by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Argyro Spyridaki was left speechless seven years ago when her visually impaired friend Theodoros Tsatsos told her that he couldn't enjoy a literature book she suggested, because it was not available in Braille or audio. In a country where on average 10,000 books are published each year, the audio books libraries for the blind were shockingly poor.
"I realized that there are not so many books, there is no equal access to books for the visually impaired. I realized that there are only a few, about 10,000-11,000 books produced since the 60s in audio form," she told Xinhua in a recent interview in Athens.
They took action and set up a nonprofit voluntary organization to help close the gap for some 25,000 registered people with visual disabilities in Greece.
Since 2015, "Reading to the Others" (Diavazo gia tous Allous) has helped produce more than 100 audio books which have been donated to the audio library of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind and AMELib, the Accessible Multi-modal Electronic Library created by the National Library of Greece, the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link and blinds' associations.
Supported by a network of 6,000 members and donors, the organization trains hundreds of volunteers to record audio books in a small studio set up at its premises through crowdfunding. The Greek parliament, the Greek Prime Minister's office and the Culture and Sports ministry have also supported its work.
Regarding the selection of the titles, they receive requests from students who need to study university textbooks for their exams, visually impaired people who wish to hear a new literature work or families of blind children who are eager for a fairytale.
A trained volunteer can read some eight pages per hour for the recording. Editing takes double time. The production of each audio book on average takes two-seven months, Spyridaki, CEO and Founder of "Reading to the Others", explained.
"Through its work, the organization tries not only to produce books for the visually impaired, but also to promote the public's empathy and awareness regarding blindness in general and more specifically the unequal access to knowledge, learning, books," she said.
She envisages a society where "Reading to the Others" will not be relevant anymore.
"Every non-profit organization's vision in fact should be that it is no longer needed in the future," she said. ■