Amar Ekushey Book Fair has been the one stop solution for readers in the country since its inception in 1972. Book-lovers from all over Bangladesh have been able to satiate their bookish cravings, but those who are visually impaired, have been deprived.
This all changed in 2009 with establishment of Sporsho, a Braille book publication house located within the Bangla Academy premises.
Nazia Jabeen, founder and publisher of Sporsho, began working on a Braille book “Chharar Tale Monta Dole” in 2009. When her book was published and released at the Ekushey Book Fair, she realised the demand for Braille books was astounding and that there was a desperate need for a full-fledged Braille publishing house.
Though Sporsho has published a total of 45 books till date, they have only been a part of the Ekushey Book Fair since 2011.
Instead of selling their books at the fair, Sporsho gives books away for free. When people come to their stall seeking information about Braille books, they request the visually impaired people to register with them.
Later, they host an event where they give away Braille books to the registered people for free. Last year, they gave out around 100 books. This year, their book giveaway will be held on the evening of February 23 at Shamshur Rahman Hall on the Bangla Academy premises.
Though two audio books are also available at their stall, Nazia feels that it is not the most effective method of reading for the visually impaired, and has therefore been working to spread awareness among people about the free Braille book distribution programme.
Shohel Ahmed, a volunteer at the Sporsho stall, said a large number of people visit their stall every day in order to learn about Braille books and how their families, friends or students can make use of it in their academic endeavours.
Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development (Berdo), an organisation which works to raise awareness of visual disabilities and support visually impaired people to lead a normal, fulfilled life, also have a stall at the book fair.
“Berdo has been working toward the education, job placement, recreation, health care and training and rehabilitation of visually impaired people since 1991,” said Md Uzzal Hossain, programme assistant at Berdo.
“To help visually impaired people even more, we need some focused initiatives like a specialised Braille library, Braille post cards, bank and ATM cards, museums and Braille inscribed plaques in government and non-government institutions and establishments,” Nazia stated.
Dr Jalal Ahmed, member secretary of the fair organizing committee, said though this year only these two stalls have been set up, if more organisations geared toward providing books for physically or visually impaired people apply, the committee will allocate more space for them next year.