PANCAKE Project: Making Nature Accessible to Deaf Communities

Since 2021, Octavo has proudly formed part of the PANCAKE project which aims to improve the accessibility of nature to the deaf community. 

The natural world is full of wonders, but have you ever thought about how you would describe a particular plant or tree without using speech? Although there are approximately 70 million people with hearing impairments in Europe, nature-related terms are lacking in sign languages around the world.

This is why Friends of the Earth Malta launched the PANCAKE project. Through this project, participants from 5 countries (Malta, Spain, Italy and the UK) are working together to create a common sign that can be understood on an international scale, similar to the Botanical Latin adopted by flora enthusiasts and researchers around the world. The project aims to make nature more accessible to the Deaf Community and elevate knowledge about flora and design-inclusive public spaces. This is being achieved through the following actions:

  • Enhance the national sign languages of each participating country with signs for plants found within the countries;
  • Create videos to teach new signs and produce sign language documentaries;
  • Create a manual of best architectural practices for inclusion and accessibility in public spaces;
  • Adapt material into online interactive content for dissemination.

And that’s where we come in. Octavo is the chosen online platform which will be used to transmit the PANCAKE project’s message, and our team also form part of the meetings taking place throughout the project. 

PANCAKE Project Meetings

So far, we’ve had three main transnational project meetings. The first meeting took place at Ebro’s river delta, in Spain, from the 16th – the 17th of November 2021. The purpose of this first meeting was to brainstorm on projects, EU-added value and new ideas. We networked and headed to the ‘Mon Natura’ reserve and eco-museum, where we got to know the other partners and prepared to start the project.

The second meeting took place in Rome between the 23rd and 24th of May 2022. Here, we met up with partners to discuss budget updates, as well as intellectual outputs and task division among partners. Deaf representatives from associations (ST, SP, ENS, AVSiE, DPAM) and botanists (FOEM/SEO) presented their draft signs, and then created and assessed the possibility of having common signs. This was followed by a presentation of the draft manual’s index and discussion. We ended the meeting with a visit to the ‘Museo Civico di Zoologia’.

The third meeting, held in Edinburgh between the 21st and 22nd of November 2022, saw partners meeting to discuss the sign list and present the work to British partners. We discussed the dissemination of future activities and organised the making of videos for the signs. We also visited the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, where we had a BSL-signed tour.

The PANCAKE project will last until 2024. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, follow Friends of the Earth Malta and Octavo for future updates!

The manual for guides and interpreters in nature reserves can be found here:

Inspiration: Famous personalities who were/are dyslexic

I was dyslexic, I had no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever. I certainly would have failed IQ tests. And it was one of the reasons I left school when I was 15 years old. And if I – if I’m not interested in something, I don’t grasp it. -Richard Branson

For Muhammad Ali, it wasn’t easy getting in the ring with dyslexia but he came out as a champion. Sir Richard Branson says dyslexia came as an advantage to him. Steve Jobs & Bill Gates never graduated but created the globally recognisable companies in the world. Dyslexia is not a disability, it’s a different style of learning and understanding things.

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Consider these 5 writing tips before you start writing children’s books

I know what I liked as a child, and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.” -H.A. REY

Finally, you have made up your mind for writing children’s books and are now looking for courses, books or workshops which can help you in this adventure. This week, the Octavo team gathered to discuss how to write children’s books and with the help of collective researches done, we came up with five very important writing tips which you must follow for writing your children’s book.

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Are creatively designed books more attractive to kids?

Research shows that children are mentally stimulated by design elements, creative illustrations, and pictures used. You might also agree with the same if you recall your childhood days and the types of books you were most attracted to. The ones with pictures, illustrations, and nicely created environments! Thus, for the better benefit of the kids, the books should be designed in a very creative way so that the children find them attractive.

Our team did a comprehensive study of what makes a book creatively designed and we found that the pictures, environment, and words amplifying the images form the building blocks of the same. Let us understand them in detail.

  1. Pictures: Pictures help the kids get an interesting overview of the content they are reading. Images, illustrations, etc. make the kids feel more connected to the story. A wise use of images makes the book really interesting to read.
  2. Environment: The colours used in the background (of the images) say a lot about the story being conveyed.
  3. Words amplifying images: We found that when kids see images with the content, it helps them understand the complete scenario. How does the character look, how does he behave etc. when depicted in images, make the book even more interesting to read. Also, emotions, the most important of all, when shown in images, make the emotional skills of kids even stronger.

Although most of the books like picture books, comics and manga are creatively designed, we would explain the findings in detail taking the example of picture books here.

Picture books and reading skills

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a very popular saying and we agree with it. However, with children, it is not the case. Children judge a book by its cover only. Have you ever seen a child in a bookstore? If the cover is attractive enough, then they would like it and would want to explore it. Be it any children’s book, the first impression of the book is usually shaped by the images or pictures used in the book. Creatively designed books bring the stories to life and beg to be explored.

In the picture books, pictures convey the meaning well before the reader reads the text. It has been found that the picture books can help increase the vocabulary, which ultimately leads to improved reading skills.

Picture books and empathy

Apart from reading skills and visual literacy, the picture books also help in building emotional skills. Empathy is the only thing which differentiates humans from other organisms. The development of empathy starts from the age of 4 in kids but it might not work the same way with kids with autism and other variations of the disease. The kids with autism generally develop it very slowly.

When kids see pictures which are connected to an emotion, they generally feel attached to it. For example, kids smile when they see a smiling image or a smiling character, beautiful scenery or a cute animal. Similarly, they feel fear when they see a ferocious animal or a monster. They start feeling the emotions of the character in the story during the reading. This generally happens in the early phases that they literally get happy or scared as if the monster is coming after them but with time they start relating to the feelings of the character without feeling the same kind of fear. They can empathise with the emotions. Also, gradually with age, they start remembering the names of the characters and start using those in conversations as if they were real. Pictures help in building that connect and creating the impact.

Picture books and imagination

Ideas are all around, they just need to be triggered. Picture books help the kids question more. It can be small questions like why is the color of the sky dark blue here or why is the face of Roger red, and much more.

With the ability to question, comes the ability to imagine

You must understand this that picture books are a great source of imagination and creativity for kids. Books which bring out the creative ability of a kid, really attract the kids. Artistic books like “Ideas Are All Around” by Philip C. Stead, “What to Do With a Box” by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban, “Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game” by Hanne Bartholin are some of the best picture books have proven to spark imagination in kids.


After doing an exhaustive research we found that creatively designed books do play a great role in leaving an impact on the readers. Also, books with nicely illustrated pictures catch the attention of kids more than the simple books with no or very fewer images.

Expert tips

Now when you know benefits of a creatively designed book, understand how to create one:

  1. Choose an inquisitive title for the book: Choose a title for your book which raises a question in the minds of the reader and excites them to read it.
  2. Design a relevant and very creative cover image: As said earlier, children judge a book by its cover. The more creativity you put in, the better it is.
  3. Keep the usage of words very simple: For children’s books, simplicity is the key while choosing the words for your sentences. Make the sentences very easy to comprehend and understand for them.
  4. Use images with great wisdom: Get the images designed very carefully. Pictures are very important for kids and thus, it is advisable to design and use very attractive images.
  5. Use easy to read typefaces and font sizes: Select a typeface in such a way that it is easy to read for all the children, even for those with reading disabilities. Also, it is advisable to use medium size or large size font for children’s books.