Sam Myers, a senior psychology student at the University of Wyoming, was looking for assistive technology software that would read his textbooks aloud. Because of a visual impairment in one of his eyes, Sam could not read for long periods of time without straining his vision, and large amounts of reading became very tedious and time consuming.
As an audio-learner, Sam thought audio textbooks could possibly assist with his college reading and help to improve his performance as a student. He already had an iPad and tried to use the built-in screen reader feature, called VoiceOver, however, VoiceOver was not compatible with the e-textbooks for his courses. That’s when Sam turned to Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) for troubleshooting and assistance through the Wyoming Clearinghouse for Accessible Educational Materials and Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR).
By working with WIND staff, Sam learned of a resource called Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities that provides free memberships to qualifying U.S. students and schools. With the assistance of WIND and verification from his doctor, Sam was able to gain free access to Bookshare for all his textbooks for the semester.
“I have a lot more time now that I am reading my books through audio,” said Sam. “It is much less strain on my eyes and I am even able to study while I am doing my physical therapy exercises. Learning about Bookshare is going to be a great tool for graduate school. Assistive technology solutions are not transparent to everyone, so it is good to have a program like WIND and people who are so willing to help.”
Special thanks to Sam Myers, the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities for allowing us to republish this post.
Bookshare enriches the lives of people with print disabilities well beyond school into their adult lives. Often members tell us they now enjoy exploring new interests and hobbies and finding resources to help them with their careers. Members stay connected to the world through local and national news. They catch up on the hottest books their friends are reading, and they pursue lifelong learning.
Our staff is catching up with college students about how they plan to use Bookshare after school, and today’s blog features Amber Steet, a Bookshare member since the ninth grade.
Meet Amber Steet
Amber has a full course load at the University of Texas at San Antonio and will graduate next year with honors and a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies in education and anthropology. After college, she plans to work as a teacher of the visually impaired.
When we caught up with her, Amber was gearing up to participate in a National Student Exchange Program and receive one of the highest individual honors given to college students: “Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges.”
Amber has an impressive track record of academic achievement, leadership, and extracurricular activities. She is an officer in the Honor’s Society, mentors elementary students, and plans to continue to volunteer after college, most likely in a hospital. We congratulate Amber on all of her accomplishments and pursuits!
Is Bookshare in Amber’s Future?
“Yes, I’m positively going to continue my membership to Bookshare, even after school,” she says. “The library gives me free reign to read and gain knowledge.”
When asked how she plans to tap into Bookshare as a teacher, Amber said, “Hopefully to read what I enjoy and find career resources and stories that will benefit me as a teacher and for my students.”
We ask all current and future Bookshare members, what’s next for you? Are you signed up to enjoy lifelong learning?
We hope so!
Watch Amber’s Summer Video About Reading Bookshare Books on a BrailleNote.
Calling all Canadians…do you love to read a good story?
How about 225,000 amazing stories, all available at your fingertips for FREE?
Canadians with qualified print disabilities can easily access all the latest ebooks, like NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson, Oprah’s Book Club titles, like I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, and CBC Canada Reads books, like When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid.
Free ebooks—How Is This Possible?
The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) partnered with Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities, to offer a huge collection of over 225,000 titles, including new releases, bestsellers, mysteries, romance, science fiction, autobiographies, and books for school and career.
In addition, Bookshare books do not have expiration dates, and people with print disabilities can read many different ways and on a variety of reading tools!
More Ways to Read!
With Bookshare, you get many reading options—more than any other accessible library. You can read books on tablets, smartphones, computers, assistive technology devices, MP3 players, and more. And because Bookshare books come in accessible formats like DAISY and BRF (Braille Ready Format), they can be read the following ways:
- Listen to words read aloud
- See and hear words read on a screen
- Read with enlarged fonts
- Read with refreshable braille
What Do You Get with Bookshare?
With a Bookshare membership, you get all of the following:
- Unlimited access to more than 225,000 titles with no expiration dates!
- 24/7 availability to the Bookshare website
- Free reading tools for PC, Mac, and Android devices
- Friendly and helpful customer support
- Access to a lively and supportive community of Bookshare members
Sign Up Today with These Four Easy Steps!
- Make sure you qualify as a Canadian with a print disability.
- Contact your local local library to register for CELA services.
Welcome to all our Canadian members.
P.S. If you know someone who could benefit from this offer, please share this information!
This positive message is one of the best known lines from the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” This uplifting book is an all-time favorite of both children and adults and is the featured title for this year’s Read Across America Day.
We celebrate this national event by encouraging all Bookshare members and book lovers everywhere to read this wonderful story.
Read it yourself. Read it with a friend. Read it with your child. Read it to the end. The story reminds us of life’s challenges during times of transition and provides helpful affirmations to help us move forward. Bookshare members often make positive changes and successful transitions. Here are some of their stories!
Jose Looks Forward to Middle School
Nine-year-old, Jose, struggled to read basic books in kindergarten. He was frustrated and sad. In second grade, Jose was diagnosed with dyslexia. A therapist gave him an accessible ebook from Bookshare that he read on the family iPad. His mom, Lola, says, “Jose is ten times happier! He is a different child and learner. He is better equipped to perform well on reading tests. We believe that he will make a much easier transition to middle school where reading assignments become even more challenging.”
When we think of transition, we often think of high school, college or work, but what about transitioning from elementary to middle school and onto high school? How can we help students with print disabilities succeed through all their transitions?
Ms. Felts Recommends Starting Early
Early intervention can help students transition successfully. When asked at what age students should start with resources like Bookshare, Susanna Felts, an elementary school librarian in Corpus Christi, TX says, as early as possible.
“By third grade, if students are struggling, we must initiate a process to assess their needs and accommodate their reading ability,” says Ms. Felts. “Starting the process early helps more students keep pace before they fall behind. We don’t want to wait until students are in fifth grade or older to make that determination.”
Emily Demonstrates Transition Success
What does transition success look like? Meet Emily!
She has juvenile macular degeneration and has used technology and Bookshare to help her make successful transitions throughout her life. Emily became an A+ student early on, and when she transitioned to high school, she took many advanced placement classes. Emily is also tech savvy and reads accessible ebooks on all types of reading devices. With her great courage, wonderful teachers, and resources like Bookshare, she is well on her way to make successful transitions to college, career and beyond.
Tell Us About The Places You Will Go!
Thanks for making the Read Across America a successful national event. Let’s keep the discussion going. Tell us why you think accessible books will ease your transition and learning success.
Oh…and happy birthday to Dr. Seuss!
P.S. Next month we’ll talk about the benefits of digital accessible books and technologies to transition more easily to high school, college and careers. Visit www.bookshare.org to learn more and share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.
“Learn Anywhere” was the theme of this year’s Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Conference, held February 3–6 in Austin. TCEA is one of the largest regional EdTech (educational technology) events in the U.S., and Benetech’s Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) team was on hand to demonstrate tools that help Bookshare members read accessible ebooks anytime, anywhere.
Hundreds of Texas educators, administrators, school librarians, and school IT professionals stopped by the Bookshare/ABT booth to learn how their students with print disabilities can succeed at reading with accessible ebooks from Bookshare. They also learned about the wide variety of reading tools to support people with learning differences. In addition, many attended two dynamic conference sessions presented by the ABT team about “Anytime, Anywhere Learning for Readers with Print Disabilities.”
TCEA was also the ideal venue to connect with Austin eighth grader Ben Cooper, an avid Bookshare user and passionate dyslexia advocate. Ben visited the conference to talk with Texas Education Agency staff about the challenges he faces as a student with a learning disability and how Bookshare helps him succeed in school.
In a recent Benetech video titled “As They See It: Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities,” Ben and other Texas students with learning disabilities share their excitement about ebooks, Bookshare, and assistive technologies that open doors to confidence, independence, and achievement. He also delivers a heartfelt and compelling message to students: “If you are struggling with reading, you might want to…get checked for a learning disability. Check it out now before you get pummeled with reading.”
At the upcoming SXSWedu Conference, Ben will bring his powerful message to more people.
- On March 9 at 3:00 p.m., hear Ben give a 10-minute talk on “Disability Rights” as part of the Student Voice Summit at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Austin.
- On March 10 at 6:00 p.m., during the SXSWedu Education Expo in the Austin Convention Center, hear Ben and several other presenters encourage attendees to “Think Big!” when it comes to dyslexia.
- On March 12 at 9:00 a.m. in the Hilton Downtown Austin, Ben will participate in discussions on “Dyslexia: Changing How We Think about Potential.”
The ABT team will attend Ben’s presentations and staff a Bookshare table during the Education Expo, March 10 from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. Throughout the conference, the ABT team will also demonstrate Bookshare in the “Experience Dyslexia” section of the hands-on playground area.
The Bookshare and ABT teams are excited to be represented by such a vibrant young man as Ben Cooper. As a result of his advocacy, we look forward to seeing more students with qualifying print disabilities sign up for Bookshare membership and benefit from its many resources