Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (Dreaming Fingers, France) is a nonprofit organization created in 1994. In 1995, Philippe Claudet, practicing teacher, founder and director of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent, certain that other countries must have more expertise in the field of Tactile illustrated Books (TiB), spent a week in England, Belgium, Spain and Italy meeting people more or less involved in TiB. None of the countries had an organized production facility like that of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent; all suffered from a shortage of TiB. Each country was working only to meet its own needs. How could these countries help each other? Only the European dimension could offer a solution, and the European Union had opened a new grant program framework, the Culture 2000 Programs.
In 1999, Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (under the initiative of Philippe Claudet, its only volunteer) with the help of the Ministry of Culture, organized the first international conference on the theme of TiB. Inviting England (Clear Vision Project), Belgium (Œuvre Nationale des Aveugles), Italy (Stamperia Braille of Florence and the Hollman Foundation), Sweden (Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille, TPB) and Russia (Illustrated Books for Little Blind Children), the idea was to take stock of the situation of the TiB and consider federating and pooling knowledge and resources. To do so, Les Doigts Qui Rêvent proposed the creation of a European competition to select the best tactile book of the year. Thanks to the irreplaceable help of the French Ministry of Culture, Les Doigts Qui Rêvent was able to submit a project to the EU in which mass production of the winning book entry from each year’s competition would be financed and subsidized by European Union funds, translated and produced in the languages of the member countries of Tactus.
As a result, in 2000 the first competition was held, and in 2001, 609 copies of the top entry,”Crokato, the animal that changes skin” (by Claudette Kraemer/France) were produced in English (United Kingdom), French (France, Belgium) and Italian by the solidarity economy workshop of Les Doigts Qui Rêvent in Dijon. These were distributed in each of the member countries at the record price of € 15.25, ten times less than the cost of production. In 2001, Finland (Celia Library for the Blind) joined Tactus. A so-called “technical” Tactus meeting in the middle of the year permitted the exchange of ideas, projects, and knowledge as well as providing the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming fall competition. Each of the T&T national partner participating countries announced the competition and conducted a national selection of 5 entries; the international jury gathered in Dijon to choose the top entries from among all that were sent.
In 2005, the Netherlands (Visio), Poland (Hungry Fingers) and the Czech Republic (Stredisco Pané Recé) joined the adventure and Les Doigts Qui Rêvent, with the help of the French Ministry of Culture and the Burgundy Region, submitted a new three-year project to the European Union for seven countries and gave the competition its formal name: Typhlo & Tactus (T&T). T&T founding members traveled to conduct free workshops in several countries in Eastern Europe and in South Africa.
Between 2000 and 2008:
- 800 book entries were submitted for the competition;
- 19 entries received awards;
- 7,689 tactile illustrated books were produced in 7 languages and distributed at € 15.25;
- 27,800 T&T posters were distributed in the EU and beyond.
It was thanks to this production that many countries discovered that TiB existed, that it was possible to produce them, and that they managed to create a synergy within their country and obtained at least some additional means to design and produce them with local resources, as examples: Italy, Lithuania, Czech Republic, India, Iran, Brazil, Colombia, Russia… among others.
In 2009, structural aid from the European Union ended; T&T became international, biennial and no longer had EU support to produce winning entries.
In 2013, in addition to awarding 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, the jury decided after consultation that each judge would also choose a favorite among the entries submitted.
Eighteen countries participated in the 2019 competition: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.
The founders’ goal has been achieved since T&T is present in around twenty three countries and known throughout the world. Thanks to the work done, T&T enabled exchanges between all these countries, raised awareness of the need for TiB for visually impaired children, and in many countries, a national production has developed as a result.
Evolution of Typhlo & Tactus (T&T) since 2000: Over the years, the quality of the models presented in the competition has increased considerably, especially with regard to the tactile image and the handwork. This is probably because the T&T competition stimulated national synergies and allowed other authors to emulate some of the most successful entries. During the first years, the authors were mainly specialized teachers and parents whose primary concern was tactile efficiency, but little by little new authors from very different backgrounds became interested in the project. Thus, art school students have added to books the aesthetic touch that they lacked to make them “readable” tactually, visually aesthetic and that both communities, sighted and visually impaired, can finally have the pleasure of sharing.
The production and wide spread distribution of award-winning book entries between 2000 and 2008, the workshops organized by T&T members everywhere, the fact that many T&T national selection processes also organized training for authors, the photos of all the pages of all entries exhibited on the Internet—all this has contributed to the improvement in the quality of the work submitted to the competition. Whether in India, Belgium, Croatia or Brazil, people around the world have become aware of the importance of illustrated tactile books, from an early age, for all visually impaired children.