Friday, January 6, 2012

Bookshare Offers Assistance to Students with Disabilities

I am fortunate to have a blind young man working for me in the media center. His positive attitude and spirit lift me daily, and he never ceases to amaze me with his ability to navigate the computer lab and library. There are so many things that the sighted world takes for granted, and Matt reminds me of these things every day. Today I learned about Bookshare®, (2012 Reader's Choice Award winner from eSchool Media) a site which is an online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. It operates under an exception to U.S. copyright law which allows copyrighted digital books to be made available to people with qualifying disabilities. I can't wait to share the site with Matt, as well as our special education teachers, as I know our students will find it invaluable. As described on their site, "members with visual impairments can listen to books with using a text-to-speech synthesized voice, read books in Braille, or access the material in large print. Members can read books on a computer or a variety of portable devices, either visually and with text-to-speech as desired. Members with severe dyslexia typically benefit from access to the full text of books in digital format, for multi-modal reading with both visual and audio.(through synthetic text to speech)."  Here's a video of blind student Steffon Middleton using a portable Braille device to read digital books on Bookshare® :

Currently there are about 127,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals and assistive technology tools.

Bookshare® has a long list of major donors, including Adobe Corporation, Mozilla Foundation, (their browser is FireFox) Microsoft Corporation and the U.S. Department of Education - Office of Special Education Programs.

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