The jury of experts also recognized the Kalimat Foundation of the United Arab Emirates in the initiative category with a Special Commendation Award. Children are at the heart of the ABC International Excellence Awards this year, as all three organizations were recognized for their outstanding achievements in producing literature in accessible formats for young readers.

In the publisher category, Hegas was recognized for its outstanding achievements in inclusiveness, thoroughness of its accessible production methodology and overall impact. “Hegas was founded in 1983 by two incredible women, Siv Aronsson and Gun Hållander. They were tired of not finding enough good books for readers with print disabilities. Since then we have published over 1000 joyful easy to read books that readers actually want to read”, states Ms. Annica Järnum of Hegas.

The Awards jury made special note of Hegas’ focus on inclusiveness, as evidenced by their collection of books in Arabic, as well as their commitment to producing  their books in accessible formats for a wide variety of children with different reading abilities.

An endeavor of the Chetana Charitable Trust, the Accessible Reading Materials Library was honored in the initiative category. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Namita Jacob recalled how the Library started as a physical library for local children with print disabilities, and how its reach grew rapidly during the pandemic period to now serve an online readership in more than 100 countries, stating, “We believe that in building accessible books, people of all ages learn to be more creative, sensitive and intuitive and in this way, we are building a better, more inclusive world.”

The Kalimat Foundation received a Special Commendation Award for their continued leadership in the field of accessibility across the Arab-speaking world. The jury highlighted the breadth of Kalimat’s impact, having provided accessible books in 12 countries to date, and applauded their collaborative approach of engaging with organizations and national libraries in their countries of operation. Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi of the Kalimat Foundation, observed: “During our site visits to establish new libraries or donate books, we witness the immediate impact on children and their communities. Children living in conflict zones or difficult circumstances need wings to transport their innocent minds away from their immediate suffering and pain toward a better future for themselves and their families. Books and stories give them the opportunity to dream, and we firmly believe that our work has empowered many children and opened up possibilities they never knew existed.”

The winners of the 2023 ABC International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing were announced on October 29th by WIPO’s Accessible Books Consortium via video during a dedicated ceremony at the 2023 Sharjah Publishers Conference in the UAE.