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The most wonderful hour of the day for a lot of us is that late night hour, silence everywhere, covered in a blanket, a chai beside us, and with a book in one hand. Leaving the complexities of daily chores and entering the vista of the book, traveling to places with our beloved characters. Reading books is one of the most relaxing, comforting, and enriching experience. Sometimes it takes us to new places, sometimes it opens new emotions, sometimes we understand more about other cultures... The list is endless, the emotions with a book are endless.

But can everyone in this world read and take the pleasures of reading a book? According to surveys conducted worldwide, less than 1% of the published information is available in alternate and accessible formats for use by persons with print disabilities. The lack of books and reading material has a negative impact on the education, employment prospects, and personality development of persons with blindness, low vision, learning, and certain physical disabilities.

Samarthanam Trust is a Non-Profit organization from Bangalore and is involved in the production and distribution of books and reading material in accessible formats for persons who cannot read normal print due to visual, cognitive, or physical disabilities. Samarthanam with the Support of Daisy Forum of India envisions a world where people with print disabilities have equal access to information and knowledge without delay or additional expense in their own language.  Recently SAP joined hands with Samarthanam in their mission to eradicate “Book famine”.

As part of this initiative, 41 SAP Volunteers embarked on this journey to record one book each. Volunteers came together from various cross functional roles - be it development, sales, marketing, managers, architects and joined hands to record books in 3 weeks.  An orientation was provided to the volunteers on the recording process and the software to be used.

The process looks easy and simple and yet for all of us it was a truly enriching experience. For some it brought them closer to society, to its hardships and involved their families to inculcate the same spirit of compassion and help. Akshatha Rao, an architect at SAP talks about her experience saying, "My son was super excited when I was recording and was explaining to his friends how his mother is recording for the blind people. It is a novel concept for him, and I need to do these CSR activities more often to imbibe the culture of community service in him as well. This surely was a simple and fun step in the right direction!".

For some it was a way to connect to all the children in the world and share with them the pleasures of reading. "It was lovely experience for me, as I used to read books for my son, and now was super excited to read for all the kids in the world", Thulasi T D, a Development Manager at SAP puts it beautifully.

A lot of us discovered their own inner child through this process. Pratiksha Chindaliya, SAP Marketing Specialist mesmerizes her experience, "Indeed it was a super experience- For me specially after reading the stories 2-3 times before recording (to avoid any errors) I had a kind of tone and pitch differences for different characters. It was like visiting my childhood memories once again with more fun. I would say more than how it helped the children, it helped me be the child again. Specially in this new working scenario".

Dipayan Datta, a Development Manager at SAP summarizes it beautifully for us, "The art of narration is a beautiful thing - I started as a narrator during school for some events; however, this opportunity to lend my voice for creating an Audio Book for Disabled has been a whole new experience. Narrating is not just reading slowly - it's about making a person with reading disability experience a whole new world through the rhythm of the story, the voice, the pitch & tone and hopefully enjoy the book and the story. Each one of us brings in our own uniqueness to the recording and that adds variety to each audio book as one listens to them. The purpose of this activity came out stronger when I started recording and continues to stay strong within me"

It gives me little tears of joy, just to think that some child somewhere will be hearing my recorded book and enjoying the pleasures of reading, like me and you.

I love to end this by a quote from Chen Guangcheng, a human rights activist, “How a society treats its disabled is the true measure of a civilization”. Cannot say it any better!

Thanks for reading!

To know more about Samarthanam, visit their website

To take part in volunteering activities reach out to SAP India CSR