Belfast Telegraph

Offenders make Braille children’s books for Northern Ireland libraries

The community service project has been credited with giving participants a sense of purpose.

Offenders are converting children’s books into Braille (Matt Crossick/PA)
Offenders are converting children’s books into Braille (Matt Crossick/PA)

By David Young, PA

Offenders completing community service have converted a range of children’s books into Braille for libraries across Northern Ireland.

Probation workers have hailed the initiative for engaging participants and creating a better understanding of the importance of helping others.

Prisoners in Northern Ireland jails have worked on similar projects through long-established Braille programmes in custody.

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland has teamed up with the Prison Arts Foundation to offer those on community service the opportunity to work at its Braille unit in Belfast city centre.

Hazel Flannigan is a blind volunteer who helps with the project at the unit.

“Books are so important in providing information and facts but also enabling people to escape and go on a journey of adventure,” she said.

“Braille books make life so much easier for blind and partially sighted people.

“It is an important way of giving blind people their independence and opening up new opportunities for them.

“The Braille Unit makes an important contribution to the lives of blind people in NI and I am delighted to support it.”

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Fred Caulfield, from the Prison Arts Foundation, Emer Loughran, Probation area manager, and Hazel Flannigan, a blind volunteer at the Braille unit (Prison Arts Foundation/PA)

Probation area manager Emer Loughran credited the initiative with assisting in the rehabilitation of offenders.

“This project has been a really valuable experience for people on community service,” she said.

“Those involved in this work transcribe books onto a computer, which in turn converts the text into Braille. They have been transcribing a range of books and articles for those who are blind and visually impaired including bibles, novels, and children’s books for local libraries.

“It has enabled them to give something back to local communities. Many have said it was the first opportunity they have had to understand the importance of helping other people. Probation believes this project is helping people who have offended become rehabilitated and resettled back into communities.”

Prison Arts Foundation chief executive Fred Caufield said the Braille unit provided a “sense of purpose” to people on community service.

“It may also help them develop skills which are useful in securing future training and employment,” he added.

“Having a purpose in life and having a job is one of the best ways of preventing people re-offending in the future. We are glad that the Prison Arts Foundation has this opportunity to work with Probation and help change lives for safer communities.”

PA

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