Gwen’s story: Talking books, DAISY Cartridges, my daughter and me

To mark Mother’s Day, we wanted to share Gwen’s story. Gwen is 90, lives in a nursing home and is enjoying our audio books recorded onto DAISY cartridges.

She’s always been a voracious reader – from an early age.

“I was an only child, so I would read a lot as a youngster and I immersed myself in stories. A book became my best friend. Growing up, I lived on a large property and I’d hide away with a book.”

Her love of reading passed down to her daughter Alison. Gwen and her husband ran a cattle and sheep farm in Inverell in the north-eastern corner of New South Wales.

Gwen sits next to her daughter Alison with the audio player on her lap and a cartridge in her hand
Gwen and her daughter, Alison, are both keen readers

“As a child, my mother would make up stories for myself and my brother at bedtime. These stories would incorporate our farm animals. She’d also write poetry. My mum was that passionate about the written word she should have been an author.”

Alison – Daughter of Gwen

DAISY cartridges and Talking Books service

When Gwen was in her late forties, she developed glaucoma (link opens in new window) and it affected the peripheral vision (side) in both her eyes. It wasn’t until four years ago, that haemorrhages in the optic nerves of both eyes led to her complete loss of vision.

It was the talking books that arrived in the form of DAISY cartridges that helped Gwen adjust to her total loss of sight. DAISY is an acronym for Digital Accessible Information System. Each DAISY cartridge contains a book. They slot into her Victor Reader Talking Book Player (link opens in new window).

Gwen and her daughter have established their own unique Mother Daughter Audio Book Club.

“I’m a librarian, so I’m a bookworm. I know the new ones due for release and the type that will appeal to mum,” Alison explains.

“I’ll choose a book to read myself and at the same time order the DAISY cartridge containing the audio book from the VisAbility Library.”

Alison will read hers at home, while Gwen will listen back to hers on a talking book player.

“We choose one book a week – we like different genres of books, fiction, memoirs, biographies, so there’s variety in what we read,” Alison explains.

“As well as being blind, my hearing is poor. I prefer books that are easier to understand, usually narrated by Australians or British people. Strong accents make it difficult for me to follow a book.”

Gwen – VisAbility client

Gwen’s favourite authors and recommendations

If possible, they like to read books by WA authors such as ‘The Good’ by Joan London and ‘Afternoons with Harvey Beam’ by Carrie Cox. Other favourite authors include Lianne Moriarty, Kate Morton and Monica McInerney.

“If it’s not in the VisAbility catalogue, they’re happy to find it for us.”

One of the titles that VisAbility sourced for Gwen was rather unusual. ‘Love Clancy’ by Richard Glover is a book for anyone who has ever wondered what their dog was thinking. It’s about Clancy – a dog – separated from his owners.

“It’s very amusing. Clancy sends letters to his parents in the bush. It’s from a dog’s perspective, so he talks about the funny ways humans behave and his view on the world.”

Talking Books postal service through VisAbility

The DAISY cartridges are sent to Alison by post. She then takes them to her mother’s nursing home. She orders around four books a week for her mother, not just the one for them both to read.

After she’s listened to them, Alison sends the cartridges back by post and requests more.

Gwen listens to her audio book
Gwen listens to four books a week

“It’s such an easy and reliable service. The VisAbility Talking Book Library has been a lifeline for Mum. I always pop in a note of thanks to the library team when I return a cartridge and request others.”

Alison visits her mum every day, but confesses Gwen is a creature of habit when it comes to reading.

“I live in a nursing home, so I have a fairly structured morning routine with activities, but I read in the afternoon and in the evening before I go to bed,” she says.

“Because I have no vision, my daughter or a care team staff member will put the DAISY cartridges into my talking book player. I have a tactile marker placed on the play button to make it easier to use.”

Family support

The mother and daughter duo recently went away to Northcliffe for Easter with their extended family, including her four grandchildren, now in their twenties. They’ll be meeting up once again on Mother’s Day.

“We have a very close bond. You could say our love of reading has come full circle. My mother read to me as a child. Now I read to her. I am fortunate we have that shared interest.”

Alison – Daughter of Gwen

The VisAbility Library is the biggest Talking Book Library in the Southern Hemisphere. It contains more than 70,000 titles, in digital or Braille format and are available free of charge to Australians with low or no vision or who have a print disability. If you would like to learn how to read Braille, find out more about our weekly Braille classes.

Why not register for our Talking Book Service (link opens in new window)? Look through the catalogue and get in contact with us today and discover a new world of books.

Get in touch

If you are living with low vision, please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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