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Since its inception in 2003, Vision Australia’s Feelix Library has aimed to deliver the same literacy and knowledge to children who are blind or have low vision as their sighted peers.

Feelix Library – a pioneer in teaching literacy to young individuals who are blind or have low vision –  originated from the efforts of Helen Smith's passion for braille literacy, and the dedicated volunteers in the 1990s who created the sturdy tactile and braille books, marking the library's inception. It was a special honour to have three generations of Helen's family in the audience to acknowledge their family legacy, contribution and support over the years.

20 years later and the world’s first sensory library continues to play a key role in the learning and development of children with print disabilities, with a special event held at the State Library of NSW today to recognise the life-changing program. 

“For many children who are born with blindness or low vision, they are already at a disadvantage to their peers as they’re unable to rely on their sight to learn and observe the world around them,” Vision Australia Library business manager Vildana Praljak said.

“That’s where our Feelix kits come in – they help parents, carers and teachers bring stories and content to life for children through touch, feel and audio, instead.

“In so many of our younger clients we see that sensory experiences can stimulate their creative thinking, allowing them to meaningfully connect to the information at-hand. That’s why we have kits available for all reading levels from babies through to school-aged children.”

Each kit contains a picture book with clear braille overlay, an audio recording of the book, a tactile book which tells the story through touch and tactile toys and objects that relate to the story.

"A Feelix kit consisting of a children's book and tactile elements lays open on the floor"
Caption: Feelix kits bring childhood favourites to life for children with print disabilities. 

“For kids who are blind, learning braille not only leads to a greater understanding of basic punctuation and grammar, but provides them with greater independence when learning,” Vildana said.

As well as an increase in the number of individual titles available, Vision Australia has also added kits in other languages, such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish and Arabic.

“Our Feelix kits have had an incredible impact on the learning journeys of so many young people, and we look forward to another 20 years of bridging the knowledge gap between children with print disabilities and their able peers."

The Feelix Library is a free service available across Australia to children who are blind or have low vision. Learn more about the Feelix Library.