Our History

How a dream became reality

Like all good stories, it starts with...

Once upon a time … two men had the same dream. One of them could see, the other was blind. Yet they both saw the possibility of helping visually impaired people and those with difficulty reading enjoy the wonders of the world through books.

Back in 1958 Jannie Venter, a young railway clerk, visited his sick friend who was able to do little else but lie motionless in his hospital ward bed. This stirred a dream in Jannie‘s mind that would become the seed of Tape Aids for the Blind.

From this sudden flash of inspiration to read a book onto tape for his immobile friend, the idea was conceived to make recordings together with a group of other tape recorder enthusiasts and to play them to patients confined to hospital beds for long periods of time.

Within days Jannie contacted a blind lecturer, Professor Ken Macintyre, later to become the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Head of the Department of Political History at the then University of Natal, to talk of the possibility of using tape recorders to provide reading material to those who weren't able to read the printed word.

A dream that became a reality after overcoming many nightmares. A journey that saw this dedicated group of volunteers move from Jannie's tiny flat to borrowed offices in central Durban, where recordings had to be suspended every 15 minutes due to the striking of the Post Office clock!

Eventually, in 1975, thanks to the generosity of the Durban City Council, Tape Aids acquired an excellent piece of land alongside the Greyville Race Track and built the 3-storey building known today as Tape Aids House. Later expanding our footprint in 1986 by establishing studios and recruiting volunteer narrators and proof-readers at our service centres in major cities.

The expansion of Tape Aids over the past 60 years was built on the generosity of our donors and volunteers. Bequests of residential properties in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town enabled us to establish recording facilities in those 3 centres. And thanks to the generosity of the University of Pretoria's Mamelodi Campus Director Edwin Smith, our 3 Mamelodi recording studios are accommodated on the university campus where volunteer students narrate and proof-read books and lessons in multiple mother tongue languages.

Digital journey to expansion & paying it forward

Evolution of media formats

1/4 inch Tape

Cassette Tapes


In 2012, Tape Aids accelerated its digital migration by providing its members with audio books on CD, and established its digital lab for the production of digital masters in the MP3 digital audio format. At the time, Tape Aids was the only library for the blind in the world that did not provide its books in DAISY - a multimedia format used exclusively by the blind and requiring prohibitively expensive playback machines.

Designing African solutions for African conditions

Tape Aids devised a unique MP3 track encrypted navigational format that prevented piracy but allowed its audio books to be played on affordable main stream MP3 playback devices.

In 2013 it invested in linking its service centres via the internet so that audio recordings could be uploaded to its head office and downloaded for editing, mastering and copying for quicker delivery onto its library shelves.

Its 2014 AGM Skype-linked all its service centres so that hundreds of library members, volunteers and staff across the country could simultaneously participate.

In 2015 Tape Aids amended its constitution so that it could pay-it-forward on behalf of the blind, also assisting sighted society. With the introduction of its digital MP3 CDs, entire audio books could now fit onto a single CD or be easily downloaded from the internet onto smartphones or other standard and commonly available devices. Tape Aids' membership grew exponentially to accommodate a younger profile of print disabled dyslexic scholars and young adult HIV sufferers with eye disorders, as well as disadvantaged scholars with literacy challenges.