In this issue you will read about: an update about our accessible publishing initiative…planning ahead for 2023 with Matrimandir Gardens brought to your desk…and more…You can also read this newsletter online here ☛
11.1 Update on braille books and accessible publishing
Accessible publishing is an approach to publishing and book design whereby books and other texts are made available in alternative formats designed to aid or replace the reading process. It is particularly relevant for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled.
Last year PRISMA ventured, primarily by chance and not as much by design, into accessible publishing. We published two books, A Dream, Aims and Ideals of Auroville and Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, in large-format braille as well as a digitally-accessible format.
We are pleased to report that we have fared well so far. The braille books have been well received: we have formed an ongoing association with centres for the visually-impaired at the grassroots level. At the national level we have also made connections. Hopefully, links with international organisations may follow.
Outreach at the grassroots level…
We spent several weeks reaching out to and visiting places for the visually-impaired in and around Pondicherry to discover interest in receiving braille books from us. We found two organisations locally – a government centre for the visually-impaired and special-needs children five kilometres from Auroville, and Sathya Schools – both were keen to receive materials from us.
They appreciated our efforts and would like to receive more books from Prisma in the future. They also requested for more general materials in the Tamil language about Auroville and its work, something we had not considered earlier. We had wanted to take on the “epics”and did not discern that something simpler is perhaps more relevant in these contexts. We were happy to receive this input because we now know what these communities would like to receive from us. We are currently producing a Tamil-language large-format braille publication about Auroville for these schools.
…and at the national and international levels
We also made these two books available in digitally-accessible formats in the Sugamya Pustakalaya, India’s first and most extensive collection of accessible books. Organisations for the visually-impaired in India and abroad use this repository.
Furthermore, to commemorate Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth year, we produced and delivered the large-format braille version of A Dream, Aims and Ideals of Auroville to fifty centres across India for the visually-impaired.
We also have established a deep and ongoing connection with the Mitra Jyoti organisation in Bangalore, a large centre for the visually-impaired. They have agreed to participate in this initiative and to support our work.
On the global front, there is brewing interest and the possibility of long-term exchange and collaboration between Prisma and international initiatives that support communities for the visually-impaired. Within next year, something concrete may emerge.
Future directions and audio work
Around the same time PRISMA started producing braille books, we also went into audio publishing. Our first two projects were archival projects, in which we compiled and modernised a body of work by a senior Aurovilian, Loretta Shartsis. We published this archive in our open-access format as well as a podcast. These two projects, Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri: The Auroville Radio Talks, and Mother’s Question & Answers – The Auroville Radio Talks are available in our open-access format here and here. The audiobooks are also available as podcasts on all current and significant podcast directories, including Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, and others. Currently, we are producing an audiobook of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri – as it is – and we hope to release this in the next six months. We are also considering taking on Sri Aurobindo’s other “big books” – The Life Divine and Essays on Gita as audiobooks.
Audiobooks and materials can be very accessible for people who are blind, visually-impaired or otherwise print-disabled. There is, however, some work required to adapt the materials into formats that are particularly suited and useful in this context. Our next strategy is to build and deploy relevant technology and processes so that accessible audio publishing becomes a part of our audio-publishing pipeline. In this way, whatever audio work we produce would also be accessible to people who are blind, visually-impaired or otherwise print-disabled.
As far as braille books go, we are producing our first Tamil-language braille publication, which presents Auroville and its work over many years, a publication we hope would be more suitable for local schools for the visually-impaired. In time we also hope to produce other braille publications depending on the kind of inputs and support we receive.
We conclude this update on accessible publishing with a note of thanks. This initiative has been possible because of goodwill and quiet support from many quarters.
We are grateful to Julian, George, Bina and Matthew – all connected to AVI USA – for providing the funds for this initiative.
We are also grateful to Dr Brijesh and Digital Media Initiatives of New Delhi, who have been our quiet collaborators for the last two years. We also thank Padma Sri J. L. Kaul, the Braille Press of New Delhi, and Ms Madhu Singhal of Mitra Jyoti, Bangalore – all of whom supported us on various fronts.
Support and connection of any kind to bring this initiative forward is very much welcome. Together may we walk far.
11.2 PRISMA Desktop Year Planner 2023
By popular demand, we are relaunching our desktop year planner featuring exquisite visuals of Auroville. For the year 2023, our planner brings to you images of the renewed Matrimandir Gardens, a joy to behold in your workspace or homespace. Also available at the Auroville Visitor Centre
11.3 “Sacred Geometry,” an exhibition
Sacred Geometry is often referred to as the “architecture of the universe”, it is present throughout the natural world. It is one of the very few subjects that satisfy both the human’s left brain and right brain hemispheres simultaneously. It satisfies the left brain’s desire for logical, sequential and objective data, and the right brain for random, intuitive and subjective data. People have spent entire lifetimes studying a single aspect of sacred geometry; such as a rabbi studying the Kabbalistic tree of life. The exhibition was curated and presented by Franz Fassbender at the Aurelec Cafeteria.
You can see an archived online version here