ABC International Excellence Awards Given to Hegas, Sweden, the Accessible Reading Materials Library, India and the Kalimat Foundation, UAE

October 30, 2023

Publishing house Bokförlaget Hegas AB of Sweden and the Accessible Reading Materials Library, Chetana Charitable Trust of India have won the 2023 ABC International Excellence Awards in the publisher and initiative categories, respectively. 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. 

Ms. Annica Järnum, Editor in Chief, Hegas
Ms. Annica Järnum, Editor in Chief, Hegas (Photo: Emma Holmström)
Ms. Elin Ljungvall, Head, Accessibility and Digital Publishing, Hegas (Photo: Emma Holmström)
Ms. Namita Jacob, Director, Chetana Charitable Trust, Accessible Reading Materials Library (Photo: Chetana Charitable Trust)
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and Chairperson, Kalimat Foundation (Photo: Ivana Maglione)

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. 

About the ABC International Excellence Award

Award nominees were evaluated on the criteria of outstanding leadership and achievements in improving the accessibility of e-books or other digital publications for persons who are blind, have low vision, are dyslexic or have mobility impairments that impact their ability to read the printed word. The expert jury was composed of representatives of publishers, standards bodies and organizations representing people who are visually impaired, as well as accessibility experts. 

In 2022, the winners were Kogan Page of the United Kingdom and Ashoka Bandula Weerawardhana of Sri Lanka, in the publisher and initiative categories respectively.  Special Commendations were also awarded to Constantine Editores of Mexico in the publisher category and the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind of Brazil in the initiative category.

Previous winners in the publisher category include Taylor & Francis Group (2021), Macmillan Learning (2020), EDITORIAL 5 (2019), Hachette Livre (2018), SAGE Publishing (2017), Elsevier (2016) and Cambridge University Press (2015). 

In the initiative category, previous winners include the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) - Canada (2021), LIA Foundation - Italy (2020), ekitabu - Kenya (2019), Daisy Forum of India (2018), Tiflonexos - Argentina (2017), Action on Disability Rights and Development – Nepal (2016) and Young Power in Social Action – Bangladesh (2015).

The ABC International Excellence Award was previously presented at the London Book Fair between 2015 and 2020, at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2021 and at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 2022.


According to a 2017 study published in The Lancet, approximately 253 million people are blind or visually impaired world-wide. Nearly 90% of these are resident in developing countries, where the World Blind Union (WBU) estimates that people who are blind have only a one in ten chance of going to school or getting a job. A lack of accessible books remains a very real barrier to getting an education and leading an independent, productive life.

About ABC

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) is a public–private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that brings together all of the key players – organizations representing people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled, authors, publishers, collective management organizations, libraries and other authorized entities, as well as standards bodies. ABC was established in June 2014 to implement the goals of the Marrakesh Treaty. Through an effective international alliance of relevant state and non-state actors, ABC seeks to increase, and distribute, the number of books worldwide in accessible formats - such as braille, audio, e-text and large print.

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About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

About the Publishers Conference

The Publishers Conference will take place form Sunday, October 29 to Tuesday, October 31, 2023 as a prequel to the Sharjah International Book Fair. The Conference is aimed at sellers of translation rights in all genres and languages, and buyers of published works in translation. The conference provides a three day programmme dedicated to professionals, including seminar sessions on current global topics in publishing and afternoons of matching-making appointments for conducting business. Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in organized social events.