Making a difference to readers with disabilities

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Sandown Library Reading Group is a partnership between the local community centre and Horley Library that caters for people over the age of fifty who present with a variety of disabilities, ranging from visual impairment to dementia. The group helps people acquire the skills needed to live with all sorts of disabilities. It has even helped people leave their homes for the first time in ten years.

Despite the practical difficulties its members face, the group is determined to keep a window open on the world of culture for its members and their list of activities is impressive. Over they years they have organised World Book Night activities, attended author talks at libraries, visited a nearby book festival, arranged coach holidays to Stratford and the Cotswolds, supported each other on hospital visits, celebrated birthdays and organised funerals.

Using specialist formats

The group has a blind leader and two members with age-related macular degeneration. They make use of books in standard text, large print and on audio and although specialist formats are very expensive in a time of cuts they have been very lucky to have support from Calibre, a charity which provides audio recordings for people who cannot read text because of sight or other issues such as dyslexia. The RNIB Talking Books Service and the RNIB Transcription Service at Ivybridge have also helped.

The books

Horley librarians have been especially helpful over the years in finding the books that members want to read, or ordering them from other libraries. Writers who have come under the group’s close scrutiny include Kate Mosse, Helen Dunmore, Eowyn Ivey and Rachel Billington but the author who has caused the most heated discussion is James Patterson – people either love or hate the extreme violence in his books.

Making a difference

There are no miracles in Sandown Library Reading Group but there have been some real triumphs and in many ways the group has helped revolutionise the lives of some of its members. Perhaps the most moving example is that of a woman with dementia. Although everyday speech had deserted her, she regularly read from the World Book Night poetry book, finding lines that communicated her needs and feelings right up until her death. Now that is making a difference, in anybody’s book.

Get involved

If you’re interested in joining a reading group, take a look at the groups on our site to find groups near you.

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