Charity calling for more volunteers

Mayor Alan Roberts paid a visit to charity The Seeing Ear. Founder Tony Dart is pictured third from the left

Mayor Alan Roberts paid a visit to charity The Seeing Ear. Founder Tony Dart is pictured third from the left

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A CHARITY which makes reading material accessible to those unable to read printed books is looking to recruit more volunteers.

The Seeing Ear, turns printed books, both fiction and non-fiction titles, into electronic versions which can then be turned into synthetic speech, Braille, or be accessed by head movements using special switches.

It is currently at the end of the second year of a three year Big Lottery funded project which involves transcribing books for 200 disabled school-children throughout England.

There are currently between 10 and 15 volunteers donating their time each month, however more are required.

The electronic books are uploaded to an online library, which can be accessed by anyone registered with the service.

Founder and chief technology officer Tony Dart, 54, who is registered blind, set up the charity in 2005.

He said: “I have a problem getting books, particularly the books I want.

“What’s needed is a library which can deliver books in the way you want to read them.”

This is where The Seeing Ear comes in, as a book need only be transcribed once and it is immediately available to every print-disabled person in the UK.

The online library currently contains around 3,400 books, and is increasing all the time. Titles being added through the Big Lottery funded project are those for extra-curricular reading material, so may appeal to young and old alike.

“Many people cannot read ordinary printed books,” Tony explained. “This is not always down to sight loss – it could be severe physical handicap like cerebral palsy or acute arthritis, making it impossible to hold a book or turn the pages.”

The charity is the only one of its kind in the UK in that its online library is available to the general public as well as within educational environments.

Hastings Mayor councillor Alan Roberts was particularly impressed by The Seeing Ear during a recent visit to the centre in Battle Road, St Leonards.

He said: “Hastings has a fantastic force of volunteers. They really are unsung heroes!”

A book takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to transcribe. To find out more about volunteering a few hours a week contact Mike Parker on 01424 851236 or for general information on the charity visit www.seeingear.org.