why will visually impaired teenagers not read a new book about Harry Potter?
Presentation of Ukrainian translation of a new book about Harry Potter is held today, on September 30. However, I have been leaving my office for another week in a row late at night, barely holding back tears. Ukrainian visually impaired teenagers and children will not be able to read this amazing book about the power of goodness and valuableness of every person, unfortunately, in a fictional world.
Having visual impairments, I have been growing up as all other children, though it cost me huge efforts. I did not have real friends in my childhood so the books were may only survival…
It was the real happiness for me to come to a library and choose the books I like. And be with them always.
It is because I have been reading much, I have managed to overcome my complexes, traumas and fears and try to join living in the society that was the hardest thing for me.
It happened so that having worked in various areas, I am involved in what I see my destination – the protection of the rights of people with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired people.
I do know the real problems that are and have a clear vision of how and what to change in Ukraine for each person to have a chance to feel worthy to live a full life. To this end, I and the people from the organization where I have been working for more than ten years are trying to influence public policy, conducting awareness-raising campaigns and activities and help those who need this, implementing social projects and initiatives. The aim of our work is to show that disability does not limit a person. Barriers are imperfect laws, their non-observance, negative stereotypes, ignorance and other things.
Visually impaired people, whose rights I have been trying to protect for so many years, are able to read books thanks to the unique invention – a tactile writing system invented by Louis Braille in the 19th century.
Various combinations of convex points on special heavy paper display letters, words, sentences that can be read by touch. It is used in different areas of life – to designate the necessary things, objects, make visual information available, for example, maps and charts, business cards, menus in cafes, and drug information.
This allows people with visual impairments to develop, understand the world, to live a full life.
Ukraine lacks such tactile books very badly. Such books, even textbooks for boarding schools, have not been printed in recent years. I regret that nobody taught me to read Braille in my childhood, which could really facilitate my school and university years.
Trying to improve the situation, some relevant NGOs, activists, philanthropists occasionally raise funds to publish one or more books. State funding is extremely rare thing. That’s all.
Being aware of all these problems, I decided six months ago to try to make a difference and support the initiative of my colleagues – we announced a fundraising campaign to set up a studio to print Braille books. First, we need to buy equipment – a powerful modern printer worth USD 16,000.
We are willing to work for free, we believe that will be able to agree on the premises and other expenses. We realized it was a significant sum of money, so in order to collect it we held charitable actions, conducted numerous master classes, teaching everyone Braille, signing special cards.
However, suddenly I just stopped believing in success. Perhaps, it is my big mistake, as a public activist, but I fully admit my own failure, the understanding of which came entirely from the other side.
The most famous book of this year, long-awaited book about Harry Potter became for me the personification of what I failed to do. In order to print the first Braille JK Rowling’s bestsellers in Ukrainian, our organization organized charity events back in 2009. Funds were collected, four parts were printed.
This year, observing the world excitement and anticipation of the presentation of the Ukrainian translation, the visually impaired teenagers, parents, librarians have started to ask us: “Will the new Braille book appear?”
And then the magic began – I started to believe that I would manage to implement the thing I spoke about at numerous workshops and conferences, the thing which is set forth in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and many acts of national legislation. People with disabilities have the right to equal access to information in accessible formats. Braille is such format for the visually impaired people.
Thus, faith gives miracle! At the Forum of Publishers in Lviv I managed to discuss this issue with publisher Ivan Malkovych. He agreed that visually impaired people also needed to read Harry Potter and we had agreed to meet in Kyiv. As always, to raise funds was the only problem.
However, I knew that there were changes, a socially responsible business, many people expressing support and understanding.
Having returned to Kyiv, I immediately began to communicate with them, shared joy and offered to join the initiative to print a book.
Then I wrote more than 100 emails and Facebook messages to businesses, donors, partners, and publishers, philanthropists – I received few answers and no funds.
The last straw was when Malkovych said that the presentation should be separate – for ordinary people and the visually impaired ones.
Now I do not know what the outcome of this story will be, I do not know what I will do next, but know that the visually impaired people are not expected to come on September 30 to a gala presentation of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” in the Ukrainian language, as well as at hundreds of other presentations of various books. And I know that I am very ashamed to tell visually impaired children, adolescents or adults that, unfortunately, we do not know how long they will be able to read this amazing book about the power of goodness and valuableness of every person, unfortunately, in the fictional world.
The book, which instead of numbers and lines of analyzed information, has become a real evidence of implementation of national policies and legislation, loud statements about the rights of people with disabilities in Ukraine and the willingness to fight for them together …
Yulia Sachuk, Vice President of NGO “Successful Action Generation”, expert of the Coalition for Combating Discrimination in Ukraine
Editorial note: Setting up of a Braille printing studio will become possible only with the support and assistance of everyone. Account details at Oshchadbank: Recipient – NGO “Successful Action Generation”, EDRPOU code 34935692, current account: 26007300943056 at JSC Oshchadbank branch in Kyiv and Kyiv region, MFO code 322669, bank’s EDRPOU code 09322277.
Contact person – Yulia Sachuk: firstname.lastname@example.org