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Omree Sabo, High School Student with Dyslexia, Advocates for Ebooks

2016 October 25
by Bookshare Communications

Bookshare member dives into the deep end of reading with accessible ebooks!

Omree Sabo sitting on his couch with his laptop and a thumbs up.Omree Sabo, a sophomore at Redwood High School in Marin County, California, is an avid user of Bookshare; so much so that he decided to help other students and teachers at his school and in his county learn about the free, online  library of accessible ebooks for U.S. students who cannot read standard print.

“Bookshare gets a big thumbs up from me,” says Omree. “I don’t know where my grades would be if my parents had not found Bookshare and signed me up for an Individual Membership.”

In second grade, Omree recalls being pulled out of class to be tested by a reading specialist. “I felt ashamed when my elementary teachers asked me to read aloud and I couldn’t,” he says. “In school, most teachers, including some in special education, did not know about a Bookshare Organizational Membership for schools. They did not realize that the resource is free and could give kids, like me, access to digital textbooks and reading assignments in digital formats like the one I just read for English: Romeo and Juliet.”

During his freshman year, Omree worked on a school project to learn about assistive technologies and how they support students with learning disabilities. He contacted Bookshare to ask for literature to share with his peers and school administrators in his district.

“I found that most students with reading and writing disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) did not know about or use Bookshare,” he said. “As a result, most were not considering college. I completely understood how they felt, but this was not acceptable. How are kids with dyslexia supposed to read textbooks without audio assistance? Some statistics say that less than ten percent of students with reading disabilities finish college because they cannot handle the high-level reading material. Bookshare helped me to recognize that I am a very good student. I was always good at math and science, and now I like to read.”

Book Cover of The Alchemyst by Michael ScottFor required reading at school, Omree has read The Secret Life of Bees, works by William Shakespeare, and The Alchemyst from Bookshare. He intends to look for test preparation materials in Bookshare so that he can study for the SAT and ACT prior to attending college where he plans to study computer programming or science.

He reads ebooks on his iPad with apps like Read2Go and Voice Dream Reader, and also on his laptop using Bookshare Web Reader directly from an internet browser. Students can read Bookshare books on a wide variety of software apps, tablets, smartphones, and assistive technology devices.

“Listening to ebooks read aloud through text-to-speech while seeing the words highlighted helped me recognize how much I can learn while reading,” he said. “I also like to set my own reading preferences so I can look up words in the dictionary and take notes to study for exams.”

Book Cover of Michael Phelps by Jeffrey Zuehlke with photo of Michael swimming butterflyWhen he’s not involved in a school project, Omree loves to play guitar and swim. He idolizes Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medal swimmer. When out of the pool, he reads popular teen series like Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter and likes to stay up to date on news and politics.

“Reading digital text helps me to pay attention and read for longer periods of time,” says Omree. “I like information that makes me think. I like to help people and want other kids with dyslexia to receive the accommodations they need for their reading disabilities, like assistive technologies and Bookshare. Then, they will be able to read well too. With Bookshare’s collection, I can dive into books and be like Michael Phelps — having no limits to hold me back. If that happens, then people with dyslexia can do well in school and go to college.”

Sign Up for Bookshare Today!

Bookshare’s online accessible library has over 484,000 titles including textbooks, Common Core materials, educational titles, bestsellers, children’s books, and more. The library is free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities that prevent them from reading printed text. Bookshare is an initiative of a technology nonprofit called Benetech and is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education.

Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Texas Specialist Finds Successful Reading Strategies to Teach Students with Dyslexia

2016 October 18
by Bookshare Communications

Leslie Patterson listening to a Bookshare book through a smart phone with headphonesFinding the right reading solutions for an estimated 2.4 million* American students with a learning disability, like dyslexia, can be difficult. For these students, reading isn’t easy. Brain signals get mixed up, causing an inability to decode and interpret words. Thankfully, many students with learning disabilities are placed in the capable hands of specialists like Leslie Patterson, a Certified Academic Language Therapist and licensed Dyslexia Teacher for Griffis Elementary School in Caddo Mills, Texas. Leslie works with young children, and a critical part of her job is to identify strategies and resources that strengthen their reading comprehension through a multisensory approach.

Discovering Assistive Technology to Hear Content Read Aloud

Several years ago, Leslie experienced an “aha” moment that forever changed the way she taught reading using assistive technology and accessible curriculum materials. “I was working with a first grader who had a lot of exposure to reading but could not easily retain word patterns,” she said.

Leslie and many other teachers tried different strategies, but none were effective. In fourth grade, the student was still reading poorly, so the specialist took a new approach. She sat him at a computer running Read & Write Gold by TextHelp. The software reads text aloud and highlights words as the reader listens and follows along. With headphones on, the student was immersed in reading. “It was like a light went on,” says Leslie. “He showed immediate improvement. He began to complete all his assignments with the help of the Read & Write Gold text-to-speech features.”

Soon after his introduction to technology, Leslie signed him up for a Bookshare membership where he could read digital accessible books with both his eyes and his ears. Rather than reading print books that were several grade levels below his cognitive ability, this student was now passing Accelerated Reading (AR) scores on grade-level library books. The student went on to complete all of his school assignments using assistive technology and accessible curriculum. The multisensory reading approach (listening to and seeing highlighted text) enabled him to comprehend more of what he read. He met his academic goals. He enjoyed going to the school library and to find and read digital books. Leslie knew that she had made a breakthrough with her student.

Since that early technology reading experience, Leslie has turned to Bookshare’s online accessible library to find a broader selection of accessible ebooks. She says, “The digital library makes a real difference in helping students read grade-level text. Membership is free for all qualified U.S. students and includes some free reading tools. I can easily find accessible materials for schoolwork and pleasure reading.”

Teaching Students with Dyslexia to Become Mindful Readers

To keep her students engaged in reading, Leslie teaches them strategies of how to “listen well” with their eyes and ears. She says this is a key learning strategy called mindful reading. “Reading ebooks is like watching a movie,” she says. “If students learn to practice mindful reading strategies, they can become fully immersed in their ebooks. This experience can increase their comprehension and help them become independent readers. It opens them up to new learning opportunities and to expect academic achievement.”

Leslie suggests these mindful reading practices that she has adopted over time:

  1. Focus and discipline – teach students how to intentionally engage their senses, particularly eyes and ears, while reading (seeing and hearing) a digital ebook.
  2. Thought patterns – discuss brain functions to alert the thinking process.
  3. Story elements – break down the story into smaller parts to understand main points.
  4. Memory and recall – understand how the brain retains and recalls information.
  5. Imagination and creativity – determine how to imagine images, charts and symbols.
  6. Characters – imagine people and scenes in the mind, like in a movie.
  7. Brainstorm – prepare students to ask questions likely to be on comprehension quizzes.
  8. Technology devices – review how to use devices and set preferences and bookmarks.

Each school day, Leslie Patterson enters her classroom and sees tablets on her desk with lots of sticky notes from students requesting ebooks from Bookshare. She says, “Bookshare is a wise investment of time for our schools, teachers, and families. The library holds a rich and diverse collection (482,174 titles to date) with over 350,000 educational titles including literature and K-12 textbooks in accessible formats. With mindful reading best practices, assistive technology, and ebooks, we can help many more students with learning and print disabilities enjoy success in school and in life, and teaching children how to read and listen well will make you a hero.”

*Source: National Center for Learning Disabilities


Leslie Patterson was just featured in the Dallas Morning News in an article titled, “Elementary teacher uses technology to help dyslexic students develop love of reading.”



Bookshare Has the Books for Teen Read Week

2016 October 10

By guest author Kathy Swartz, Bookshare Operations Administrator and Librarian

Teen Read Week, October 9-15, is a reading event sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The goal is to get tweens, teens, and young adults reading and talking about books. Bookshare, an accessible online library for individuals who cannot read traditional print books because of a visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability, has many books for this audience, and now we have even more. Thanks to a generous donation by Carole Lake, a long-standing supporter of Bookshare, we have been able to add an additional 88 books to the collection that were not already provided by our publisher partners.

The collection contains award-winning books, books recommended in teen magazines and blogs, series books, bestsellers, and more. With so many to choose from, I thought I’d offer some suggestions. The books marked with an asterisk appear on the list of the YALSA 2016 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.

For tweens (middle school, grades 6 – 8):

  • Con Academy* by Joe Screiber: At an elite prep school, two con artists make a bet on who can con the richest,Luck by Cynthia Kadohata: Two children are sitting on the ground.most privileged student. In this twisty tale of scams, secrets, lies and deception, it’s hard to figure out who’s conning who!
  • The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata: There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family.
  • The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp: The title says it all!
  • Mechanica* by Betsy Cornwell: A steam-punk Cinderella.
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day.
  • I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm.

For teens (high school, grades 9 – 12):

  • Zeroes (Zeroes #1)* by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti: Don’t call them heroes, but Book cover for Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draperthese six California teens have powers that set them apart.
  • Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie has a life-threatening allergy to electricity, and Moritz’s weak heart requires a pacemaker. If they ever did meet, they could both die.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
  • The Game of Love and Death* by Martha Brockenbrough: Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection.
  • Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter: Newly arrived in 1892 New England, Abigail Rook becomes an assistant to R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained.
  • Tears of a Tiger (Hazelwood High #1) by Sharon M. Draper: In one horrifying night, Andy’s life changed forever: Andy Jackson was driving the car that crashed after a game, killing Robert Washington, his best friend and the captain of the Hazelwood High Tigers.

For young adults (grade 11 and beyond):

  • Everything, Everything* by Nicola Yoon: If you love Eleanor and Park, Hazel and Augustus, and Mia and Book cover for Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothee de FombelleAdam, you’ll love the story of Maddy, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly, the boy who moves in next door and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.
  • Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie: Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
  • Sway by Kat Spears: A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist. High school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things.
  • Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls* by Lynn Weingarten: Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, this book will keep you guessing until the very last page.
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps, so when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. But Finn knows what really happened to Roza. He knows she was kidnapped by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember.
  • Vango: Between Sky And Earth by Timothée de Fombelle: A breathless and highly cinematic story that follows Vango traveling by Zeppelin across Europe from Stromboli to Nazi Germany, from Scotland to the Soviet Union, climbing the rooftops of Paris, and crossing the paths of arms traffickers, crooked policemen, Russian spies and even Stalin.

An important note: while these books are theoretically for teens and young adults, they are all excellent books that can be enjoyed by adults of all ages! And this list is just a sample – check out more by these authors and others in the Bookshare teen collection.

We hope you enjoy these accessible ebooks in the Bookshare library all year long – and not just during Teen Read Week.

Not yet a Bookshare member? Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Son’s Dyslexia Diagnosis Prompts Mom’s Search for Answers

2016 October 6

Seth Gast has dyslexia and a language disorder. For three years, he has used Bookshare’s online accessible library for schoolwork and to find Boy Scout manuals to obtain his merit badges and become an Eagle Scout. His mom, Dina Gast, credits his academic progress to a renowned dyslexia center, excellent teachers and tutors, and Bookshare. In recognition of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, here is Seth’s story.

Seth Gast listening and reading a book on his smartphone with headphones on.

Early Reading Frustration

Entering first grade, Seth was a bright little boy, but his mom noticed his enthusiasm for school and learning diminish. He liked books, but seemed to be frustrated with reading. A shadow followed Seth and his family for years. His mom, Dina Gast, arose each day with uncertainty. She remembers her son bringing books home from school that he could recite from memory. Seth had begun to compensate for his reading challenges with memorization. Mrs. Gast talked with teachers about her son’s lack of reading progress and says, “You never want to hear that anything is wrong with your child, but the answers and solutions for my son did not come easily.”

Mrs. Gast began to help Seth with schoolwork; still, his reading interest and grades fell. By third grade, she enrolled him in the Ohio Virtual Academy, a tuition-free, fully-accredited, online public school. By sixth grade, Mrs. Gast scheduled tests at the Akron Children’s Hospital where a physician who specializes in neurology developmental and behavior science diagnosed Seth with dyslexia. He also recommended Bookshare and the Children’s Dyslexia Center, Inc. run by the Scottish Rite Charity and Masonic Order. Mrs. Gast quickly signed her son up for an individual membership to Bookshare.

From Barely Reading to Reading with Full Comprehension

For two years, Seth worked with his online teacher and a certified tutor at the Children’s Dyslexia Center using accessible ebooks from Bookshare. At that time, Seth in his boy scout uniform standing in the woods by a tree.Seth’s reading, writing and spelling skills were barely at a first grade level. “It’s been amazing to watch his progress,” says his mom. Seth went from barely reading to full comprehension. His handwriting, once gigantic and messy, turned into beautiful cursive. His vocabulary and spelling skills improved. Seth also has a much higher self-esteem and a greater understanding of his reading disability. “At first, I did not want people to know that I could not read,” he said. “I memorized a lot of books, but that got harder to do. Bookshare, my teachers, my technology and my mom helped me so much!”

Boy Scouts Honor

This year, Seth is completing his Boy Scouts of America merit badge series to become an Eagle Scout. He says, “I still like to hold a printed book or textbook, but I also want to hear the information read aloud.” He reads on an iPad with Read2Go.  “The best thing about a digital accessible book is that you can read with your eyes and listen with your ears. This type of multi-sensory learning sinks in for me. I know I am smart. My brain is just wired differently.”

Leisure Reading Sparks a Career Interest

Jack Hanna holding a baby tiger.Growing up, Seth loved to read about nature and animals. It is no surprise that in high school he does well in animal science and biology. He wants to attend Ohio State University to become a zoologist. He says, “I was inspired by Jack Hanna, a well-respected American zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium who has dyslexia too.”

Since identifying Seth’s learning disability, Mrs. Gast is so proud of her son. “Our lives and Seth’s reading skills have improved significantly! He is still a slow reader, but listening to audio books has improved his ability to get schoolwork done with less frustration. He just completed his first semester in high school with all A’s. This achievement would not have been possible without  teachers who know the advantages of using accessible ebooks and technologies and these valuable resources to support children and adults with dyslexia and other print disabilities.”

Four Reasons to Sign Up for a Bookshare Membership:

  1. Reading skills improvement to enable progress toward grade level academic achievement.
  2. Access to core curriculum and required reading materials (K-12 textbooks, novels and literature) in accessible format.
  3. Reading and learning independence.
  4. Reading for fun and to tap into interests and hobbies.

Special thanks to Dina Gast and her son, Seth,  for sharing their story.

Learn more about Bookshare’s back-to-school initiative today!



BeeLine Reader Adds Color to Bookshare

2016 September 30

Bookshare is now offering an award-winning accessibility feature that helps readers maintain focus and improves visual tracking ability. This integration is made possible through a partnership with social impact startup BeeLine Reader.

The idea behind BeeLine Reader’s technology is to make text easier to read by using eye-guiding color gradients. These gradients wrap from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, reducing the incidence of line transition errors. Readers of all ages and skill levels can use BeeLine to make reading easier and more enjoyable. Many readers—especially those with dyslexia, ADHD, and vision impairments—find that BeeLine allows them to read with unprecedented fluency and ease.

Bookshare members who read with Bookshare Web Reader, our free browser-based reading tool, can now add BeeLine’s color gradients to text by activating the BeeLine feature through the Settings menu. This feature is free.

First, go to My Bookshare and select a title and click “Read Now.” You will see this pop-up message:

Pop-up screen that asks members if they want to try BeeLine Reader


Click on the “Yes, I’ll try it!” button and then select BeeLine from the Settings menu:

screen shot of the Bookshare Web Reader settings window that allows you to select font face, font size, text and background color, and display format


You can choose between several color schemes. The BeeLine Reader text will look like this:

Screen shot of a passage from a book showing text in gradients of color in blue, black and red


Bookshare conducted a study with mentor teachers who evaluated BeeLine Reader. All of the study participants said they would like to use BeeLine Reader with Bookshare content. Said one teacher, “I am very excited about introducing this assistive technology to my special education and general education teachers. It provides struggling students the opportunity to succeed in reading. I am very, very excited!”

BeeLine’s technology is currently under study at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford Medical School. The study is being run by the director of the Institute, Dr. Joyce Liao. She and her colleagues are investigating BeeLine’s benefits for readers with various visual impairments, both congenital and acquired. BeeLine has previously been featured by the American Optometric Association.

We encourage you to visit the Bookshare Help Center to learn how to use BeeLine Reader with Bookshare Web Reader and give it a try today.

To learn more about BeeLine Reader and how you can use it to read websites, email, and PDFs, visit:


Denver Administrators Strengthen Reading For Students with Print Disabilities Through Expansion of Bookshare

2016 September 27
Photo of Philippe Ernewein, Director of Education at, Denver Academy, sitting at his desk.

Philippe Ernewein, Director of Education, Denver Academy

Denver Academy’s Philippe Ernewein, Director of Education, and Anthony Slaughter, Director of Information Technology, were eager to hear about the progress of Alyssa Campbell. While Alyssa has had a Bookshare Individual Membership for many years, it wasn’t until she entered middle school at Denver Academy that she began reading more textbooks and literature using accessible ebooks with assistive technologies. Alyssa has a documented learning disability that makes it difficult to read traditional print materials.

Text-to-Speech Makes Reading Easier

Due to her disability, Alyssa could not keep pace with the rigorous reading assignments for her grade level. Her mom, Debbie Campbell, an educator herself, said, “Accessible books helped my daughter to be more confident. She recognized that she was smart and capable. All she needed was the reading assignment to be in accessible format. That is when we found Bookshare and reading tools.”

As Alyssa read digital text on her computer, she could hear content read aloud through the text-to-speech capability, often referred to as TTS. This accessible reading experience helped her to comprehend more information. For the first time, her reading process was less frustrating, and her academic future looked brighter.

Denver Academy Evaluates Bookshare for Schoolwide Use

Photo of Anthony Slaughter, IT Director at Denver Academy, sitting at his desk.

Anthony Slaughter, IT Director, Denver Academy

Mr. Ernewein said, “Denver Academy’s mission is to inspire diverse learners, like Alyssa, through student-centered, differentiated, and transformative education. We also encourage conversations with parents as part of our partnership model. Mrs. Campbell helped us to better understand the academic and cost-saving benefits of Bookshare. The resource made sense to us to support how children with print disabilities read, so we organized a team and reviewed our Bookshare Organizational Membership.  We developed goals and added Bookshare to the menu of accommodations that students who qualify can access. We also created detailed learning profiles that each homeroom teacher manages for their students.”

Denver Academy’s Goals To Improve Reading Through Accessible Books

  1. Strengthen reading abilities for more students who qualify for Bookshare.
  2. Motivate learners to read with better comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary.
  3. Broaden the diverse range of accessible books that include educational and recreational titles.
  4. Educate and train teachers and parents in the most effective ways to integrate Bookshare into the learning environment for students who qualify.
  5. Empower students to read with assistive technologies, when appropriate.
  6. Encourage students to work at their instructional level, whether it be on or above grade level.
  7. Engage students to be more independent readers and learners.

Back to school made easy graphic with students, a teacher, and books on shelvesToday, Denver Academy is proud of their accomplishments toward the development of learning environments that enable all students to reach their full potential. The staff continues to expand their use of Bookshare and the use of assistive technologies based on individual student needs.

For Alyssa Campbell, Bookshare is in the frequently-used category in her learning process at school and at home. She has developed a greater sense of confidence with reading, has a much brighter outlook, and her family and school leaders are pleased that she is making significant academic progress.

Bookshare is Free to U.S. Schools and Students with Print Disabilities

Bookshare is an online library of accessible books available at no cost to U.S. schools and students with qualifying print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities. The library is supported by awards from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. Today, tens of thousands of students are members. They can read accessible books on devices that work best for them, such as a computer, tablet, smartphone or braille device. Sign up today!Button that says Sign Up

Special thanks to Denver Academy Administrators Philippe Ernewein and Anthony Slaughter and to Deborah Campbell who is a Bookshare Parent Ambassador.










Benetech Delivers 10 Million Accessible Ebooks

2016 September 20

Benetech’s Bookshare technology makes reading possible for over 425,000 individuals unable to read standard print and empowers students and adults to succeed in school, work and social inclusion. 

PALO ALTO, Calif. — September 20, 2016 — Benetech, the leading nonprofit empowering communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions, today announced that over 10 million accessible ebooks have been downloaded through its Bookshare initiative. Bookshare is the world’s largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired or have a physical disability that interferes with reading, such as dyslexia.10 Million Downloads Image

“Access to information is a basic human right,” said Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO of Benetech. “Our Bookshare initiative is focused on using technology to make sure individuals who are unable to read standard print can exercise that right. Today’s milestone is a celebration of what is possible when technology is used for social good.”

Benetech works with over 820 publishers to collect new releases and existing books that are currently unavailable to individuals who cannot read standard print. Bookshare’s technology converts the digital files to accessible formats, including braille, audio, highlighted text and large-font text. Over 425,000 Bookshare members in 70 countries access the growing list of 460,000 titles made available by this technology. The Bookshare library is free for all U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities.

“Bookshare has made a huge difference in my life,” said Brian Meersma, Bookshare member. “I started using Bookshare in middle school. The impact was amazing. I could complete assignments on my own, keep up with my classmates and really excel in school. I now attend Cornell University and help others unlock the power of Bookshare. It’s my hope that all people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia are able to use Bookshare to excel in the classroom and become lifelong learners.”

Today’s announcement is also a call to action for all content to be “Born Accessible.”  Benetech is proud to provide publishers and other content creators with the tools, standards and best practices they need to build accessibility into books when they are first created. While Bookshare is the largest digital library of accessible ebooks, it is estimated that 90 percent of all books are still inaccessible to hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide who are dyslexic, blind, visually impaired or have another physical disability. Benetech is focused on ensuring all content serves everyone equally.

About Benetech

Benetech is a different kind of tech company. We’re a nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions. Our work has transformed how over 425,000 people with disabilities read; made it safer for human rights defenders in over fifty countries to document human rights violations; and equipped environmental conservationists to protect ecosystems and species all over the world. Our Benetech Labs is working on the next big impact. Visit

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.

Media Contact 

Sara Gebhardt, 650-644-3452


Parent Partners with School Administrators to Advocate for Accessible Ebooks and Dispel Myths

2016 September 14


Deborah Campbell with Denver Academy’s Director of Education, Philippe Ernewein, and Director of IT, Anthony Slaughter

When Deborah Campbell volunteered at Denver Academy, she had one mission: to educate teachers and families of children with reading disabilities about the benefits of accessible ebooks and assistive technologies for learning.

Mrs. Campbell holds a master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction and has a deep understanding of the education process. Alyssa, her eldest daughter, attends Denver Academy and was diagnosed with a learning disability in second grade. At that time she read at a noticeably slower pace than her peers, and it was difficult for Deborah to watch Alyssa struggle and see her daughter’s self-esteem diminish.

“I heard about Bookshare at a workshop on technology tools for students with learning disabilities and became a tiger mother,” shared Mrs. Campbell. “I learned about the benefits of using accessible ebooks and how they can support children who cannot read standard print well.”

Alyssa Campbell reading a book from Bookshare on her computer with headphones. As a U.S. student with a learning disability, Alyssa qualified for a free membership to Bookshare. Soon, her reading level advanced and her mom saw a positive transformation in Alyssa’s comprehension skills and behavior.

Mrs. Campbell signed up to be a Bookshare Parent Ambassador, joining a network of parents across the U.S. who advocate in their local schools on behalf of Bookshare as an academic reading solution. She also talked with Denver Academy’s Director of Education and Director of Information Technology who were eager to examine how Bookshare could benefit more students who qualified throughout their campus. They identified a core group of interested administrators, teachers, and families and held discussions about the benefits and misperceptions surrounding the use of accessible ebooks for learning.

Benefits of Accessible Ebooks and Technologies

  1. Increased enjoyment of literature
  2. Support of a child’s intellectual level and personal reading interests
  3. Access to content at all reading levels
  4. Exposure to new vocabulary
  5. Increased comprehension and fluency skills
  6. Reduced time spent on homework
  7. Opportunities to enable real-time note-taking
  8. Enhanced reading engagement through use of personalized technology settings to support reader preferences
  9. Reduced stress and frustration in the reading process
  10. The ability to experience multi-modal reading to see highlighted text and hear it read aloud through text-to-speech capability

Myths Regarding Accessible Ebooks and Technologies

  1. Only print materials should be used in school.
  2. Textbooks and required reading assignments in digital format are hard to find.
  3. Listening to a book is not reading.
  4. Students with reading disabilities will grow out of the disability.
  5. Students don’t like computer voices.
  6. Using technology support for testing is cheating.
  7. Students who use technology have unfair advantages.
  8. It’s too late for older students and adults to try ebooks.
  9. Copyright law prohibits schools from using digital materials.
  10. Setting up a Bookshare membership is complicated.

On the last point, Mrs. Campbell says, “Signing up for Bookshare is straightforward. Just sign up online, print the qualification form, get a school professional or Cover of the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseiniphysician to sign it, and email or fax the form to Bookshare. Then, log in, search for a title, and either download the ebook to your computer or mobile device or read it directly through the Internet using Bookshare Web Reader. There are no constraints, and the library and some reading tools are free.”

Now in eighth grade, Alyssa reads significantly above grade level, manages her assignments independently, and has developed a true love of literature. She is reading The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini and studies curriculum materials for several classes from the accessible K-12 textbooks assigned to her through Bookshare by her school.

“Accessible ebooks was the right solution for my daughter,” says Mrs. Campbell. “It is sad to know how many parents and educators are still unaware of Bookshare and the benefits of accessible ebooks and technologies to improve a child’s reading ability. Everyone has to approach learning with the tools and strategies that work best for them. If you see a child falling behind or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, you must seek out alternatives to capture their attention. Don’t stand in the crossroads believing there are no solutions. Learn more about Bookshare and keep exploring thoughts of your child being engaged in the reading process with an ebook and see what happens!”

Back to School Made Easy

back-to-school-made-easy photo collage of students , teachers and bookshelvesBookshare’s online accessible library has over 460,000 titles including textbooks, Common Core materials, educational titles, bestsellers, children’s books, and more. Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students. To join Bookshare, students must have a qualifying disability that prevents them from reading printed text. Learn more about Bookshare and sign up today!Button that says Learn More and links to the Back to School landing page

Bookshare is an initiative of a technology nonprofit called Benetech and is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education.

Special thanks to Deborah and Alyssa Campbell for sharing their story.






















Helping Individuals Who Are Blind Transition to Work Through Training and Accessible Ebooks

2016 September 7

September 8th is International Literacy Day, and Bookshare is honoring those individuals and organizations that make a lasting difference to ensure literacy happens for everyone.

Bill Powell provides training for an adult at Bosma Enterprises

Bill Powell provides training for an adult at Bosma Enterprises

Each day, Bill Powell, Assistive Technology Director, and his staff at Bosma Enterprises in Indianapolis, provide job training, employment services, rehabilitation, and outreach to help adults who are blind transition to the working world. To accomplish this goal, the team downloads digital accessible books using Bookshare.

Bill says, “With the right education, mentors, technology, and resources like accessible books, individuals with disabilities are highly capable of working in many fields, including training and technology, after their schooling.”

In 2012, Bill received the Thomas C. Hasbrook Award as a leading advocate for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Accessible Books Are Life Changing

Bill Powell, Salman Haider, Imran Ahmed

Bill Powell with Salman Haider and Imran Ahmed

When asked about successful transitions and talented individuals, Bill points to two colleagues: Salman Haider and Imran Ahmed. Both men, who were born in Pakistan and have visual impairments, are assistive technology trainers. They both experienced childhoods filled with uncertainty due to the lack of academic resources.

“My first eighteen years of schooling were difficult, especially in reading and writing,” says Salman. “In high school, I finally learned about assistive technologies and came to America. “This transition was life changing!”

As an international student studying in the United States, Salman used his technology skills to tap into a network of people and resources. He started to love reading and absorbed knowledge through accessible ebooks and technologies using the Bookshare library. “I found college-level books and computer programming books for my job,” he said. “For any student with vision challenges, finding an accessible textbook that is free and quickly available takes the hassle out of getting books scanned.” Salman also downloads novels, mysteries, and Asian fiction to keep him connected to his heritage. “The library has tons of titles for academia and pleasure reading,” he says. Salman Haider graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Technology from Purdue University.

Imran trains an adult who is blind how to download ebooks from Bookshare

Imran trains an adult who is blind how to download ebooks from Bookshare

Imran Ahmed is an assistive technology trainer at Bosma Enterprises and a longtime Bookshare member. “Before I came to America, I did not have direct access to books,” he says. “When I arrived, signing up for Bookshare was first on my list. I have never been disappointed. The library continues to be a source of unsurpassed knowledge for me professionally and personally.” Imran appreciates that the Bookshare collection continues to expand with international titles, especially South Asian authors which he and his wife enjoy reading together. “We can even download children’s books and read them to our inquisitive toddler,” he says.

Imran also finds technical books he needs to improve his professional skills. “I want to increase my knowledge concerning computers and business acumen,” he adds. “The fact that I can choose whether to read books via speech output or with a braille display makes the library useful and flexible. I read on a DAISY player, a computer, and an iPhone. I teach blind people how to use a computer, navigate the web, utilize resources, and sign up for individual memberships to the library. Bookshare is an integral part of our curriculum.”

As a result of passionate trainers like Bill Powell, Imran Ahmad, and Salman Haider, and organizations like Bosma Enterprises that believe in empowering individuals with disabilities, more persons who are blind and visually impaired are able to make easier transitions from school to work. We thank them for sharing their stories and empowering more people to live fulfilling lives through literacy.

About International Literacy Day

Fifty years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day to mobilize the international community and promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies around the world.

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people who cannot read printed books due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and other print disabilities. Through Bookshare’s extensive collection of over 450,000 educational, international and popular titles, including K-12 textbooks, specialized book formats, and reading tools, the online library offers the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy.

With Bookshare books, members can listen to their book, follow along with highlighted text, read in braille, and customize their experience in ways that make reading easier. Sign up today!

Bookshare is a global literacy initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.