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18 October 2012 | PR 12/177

Reading is a lifeline for blind people according to new research

Izzy Jeffs


New research by Loughborough University has revealed that reading plays a vital role in the lives of blind and partially sighted people.

The study found that reading helped the visually impaired to overcome daily challenges, boosted mental well-being, enabled them to develop learning and skills and provided opportunities for social contact through reading groups.

Commissioned by leading sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to mark Read for RNIB Day, the research was conducted by Loughborough’s LISU research and information centre and The Reading Agency – a charity working to inspire more people to read more.

Focussing on the impact of reading for pleasure on the lives of blind and partially sighted adults, the study found that 82 per cent of the people questioned said that reading for pleasure was ‘very important’ in their lives, whilst 95 per cent read for pleasure more than once a week, with over half (55 per cent) reading more than ten hours per week.  These figures appear to be considerably higher than the general population.

Linked to its impact on quality of life and well-being, the new research also reveals that reading plays a significant role in helping blind and partially sighted adults cope with life’s pressures, including significant moments such as bereavement; engaging them in meaningful activity that passes the time, occupies the mind, and represents a stimulating alternative to activities that are no longer easy or possible to undertake.

The recommendations of the report centre around ensuring that authors, publishers, RNIB, public libraries and local authorities all work and collaborate wherever possible to ensure that appropriate materials are available in a variety of formats including, for example, text-to-speech enabling on e-books. The research also indicates the importance of accessible presentation of reading material to enable selection without sighted assistance and the value of library reading group provision as a significant social, well- being and learning experience for blind readers.

Alongside this the research recognises the importance of library services continuing to build on the valuable framework provided by Six Steps to library services for blind and partially sighted people, in particular, building the needs of blind and partially sighted readers into the organisation of reading events and promotions.

Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE, chief executive of RNIB, says: “So many of the people who come to us are at breaking point, struggling to adjust to living without sight.  And often it's our reading services such as Talking Books, giant print books or telephone book groups that people undergoing this traumatic and life changing transformation describe as a lifeline.  We hope that this research will explain the importance of our services and get involved in Read for RNIB Day on 19 October."

Claire Creaser, Director of LISU at Loughborough University added: “Reading is something that most of us take for granted.  Blind and partially sighted people have to make an extra effort to obtain books in formats they can access, and although this research was based on a relatively small sample, the results clearly show how much reading means to them.  Making books more accessible, in a variety of formats and from a range of sources, can only bring benefits to all.”

Debbie Hicks, Director of Research for The Reading Agency said: “This research shows that the value of reading is intensified for people who are blind and partially sighted – for many it is a life line that helps define who they are and their relationship with the world around them.  We must all work together to ensure that  participation in what is after all a very cost effective activity is available to as many blind and partially sighted people as possible.”

The full findings of the research are published in a report entitled Assessing the impact of reading for blind and partially sighted adults.

Read for RNIB Day, the charity's appeal to raise funds for services such as braille, giant print and Talking Books, takes place on Friday 19 October.


For all media information contact:

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 222239
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Deborah Hyde
The Reading Agency
T: 07956 320 486
E: debbie.hyde@oasismedia.co.uk

Stacey Kerr
RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)
T: 0207 391 2290
E: stacey.kerr@rnib.org.uk

Notes for editors:

•           The impact of reading for blind and partially sighted adults. Report to RNIB by Claire Creaser & Rachel Spacey, LISU, Loughborough University & Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency. Full copies can be found online at: web link/details to come.

•           RNIB had already amassed a body of qualitative evidence on the value and impact of reading for blind and partially sighted people, but this was lacking in quantitative support, and could not be compared with the developing evidence base relating to the impact of reading on the wider population. This new research was conducted via a series of structured interviews with 108 blind and partially sighted readers, undertaken by phone and in person. To supplement the interviews, the majority of the questions asked were also formatted as an online questionnaire completed by 186 adults. A total of 294 blind and partially sighted readers participated in the research.  In addition, six case studies were prepared with volunteers from the interviews and survey. The case studies included longer interviews with the reader, exploring specific issues in depth.

•           Six Steps to library services for blind and partially sighted people. From Share the Vision, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Scottish Library & Information Council. (New addition)

•           RNIB is the leading charity offering information, support and advice to almost two million people with sight loss in the UK (www.rnib.org.uk). RNIB’s services include telephone book groups, braille transcription and a National Library Service which offers giant print, braille and unabridged Talking Books. Its annual appeal to support these services is Read for RNIB Day 19 October. For more information visit www.readforrnib.org.uk

•           Based in Loughborough University’s Department of Information Science, LISU is an internationally renowned research and information centre for library and information services. It collects, analyses, interprets and publishes statistical information for and about the library domain in the UK, and undertakes research and consultancy projects for a wide range of organisations (www.lboro.ac.uk/microsites/infosci/lisu/)

•           The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. It is funded by the Arts Council, and has a formal partnership with public library services (www.readingagency.org.uk

•           Further information:
Social contact and integration is a key outcome for blind and partially sighted adults who are members of reading groups. 65 per cent of reading group members felt that one of the best things about belonging to a group was the opportunity to socialise. Reading groups also emerge as a key support to learning and skills development introducing readers to a wider range of reading material, new authors and providing them with a social context within which to explore their reading. Whilst these findings mirror the impact of reading group membership on the general population, the social isolation some blind and partially sighted people experience intensifies the value of reading group provision for this target group.

•          About Loughborough University:
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the Best Student Experience in England every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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