The pilot centre was launched in Chennai on August 3, 2012 by the Karadi Cultural Alliance Trust, in partnership with Hippocampus Children's Library with the support of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fund. Dr I Arivanandam, regional director of the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, presided over the function and inaugurated the library. Students from Little Flower Convent for the Blind and Deaf and from St Louis School for the Blind and Deaf attended the ceremony. The students from Little Flower Convent sang a beautiful song about the life of Helen Keller. Storytellers from the Book Lovers Programme for Schools regaled the children with the story 'Bablu and the Mouse' (published as an audiobook by Karadi Tales).
Dr Arivanandam lauded the effort and emphasised the importance of Braille as a language of empowerment and inclusion. "A brave, unique and much-needed venture," said Dr Arivanandam, "The CRC is the first library of its kind in India that celebrates integration of visually-impaired children with the mainstream." He further appreciated the ways in which the Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fund has been touching lives.
Shobha Viswanath, managing trustee of the Karadi Cultural Alliance Trust, spoke about the journey of the Karadi Cultural Alliance Trust and the Creative Resource Centre project. "We hope that this is the beginning of many such libraries, not just across Tamil Nadu but the entire nation," said Ms Viswanath.
Amrita Patwardhan, development manager at the Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fund, expressed her hope that the project would soon be replicated and expanded across the country. Ms Patwardhan said, "The Sir Ratan Tata Trust believes that story books open a whole new world for a child, and hence play a critical role in a child's learning and growth. The Parag publication initiative of the Trust, therefore, works on promoting development, dissemination and use of children's literature in Indian languages. The Trust is proud to partner with Karadi Cultural Alliance Trust and Hippocampus for setting up the first ever creative resource centre in a public library in India, for serving children with special needs. We believe the idea has immense potential and we hope that a viable model emerges from this collaboration, which can be taken to other states and libraries in the near future."
Chandni Khanna, director of the Hippocampus Experience Centre in Chennai, talked about her involvement with the project and invited both schools and individuals to visit the creative resource centre. She added, "This is a laudable effort by Karadi Tales and Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fund. The involvement from all Indian publishers just goes to show how strong the belief in reading is. An effort of this stature had to be taken to the end user and we at Hippocampus are extremely proud to house the books for the visually-impaired. This is a first step towards inclusion, a humble beginning, but not the end."
Children and teachers alike from Little Flower Convent for the Blind and Deaf and from St Louis School for the Blind and Deaf eagerly handled the resources at the end of the ceremony.
Read the report on the event that was carried by The Times of India here
Read the report on the event that was carried by The Hindu here