British Vogue is available in braille. Blind 'fashionistas' react.

British Vogue releases a Braille edition of May 2023 issue. (Photo: Instagram/edward_enninful)
British Vogue releases a Braille edition of May 2023 issue. (Photo: Instagram/edward_enninful)

British Vogue is making strides when it comes to inclusivity with the release of a braille edition of the magazine's latest issue.

The publication's editor-in-chief Edward Enninful shared that the publication's "first" braille issue is available as of Thursday with an announcement on Instagram. "The Vogue team and I are delighted by the response to the May issue, but what the process of making it taught us is that what's most important are tangible and lasting changes," he wrote, noting that readers are now able "to be sent the audio file, to print a Braille file of the issue at home for free or to register your interest in receiving a physical Braille copy."

The history-making accessibility features come with an issue focused on disability with actress Selma Blair on the cover. Other advocates in the space, including Aaron Rose Philip and Sinéad Burke, were also featured in the magazine.

British Vogue didn't respond to Yahoo Life's request for comment. However, Enninful penned more of his thoughts in the editor's letter included in the issue. "Disability should feel personal to us all," he wrote. "The time has come for us to get real about who we are as a society, and for fashion to build a better, more accessible and inclusive industry."

Blind advocates react

While there's no shortage of positive reactions to the announcement, including those who call it "groundbreaking," Natalie Trevonne, the CEO and blind designer behind fashion brand NYI and accessibility consultant, tells Yahoo Life that "a lot of people talk about inclusion but I think they forget that inclusion does include accessibility." She adds, "So the fact that they’re trying to create access for everyone to experience the content is a step forward."

Kim Charlson, the executive director of the braille and talking book library at Perkins School for the Blind, says that it's really a "game changer" as fashion and design publications in particular lack accessibility.

"It benefits certainly the community and makes information available to us that probably other people kind of take for granted," she tells Yahoo Life. "It's just giving us access to trends and fashion and design that I think a lot of people believe blind and low vision people aren't particularly interested in. But that's not true because we want to be sure we understand what everybody else is doing."

Trevonne also remarks on that misconception, sharing that she hopes innovation like this will challenge those stereotypes.

"I mean people ask me all the time how is it that I am so interested in fashion. It doesn’t make any sense because everyone gets dressed and most people want to look cute and stylish. And fashion is more of an expression of somebody’s personality versus always just being something visual," she explains. "So I think it starts there, they’re not gonna think of us being able to access the materials, if they already counted us out for being interested."

Virginia Jacko, the blind president and CEO of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and a nationally recognized accessibility expert, also asserts herself as a "strong proponent of access" to this type of information.

"I love fashion and I would like to say that I’m kind of a fashionista," she tells Yahoo Life. "It’s a sighted world. Sighted people need to accept the blind or visually impaired and people with disabilities. And people with disabilities have to learn how to fit into a sighted world."

Charlson jokes, "We don't want to be sticking out because we're wearing, you know, chartreuse blouses in an old-fashioned style, or whatever. So fashion is important."

Regardless of the content within British Vogue specifically, she re-emphasizes the significance of any major publication exploring the process of producing a magazine in Braille.

"Just like with a print document or a magazine, you know, it has to be properly formatted. You want it to look good and be readable. So we worry about the same kind of aesthetics to the page for braille as you do for print," Charlson explains, noting that image descriptions are of utmost importance for people to be sure of what they're looking at. "You want a little bit of white space because it makes it easier to scan the braille page with your hands. And if there's a blank line, then you know that's either a section break or a paragraph. So it does take some intervention with some skilled people that can take the sort of files and create Braille."

While this example of access is a great start according to all three advocates, Trevonne is anticipating more change within the magazine and elsewhere in the fashion industry.

"I just hope that they go beyond that and start including more blind and low vision folks in front of the camera and in more fashion brand campaigns," she says.

According to Enninful's post, continued progress is the plan: "Vogue and the fashion and publishing industries have a great deal to do still."

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