NGO to open first library for the blind

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The city's first non-governmental library for the blind was established in Gulou, Xicheng district on Saturday, its organizers calling for public donations. 

Visually impared residents can now borrow books printed in Braille and audio materials recorded by volunteers at the Beijing Hongdandan Educational and Cultural Exchange Center free of charge. 

The new library, a 20 square-meter room equipped with seven listening stations, also provides "customized service," which borrowers can order a book to be recorded to CD, Zeng Xin, the spokeswoman of Hongdandan, the founder of the grassroots library, told the Global Times Sunday.

"We only have about 80 books in both Braille and audio, as well as are short of the classic literature that most are interested in," said Zeng, adding that she hopes to receive more donations from the public after the library officially opens after the Spring Festival.

Of the over 2,000 public libraries nationwide, only 100 have reading rooms for the blind, which include the National Library of China and Xicheng District Library.

"However many do not use the facilities because they are not properly equipped for the disabled, such as the entrances are hard to find, or they feel nervous and uncomfortable to sit in a place full of able-bodied people," Zeng explained.

Beijing Hongdandan Educational and Cultural Exchanging Center, established in 2003, is an NGO dedicated to helping those with disabilities to further participate in society, organizing many activities for the blind since its establishment.

"The only place I can get Braille books is from the China Braille Publishing House (CBPH) at Lugouqiao, in Fengtai district, which is quite far from downtown," blind Beijing resident Qi Guangdi, told the Global Times Sunday.

"[CBPH] doesn't update their book list often," Qi said, "I am a big fan of poetry, but all I get are books like Three Days to See [by Helen Keller], which I'm already fed up with."

Qi said the Braille selection at most public libraries is quite limited, and reading rooms for blind people are often unavailable.

She believes the new library is exactly what blind people need, and it should be promoted citywide.

"There is currently no training required of public library employees for dealing with the disabled people in Beijing," Yan Xiangdong, Sectary General of Library Society of China, told the Global Times Sunday, saying the government will carry out training after further research.

To make a monetary or book donation, please contact the Beijing Hongdandan Educational and Cultural Exchanging Center at 6406-4919.


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