Elina Hughes has athetoid cerebral palsy which makes it almost impossible for her to hold a book or pencil, yet this disability doesn’t stop her from pursing her dreams, acquiring knowledge, attending college, and creating beautiful works of art using two important resources: Bookshare and assistive technology (AT).
In 2015, Elina and her mom, Karla Hughes, created a video, “Assistive Technology Rocks My Classroom,” to submit to President Obama for the White House Student Film Festival. This amazing mother-daughter duo are on a mission to emphasize the need for more assistive technology in the classroom and to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments a person with severe disabilities can achieve. Watch the video and be inspired as Mrs. Hughes describes her daughter’s progression through elementary and high school and as Elina demonstrates how she uses technology to pursue her creative interests and lifelong dreams.
Elina’s World – Reading, Learning, and Art
At age nine, Elina’s family and teachers encouraged her to use assistive technology and conductive education therapy, an innovative teaching and learning approach to reading, writing, communication, and math. Conductive therapy is an educational system specifically developed for children and adults who have motor disorders of neurological origin such as cerebral palsy.
At this time, Mrs. Hughes also signed her daughter up for a Bookshare Individual Membership so that Elina could find accessible books for school and pursue her interest in art.
By age twelve, she was proficient using technology to draw and paint. She won an “All Kids Can Create,” award by the Very Special Arts Kennedy Foundation, an international organization founded by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.
In high school, Elina excelled in all subjects, including Spanish. Today, at age eighteen, she attends Citrus Community College in Glendora, California, and plans to study public relations. She also intends to learn to communicate in other languages using assistive technology. Both Elina and her mom are confident that Bookshare will play a continuing role in providing accessible textbooks for her postsecondary studies and artistic outlets.
Elina reads on an iPad and loves using her iPhone 6 Plus. Using an AT device to communicate, she recently told a Bookshare product manager, Ginny Grant, that she is reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer to get inspired for a weekend trip
We wish Elina all the success in the world and thank her and her mom for their continued advocacy on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. With the right resources, everyone can pursue their unique talents and interests and be successful in school and in life.
Bookshare Can Help You Reach Your Goals
Bookshare’s library of over 370,000 digital accessible ebooks can facilitate lifelong learning and help you advance your career, acquire new skills, and expand your professional knowledge. During November we are offering a special discount on adult memberships. Stay tuned for detailed information.
This month, we are raising awareness about dyslexia and the myths surrounding people with this language-based learning disability that affects word recognition, spelling, and reading.
Brain research says that with the right resources and accommodations, like accessible books and reading technologies, people with dyslexia can break through reading barriers, live incredible lives and reach immeasurable goals. So today, we want to shine a spotlight on some of our own Bookshare members and their reflections of living and learning with dyslexia. These members, and many like them, are strong advocates of people with dyslexia and learning disabilities. We hope their inspiring stories will encourage you to help change the future for tens of thousands of children and adults.
Teacher Raises Children’s Hopes and Dreams
Every day, Cathy Wilson, a Texas dyslexia specialist, raises the bar to help children with print disabilities succeed as readers. Ms. Wilson encourages educators and parents to introduce children to accessible books and technology early to help them be more independent. “Technology is a great equalizer,” she says. “Children with dyslexia are less constrained by labels from their reading disabilities.”
Young People Advocate for Quality Reading Resources and Technologies in Schools
Reagan Reeves, an eighth grader, who has read 200 digital accessible books, is proud of the awards he has received for the most Accelerated Reader points in his class. Reagan encourages people with dyslexia to “embrace educational resources that support their reading challenges.”
Lily Prest read her first chapter book in just five days! “What a difference,” says her mom, Jessica. “Daily reading is no longer such a struggle. Ebooks enabled Lily to read and reread the story. It reinforced her ability to understand what she reads. Now, she loves to read and we want to tell everyone about it.”
What incredible zeal these Bookshare members have! We have little doubt that these young people are all destined to reach new heights. Let’s share their inspiring stories and use the resources below to spark new discussions about dyslexia on social media and in your community.
Resources to Share
The Bookshare collection includes practical strategies for teaching self-empowerment and helping children identify their strengths.
- Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz
- The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis
- Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
- The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss
- Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities, by David Fink, co-founder of Eye to Eye, a national mentoring program for students with learning and attention issues.
- In a Benetech video titled “As They See It: Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities,” several students with learning disabilities share their excitement about ebooks, Bookshare, and assistive technologies that open doors to confidence, independence, and achievement.
Thanks for being an advocate and changing the future with us.
Did you know that 2.9 million children in the U.S. have a specific learning disability and one in five students has a brain-based learning and attention issue related to reading, writing, math, or organizational skills? According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 1 of out every 10 students in the U.S. is dyslexic, and 80 percent of children placed in special education with a learning disability are dyslexic.
In October, Bookshare is supporting Dyslexia Awareness Month and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to put a spotlight on learning disabilities like dyslexia, as well as resources like Bookshare that can support the community. Throughout the month, look out for inspiring stories of people with dyslexia, and help us raise awareness and educate others. In this post, we share why early identification is important and dispel some common myths about people with learning disabilities.
Early Identification of Symptoms and Intervention
Studies show that early intervention is a key contributor to success for children with learning disabilities. Now that school has started, many parents and teachers may see learning difference symptoms appear. Does your child constantly get frustrated or anxious with homework and reading assignments? Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty reading and interpreting words, letters, and symbols, but this does not affect their general intelligence. This is an important concept to remember.
Many bright and gifted people throughout history have had learning disabilities, including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill. We’re sure you can name more.
Let’s now consider some of the common myths and stigmas surrounding individuals who are learning disabled.
MYTH: Dyslexia is something children will outgrow.
FACT: While some children who struggle with reading may be “late bloomers,” students with dyslexia continue to face challenges with reading.
MYTH: A person with dyslexia cannot be a good reader.
FACT: With intense systematic instruction, effective tools and support, and hard work, individuals with dyslexia can become strong readers, especially if they receive early intervention and the right support.
MYTH: There are no resources that can help people with dyslexia.
How Can You Help Raise Awareness?
First, share this post with other parents, educators, advocates, and people with learning disabilities.
Third, find and explore useful information and resources about dyslexia and learning disabilities from these great partners, Understood, International Dyslexia Association, Learning Disabilities Online Organization.
Finally, look out for inspiring stories and posts all month long.
Together, we can raise awareness and better support people with learning disabilities!
Bookshare expands its accessible ebook collection for higher education through partnerships with publishers and university presses
During a recent discussion on AERNet (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), questions arose about Bookshare’s policies on converting books for higher education. Here is the explanation from Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, that we felt was important to share with the larger Bookshare community.
Bookshare is a library focused on books that can be shared. Our dream is that once a book has been digitized, nobody else will have to do scanning work again. We need to do that within the bounds of the law to protect our users and the many great people and organizations that voluntarily help us achieve this common dream.
We deal almost exclusively in books. Other than a long-standing partnership with NFB Newsline where we automatically get daily newspapers and a few magazines, we don’t add journals or articles to our collection. We don’t do partial books or course-packs. A good rule of thumb is if it’s a modern book, it should have an ISBN in order to be added to our collection. Our website has a list of what we don’t take, but it basically follows our strong interest in complete books.
Bookshare does not have any specific funding for supporting higher education students. As part of our award from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, which is funded by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) K-12 money, we agreed to serve all higher education students for free. Our focus on higher education collection development is twofold. First, we work with publishers to provide us their ebooks for free (over 500 publishers have partnered with us, including dozens of university presses and key higher education publishers such as Wiley and Springer). Second, we have a Bookshare University Partners Program for post-secondary institutions to share complete books that have been proofread and scanned so that they become available. In general, it’s the obligation of the higher education institution to acquire accessible versions for students (by finding them in Bookshare, Learning Ally, or Accesstext Network, getting them from the publisher, or by scanning them).
We only accept ebook versions in usable digital formats, as opposed to scanned versions, directly from the publisher or the author, because they clearly have the authority to agree to our publisher or author agreements and can supply formats that we can easily convert into DAISY (typically EPUB, but also Word). The main reason for this is to protect the people submitting content to us, because someone who uploads a publisher-supplied ebook to Bookshare would probably be violating some other license or agreement that came with that title.
We welcome the opportunity to form a partnership with your university press for ebooks, your faculty members for their published books (in digital form), or with your school to acquire complete books that have been scanned and proofread to add to our collection and make available at no cost through our OSEP-funded services.
Benetech is a Silicon Valley technology nonprofit that provides software tools and services to address pressing social needs. Each of its program areas—Global Literacy, Human Rights, the Environment, and Benetech Labs—offers the greatest social impact on funds invested. Social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow Jim Fruchterman created Benetech in 2000 and leads the organization as its CEO.