Local student encourages Braille book publishers to improve access to classic titles for the blind

Jessica De Nova Image
Thursday, January 18, 2024
Blind student fights for equal access to classic literature in Braille
Irvine student Henry Hill is encouraging Braille book publishers to improve access to classic literature for blind readers like himself.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A local teenager is dedicated to the fight for equal access to knowledge.

Henry Hill is a junior at University High School in Irvine. He's an avid fan of classic literature, a voracious reader, and he's blind. He's determined to push for more literature to be available in Braille, so other blind students like him can enjoy the magical world of books.

"You can't stop at each line. You have to stop at where the punctuation marks are," Hill explained as he demonstrated reading in Braille.

He said it's a frustrating way to read, especially some of the authors he's most fond of: Keats, Shakespeare and Dickinson.

Moreover, to find those books, Hill says he is at the mercy of the publishing companies.

"Formatting a book is one of the most important things, because if you can't keep the format of the original author, then you shouldn't deserve the right to format it, because if you format it in your way but you lose the author's original formatting structure, then you're doing a disgrace and a disservice to them and to us," he said.

Hill says his eyesight will be completely gone within two years because of his Norrie disease diagnosis. For the time being, he is busy creating an archive, while he encourages publishers to improve access to the classics in Braille. His advocacy has earned him the Elphie Award, given by producers of the musical "Wicked."

"It is so deserving because he does push barriers, and he does go above and beyond," said his mom, Gretchen.

More than 100 literary works so far are on this thumb drive for others like him who just want to get their hands on that one of a kind edition.

As for his next step, Henry says he's looking forward to college.

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