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Bookshare Support Question – What’s the Quickest and Easiest Way to Read Books from Bookshare for Individual Members?

2014 May 16
by Bookshare Team Member
Hand holding a smartphone

Hand holding a smartphone

Welcome to Bookshare’s support question of the month. In this inaugural post, our knowledgeable and responsive Support Team will address a commonly asked question from members just like you!

Every month, the team will choose a new support topic to help you get more out of Bookshare, so make sure you subscribe to our blog for these great tips.

Here’s our first month’s support question: 

“What’s the quickest and easiest way to access and read a Bookshare book for Individual Members?” 

Drum roll please… The answer is through the Bookshare Web Reader. This reader works on both Mac and Windows. Individual Members can use it to open and read books directly within their Internet browser.  You simply select “Read Now.”

Here are step-by-step directions that our Support Team recommends:

1. Open Google Chrome and log into Bookshare

2. Search for a book

3. Select “Read Now”

4. Follow prompts to install the Chrome Extension (you only need to do this your first time).

5. Your book will open, and you can begin reading by clicking the Start TTS button.

For more information, please read our support solution or watch this tutorial video.

Do you have questions you want answered? Visit our support portal; it’s full of great information on commonly asked questions. You can also submit questions to our support team directly.

And if you have a question you would like to share with the wider community, post a comment below or on Facebook, and we’ll address it in a future post.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Stay connected with Bookshare on all your favorite social media channels for product and support updates, cool stories, events and popular titles.

P.S. The Bookshare Web Reader could be an important tool for you in our Summer Sleuths Reading Contest.  (link)


Cheers to Bookshare Moms—Our Heroes and Ambassadors of Accessible Books!

2014 May 11
by Bookshare Team Member

Today on Mother’s Day, we shout out a Happy Mother’s Day to Bookshare moms!  Thank you for dreaming of a world where all children enjoy the best possible reading experience. Through your extraordinary efforts to advocate for accessible books and technologies, tens of thousands of children with print disabilities can now study alongside their classmates, read a popular children or teen series, and learn independently for the first time. In this blog, we’re sharing stories about extra special moms and kids who believe in this mission.

We also want you to know about the new Bookshare Parent Ambassador Program and invite you to join our online community of parents and caregivers who want to help more families learn about Bookshare. This network will bring together parents who want to grow their knowledge, share information and resources, and talk with families of children with print disabilities.

Now on to these great stories about moms around the U.S. who are ambassadors for reading equality. Maybe we’ll feature your good works next!

Kathy Stratton and her son and daughter

Kathy Stratton and her son and daughter

Mrs. Kathy Stratton, New Jersey

Bookshare Student Advisor Receives 2013 CEC Yes I Can! Award

Kathy and her son Brian travel with members of the Decoding Dyslexia NJ group to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to seek support for educational issues. They want to encourage more participation in the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. Brian is a student adviser for Bookshare.  He also writes a popular assistive technology blog that regularly features Bookshare product news.  In 2013, Brian won the CEC Yes I Can! Award for his advocacy.


Casey Meadows

Casey Meadows

Mrs. Casey Meadows, Texas

iPad, Digital Books, and Portable Reading App Open New World of Learning for 7th Grader

Last year, Casey met with her local school to talk about the reading success of her son, Connor when he uses digital books and technologies. Connor has cerebral palsy and loves to read.

Casey gave his teachers information about the local Bookshare teacher training program too, called Accessible Books for Texas (ABT).

She encouraged school administrators to apply for an Organizational Membership to Bookshare and routinely encourages educators and parents to ensure that all children who qualify have Individual Memberships.  This enables them to download books outside of school for reading pleasure, especially over the summer.

Jennifer Pletcher and daughter Finley

Jennifer Pletcher and daughter, Finley

Mrs. Jennifer Pletcher, MA, and Cheryl Walker, MD

Moms Say, “Bookshare Unlocks Reading Potential for Early Learners”

This terrific blog features two great moms, Jennifer Pletcher and Cheryl Walker, who want to ensure that their daughters, Finlay and Rachel, have access to Bookshare and reading technologies at home. You’ll love the video, photos, and heartfelt wishes in this terrific post. It will inspire you!

Robbie Cooper and her son, Ben

Robbi Cooper and son, Ben

Mrs. Robbi Cooper, Texas

How Digital Books Helped My Family Navigate Dyslexia NCLD blog

Speaking of inspiration, our Mother’s Day blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the efforts of Robbi Cooper, a true advocate for digital accessible books and reading technologies in school. Robbi’s speaking and writing efforts have enhanced the knowledge of many, many families. Read Robbi’s blog for the National Center on Learning Disabilities (NCLD) to tap into her wealth of information, experiences, and tested resources.

For new moms and dads who want to learn more about Bookshare, read this blog: Parents, Is Your Child Ready for School? It will give you guidance and simple steps to sign up students who qualify for Bookshare Individual Memberships. Summer is a great time to get started.

Happy Mother’s Day and thank you! 

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Join our family and tell us on Facebook about other great moms and children making a difference. Check out the new Bookshare Parent Ambassador Program and stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels for more product updates, cool stories, events, and popular book titles.

P.S. Did you enjoy these stories about great moms? We’ll leave you with two more!

Parent Advocates for Learning Portability for Children with Chronic Illness by Mrs. Ann Bopp, Texas

Fifth Grader Builds Independence with Bookshare’s Individual Membership and Reading Tools by Mrs. Jessie Drake, California


Sharing Best Practices to Celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day!

2014 May 6
by Bookshare Team Member

Today we recognize educators everywhere for their dedication to teaching. That’s why we’re featuring some of the country’s most effective educators and specialists who work with students with print disabilities.

Did you know that across the country, there are nearly 500 Bookshare Mentor Teachers? They use the online library and reading tools in innovative ways in their classrooms and to train other teachers, students, and parents.

Why Do Bookshare Mentor Teachers Do What They Do?      

When asked, they’ll tell you it’s for the children, teens, and older students who could not enjoy reading a book or studying advanced curriculum. Each best practice below represents a tried and true teaching idea or creative way to use Bookshare and reading technologies, brought to you by experts in the field. Take a moment to learn from some of the nation’s best now!

 Jennifer Appleton

Jennifer Appleton

Jennifer Appleton, Reading Specialist at Virginia Alternative Paths Training School, VA

Make Stories Come Alive Through Accessible Books and Sensory Learning

Jennifer likes to pair literature with a sensory learning experience so she can create positive and lasting memories to foster the love of reading.


CathyCathy Wilson, Dyslexia Specialist

Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson, Dyslexia Teacher, Coppell ISD, TX

Introduce Children with Print Disabilities to Technology Early to Help Them Be Independent 

Cathy likes to train young students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, about technologies with text-to-speech so they can see words highlighted and hear text read aloud simultaneously. This strengthens and reinforces students’ multi-modal learning skills—a universal design for learning (UDL) concept.


Jessica Chandler, Teacher at Middletown Schools, Ohio

Jessica Chandler

Jessica Chandler, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Ohio

School-to-Home Access Includes Digital Books, iPads, and Apps

Jessica advocates for Bookshare and trains other colleagues to use it. Her goal is to ensure that more students with print disabilities gain reading independence. Her tip is to encourage parents to approve Bookshare Individual Memberships so their children can extend reading practice.


Theresa Brousseau, MS, MS Ed, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Bookshare Mentor Teacher

Theresa Brousseau

Theresa Brousseau, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, NY

Praise for Bookshare’s Accessible Books and Reading Technologies


Theresa says, “With digital accessible books and reading software or portable devices, students can and will improve their reading fluency and comprehension skills.”


Sallie Spencer, Former Principal, Reading and Special Ed Teacher, Olivet,

Sallie Spencer

Sallie Spencer, Reading and Special Ed Teacher, MI  

Bookshare Student Shares Reading Success in White House Film Festival

Sallie will tell you what a great difference Bookshare and portable devices have made for her students, especially 8th grader Carson Maxson, who submitted a video to President Obama for the first White House Student Film Festival. His video demonstrates his reading success using technology and Bookshare in the classroom.


David Cohen Bookshare Mentor Teacher sitting at his desk.

David Cohen

David Cohen, Vision Technology Coordinator, New York City Department of Education’s District 75/Citywide Services

Value of Bookshare’s Online Library for Visually Impaired Students


Implementing Bookshare in a large district takes a lot of planning and management, plus technological know-how. David will describe his process for supporting students who read accessible books with technology on all types of devices.


Photo of Lisa Gutheil, VI Teacher.

Lisa Gutheil

Lisa Gutheil, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, NY

Train Teachers and Students Together


Lisa likes to train students and teachers together—a flipped classroom experience! She says, “Kids get the technology fast!”


Kristie Eagles, Resource Room Reading Teacher, Central Middle School, MI

Ms. Eagles in her Resource Classroom Room

Kristie Eagles

Homework Assignment: Give Every Student What They Need for Success!

Kristie wants to make sure that every student gets the resources and technologies they need to be successful.

On this National Teacher Appreciation Day, we thank all educators who are trailblazers in using accessible education materials. You make a difference in the lives of thousands of students! Please keep encouraging Bookshare Individual Memberships, and thank you for creating fun reading adventures and reading independence.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"For more cool stories, events, and popular book titles, stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels.


Volunteering for Social Change

2014 April 28
Head shot of Brenda Hendricksen

Brenda Hendricksen

This post was written by Brenda Hendricksen, Volunteer Program Manager at Benetech and is also published on the Benetech blog.

Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month? We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank Benetech’s fantastic community of dedicated volunteers who amplify the positive impact we make in the lives of our beneficiaries by contributing their time and skills to support our initiatives.

Volunteers have been crucial to Benetech’s success since the launch of our first venture—Bookshare, the accessible online library of copyrighted materials for people with print disabilities—which depended on members and volunteers to scan books and add the converted digital files to the library’s database. Thanks to their joint efforts and the support of the broader Bookshare community, Bookshare has grown into the world’s largest library of its kind, currently serving more than 300,000 people with a collection of over 230,000 (and counting).

Bookshare today receives the majority of its titles in the form of digital files directly from the socially responsible publishers who partner with us, but each year our volunteers continue to help build the library by scanning and proofreading titles not made digitally available to us as well as books of personal interest. Additionally, as we’ve expanded the scope of our work, the ways in which Benetech’s community of volunteers engages with our multi-issue initiatives, too, have grown.

Still within the realm of our Global Literacy Program, volunteers now also help us advance the accessibility of the Bookshare collection by describing images in textbooks, using our open source Poet image description tool developed by our DIAGRAM Center. Since we launched Poet in 2012, our volunteers have contributed tens of thousands of image descriptions of Bookshare textbooks, thus significantly improving the learning experience for Bookshare members with visual disabilities.

Photo of BYU students describing Bookshare textbook images during an "image slam" event they organized on the BYU campus on March 18, 2014.

BYU students at a recent “image slam” on campus. Photo credit: BYU Bookshare community

Consider the wonderful contributions of our student volunteers from Brigham Young University (BYU), who regularly meet to describe Bookshare textbook images. It all started when Bookshare launched a partnership with BYU students through the University’s Peery Social Entrepreneurship program. The successful partnership—now in its third year—involves each semester a new team of interns who work to promote the creation of accessible images for textbooks. Each team builds upon the work accomplished by the prior semester’s team, making sure to document all of their efforts so that the work can be passed forward. BYU students have not only organized dozens of “image slam” volunteer events resulting in the creation of hundreds of image descriptions, but they have also streamlined processes, created training documents, evaluated software, and forged strategic relationships with campus groups to engage hundreds of students in volunteer service with Bookshare. Their entrepreneurial goal is to create a replicable model for establishing similar programs on other college campuses.

Moreover, Benetech now proudly operates at the hub of technology-for-good volunteer engagement, bridging the technology and social sectors. We do this through our newest initiative, SocialCoding4Good, which connects software development professionals with opportunities to volunteer their time and technical talent to organizations creating open source technology solutions for social good.

Photo of a session on volunteering and coding for social good at VMware, Palo Alto, CA.

SocialCoding4Good and talking about coding for social change at VMware

First launched as a Benetech Labs pilot project, SocialCoding4Good has become a vibrant community driving social impact through Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS). SocialCoding4Good’s HFOSS Project Partners work on some of the world’s toughest challenges in areas spanning disaster response, education, human rights, and poverty alleviation. They include Amara, Medic Mobile, Mifos, Mozilla Webmaker, and Wikimedia Foundation, among others.

By matching mission-driven organizations that create open source software for social change, on the one hand, with corporate social responsibility programs and pro bono teams as well as individual technical volunteers, on the other hand, SocialCoding4Good is igniting sustainable, cross-sector collaboration and long-term volunteer engagement that accelerate social progress through technology. We’ve observed how this model underscores the power of a single contributor to create transformative impact. You can learn more, for instance, about the impact that Medic Mobile has achieved with support from SocialCoding4Good.

We invite you to join our vibrant community of volunteers. If you’re a software development professional with web, mobile, or data expertise and passion for building technology to make a positive difference in the world, then head to SocialCoding4Good’s Volunteer signup form and tell us more about you. If you’d like to learn more about or get involved with other Benetech volunteer opportunities, please visit our Volunteer webpage and complete our signup form.

Finally, to all our amazing volunteers: thank you so much for your invaluable support, time, energy, and generosity. We’re blessed to have you as part of the Benetech family.

Happy National Volunteer Month, everyone!

Image is a hand of many colors and the text Supporting National Volunteer Month

Supporting National Volunteer Month

Homework Assignment: “Give Every Student What They Need for Success!”

2014 April 22
Ms. Eagles in her Resource Classroom Room

Ms. Eagles in her Resource Classroom

Eighth grade students in Kristie Eagles’s Resource Room at Central Middle Schools in Michigan have social studies homework almost every night. These reading assignments typically cover two or three sections in a K–12 textbook to prepare for Q&A class discussions.

Ms. Eagles notes that, at this grade level, reading assignments for students can be challenging, especially for those with learning disabilities. Giving students what they need for learning success is this educator’s motto!

Classroom Poster: ‘Fair Isn’t Everybody Getting the Same Thing, Fair Is Everybody Getting What They Need to be Successful.’

Classroom Poster: ‘Fair Isn’t Everybody Getting the Same Thing, Fair Is Everybody Getting What They Need to be Successful.’

Ms. Eagles is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher and keeps a poster on her wall that says…Fair isn’t everybody getting the same thing…Fair is everybody getting what they need to be successful.”

This is to remind herself, her students and other teachers that there are a lot of cool resources for learning, including computers, iPads, and Bookshare.

She says, “I like portable devices for anytime, anywhere reading and Bookshare is one resource to help me provide accessible books to support students with print disabilities. Individual memberships are the way to go!”

Bookshare Individual Memberships

To ensure that students with print disabilities who qualify get accessible reading materials and the technologies to read digital books, Ms. Eagles uses the online library to provide timely access to textbooks, novels, and periodicals in accessible formats.

“With limited time, it’s great to see my students click a button to download a book and start reading,” she says. “I like to encourage them to sign up for Individual Memberships.  That way, they have more opportunities to become independent readers. To pull out a cell phone or tablet, download an accessible book, and read it anywhere there’s Internet is a beautiful experience. You put the power in their hands and learning success becomes fair, achievable, and within reach.”

It’s Easy to Get Students Bookshare Individual Memberships from Your Organizational Membership Account!  Watch this “Learn It Now” Video Tutorial now!

This video tutorial will demonstrate how to get students an individual Bookshare membership and quickly link them through an Organizational account.

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technologists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online library and reading technologies.  Since that time, over 500 educators and specialists have joined the network. They work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities.  They also develop and share best practices across the United States.

The Bookshare team sends a special thanks to Ms. Eagles for sharing her best practice.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Remember to stay connected to Bookshare through all the right channels to get the latest news, member stories, online training events, contests, and more!

P.S. Please also read, “Educators, Get Your Students Access to Bookshare at Home Easily through Your School Account”  to learn about all the benefits for students, especially reading independence.

School-to-Home Access for Print-Disabled Students Includes Digital Books, iPads and Apps

2014 April 8
Jessica Chandler, Teacher at Middletown Schools, Ohio

Jessica Chandler, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

We want to thank Jessica Chandler, an Ohio Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist for sharing this article. It’s about the spirit of teamwork in her district and working together to extend reading opportunities for students with print disabilities from school to home. Ms. Chandler is a Bookshare Mentor Teacher.

Kudos to District’s Special Education Administrator!

Dr. Deborah Turner, Special Education Administrator for Middletown, OH Public Schools

Dr. Deborah Turner, Special Education Administrator for Middletown, OH Public Schools

Jessica credits her district’s Special Education Administrator, Dr. Deborah Turner, for her forward-thinking approach.

“I applaud Dr. Turner’s vision to use digital accessible books and reading technologies to help students prepare early for reading assignments and to train all special education teachers,” she says.  “Our program has empowered more school-to-home access and independent learners.  We’ve helped to make homework nights more manageable and identified the right technology accommodations for students who are not able to read standard print well.”

Chandler says the ‘school-to-home’ access mission in her district is far ahead of the game!  “We’ve been visited by neighboring educators who want to learn about our model. These visits are a nice compliment to our district and Dr. Turner’s mission. Her vision makes it easy for training special education teachers and students, so that each group gets the tools and support they need. Also, we’re complying with the legislation in Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA.”

In her district, high school students with a qualified print disability hold individual memberships to Bookshare.  And the district provides teachers and students with iPads and Bookshare’s  Read2Go app.  For downloading NIMAC textbooks, the district also has a Bookshare Organization Membership.

Empowering Independent Learners

Jessica believes students with print disabilities can become more independent learners when we empower them to use digital accessible books and technologies. “I just received a text from a student who said, I’m reading House on Mango Street from Bookshare and I just love the Read2go app!”  Bookshare developed the Read2Go app to use on Apple devices, such as the iPad.  Bookshare also offers Go Read, a free Android app, to members.

As a mobility specialist, on any school day, you’ll find Jessica traveling to K-12 schools to train students on how to navigate busy streets, catch a bus, or download a digital book on a computer, tablet or smart phone. She regularly trains her faculty on new Bookshare enhancements.  They are now Bookshare sponsors and download textbooks for students who qualify.

Summer Learning for Students and Teachers

Last summer, Jessica collaborated with co-workers to train more high school students to download the Google Chrome browser and use Bookshare’s Web Reader tool to read etext directly from the Internet with text-to-speech computer voices.“No software required,” she says!

During her trainings, she encourages students to talk about their reading challenges and the tools and strategies they now have to succeed.  “This gathering is a time where students can build a network of friendships and know they are not alone. They all agree that having Bookshare and the knowledge to use different technology devices at school and home is a pretty cool thing!”

Lifelong Learning for this Bookshare Mentor Teacher

When Jessica is not traveling from school to school, holding student and faculty trainings, or helping a student set up their required Reading Lists, she likes to listen and watch Bookshare webinars to keep abreast of new enhancements to the library.

“I get on my elliptical machine with headphones and peddle away,” she said.  “I like that a Bookshare staffer shares new updates with our network so we can continue the mission together to share new ideas and best practices to help even more students feel empowered to read and learn anytime and anywhere!”

Kristina Cohen working on a computer.

Kristina Cohen – Bookshare Education Manager in Training Session.

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

The Bookshare Mentor Teacher program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technologists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online library and reading technologies.  Since that time, over 500 educators and specialists have joined the network. They work in their local communities and schools to advocate on behalf of students with print disabilities.  They also develop and share best practices across the United States.



Discover and Rejoice in Great American Poets!

2014 April 1
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of Robert Frost Poems Book Cover and his photograph.

Image of Robert Frost Poems Book Cover and his photograph.

April is National Poetry Month and the perfect time to enjoy great poetic works! That’s why we’re sharing some wonderful poetry titles with Bookshare members today to discover and rejoice in the art of poetry.

Inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, this celebration of words and verse encourages educators, publishers, librarians, and people of all walks of life to share the love of poetry.

"Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you." Walt Whitman

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.” Walt Whitman

In this blog, you’ll read about bestselling modern-day poems. You can peruse all-time favorite collections by great American masters. You’ll find a fun poem and a Pulitzer Prize-winner.  You may even decide to write an original poem or take the entire family to a poetry festival.  You can even download a beautiful poster!

Any way you celebrate National Poetry Month, we hope these titles will inspire you to read poetry and share your favorites by commenting on this blog or joining us on Facebook.  Later in April, we’re also planning some fun with poetry for our social media channels.  We hope you’re staying connected with us!

Image of the words Poetry Corner with a quill and ink bottle.

Words Poetry Corner with feather quill and ink bottle.

Happy poetry reading and writing to all!


Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

The bestselling poet celebrates her beloved companions in this joyous and profound collection of new and favorite poems.

The Poetry of Robert Frost

A collection of 300 poems by a great master of American poetry.

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey

The current Poet Laureate weaves together a complex mixture of family and cultural history, in this exploration of what it means to be an American.

The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins

In light, playful language, Collins makes the everyday world dazzling.

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni

This collection, spanning thirty tumultuous years, confirms Giovanni’s standing as one of the most luminous voices in America’s poetic landscape.

The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck

These Pulitzer Prize-winning poems encompass the natural, human, and spiritual realms and celebrate the ordeal of being alive.

Paterson by William Carlos Williams

Paterson is both a place and a person—the New Jersey city in which the person (the poet himself) and the region (the history and people) come together, in a majestic affirmation of life and imagination.

Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered

Poster of Poet Warriors Poster that reads...Poet warriors are working to inform the national dialogue by sharing stories that speak truths about universal topics.

You Poster that reads…Poet warriors are working to inform the national dialogue by sharing stories that speak truths about universal topics.

P.S. If you haven’t heard of the Poet Warriors Project, check it out. Poets everywhere are writing about real-life events and stories to spark a national dialogue.

P.S.S. Educators…do you know about Poetry 180? This project collected poems for high school students to read or hear on every day of the school year.  Bookshare has the anthology of these poems.



TCEA 2014 Conference Roundup. We Got Inspired!

2014 March 31
TCEA 2014 Exhibit Floor Booths

TCEA 2014 Exhibit Floor

Bookshare staffers and the Accessible Books for Texas team recently attended TCEA, a leading education conference in the beautiful and musical city of Austin, Texas. This year’s theme was “Get Inspired!” and you could tell from the energy in the hallways that educators were primed to do so! In this blog, we’re sharing our favorite learning experiences and photos with you.

About TCEA

The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) is a member-based organization devoted to the use and support of instructional technology in PreK-12. It was founded in 1980 and is affiliated with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), which provides a two-way channel of information throughout the world.


TCEA 2014 Infograph

This year, attendance was above 11,000 with over 8,000 educators representing Texas and school systems across our nation. This infographic provides some statistics about the types of educators who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend presentations about the latest technologies, resources, and best practices to enhance K-12 learning.

Attendees heard keynotes on the important topic of bullying by Rosalind Wiseman and a moving personal story by John Quiñones, an ABC News correspondent. John shared his life’s story growing up poor in the barrio as a child of migrant farm workers. He could not speak English and never believed he would attend college until a high school English teacher entered him into a federal program called Upward Bound.

Bookshare Staffers Christine and MacKenzie

Bookshare staffers Christine (right) and MacKenzie (left) in front of the Bookshare booth.

Busy educators also traversed the huge exhibit hall to see product demonstrations and pick up information for colleagues. Our Bookshare booth was hopping most of the time with lots of visits from teachers, administrators, librarians, and IT professionals who wanted to know more about digital accessible books and how to deliver accessible education materials (AEM) to students with print disabilities. Many were awed by the growing number of titles now in the library collection—well above 227,000.

Here are the top three notes we took away from the conference:

  1. Many schools and districts still need to learn about the accessible materials that are available through Bookshare.
  2. Texas educators are eager to schedule on-site trainings with our ABT team.
  3. Educators serving students with dyslexia need resources such as those offered on the ABT website.
Karen Beard, ABT Outreach Coordinator with a teacher at AT Playground

Karen Beard, ABT Outreach Coordinator with a teacher at the TCEA 2014 AT Playground

This year’s TCEA also marked a first! An entire day devoted to an Assistive Technology Academy for educators interested in special education topics, plus another successful hosting of the AT Playground—a fun and inspired hangout area, where educators, parents, and advocates participate in hands-on training on devices and technologies to serve students with disabilities.

We send our thanks to TCEA and a round of applause to the staff of the Texas Region 4 Education Service Center who facilitated the AT Academy and Playground. You made this experience fun, rewarding, and comfy with those purple beanbag chairs!

Karen Beard (left) and Cristen Reat, (right)

Karen Beard (left) and Cristen Reat, (right) Director at Bridging Apps

We also send a special shout-out and thank you to our friends at Bridging Apps, the Greater Houston Easter Seals organization, for publishing this story about Connor Meadows, a Bookshare member.

Connor Meadows Smiling

Connor Meadows smiling seated in wheelchair in front of his iPad on stand.

Connor is an extraordinary teenager who uses an iPad with Bookshare’s portable reading app, Read2Go.  You can check out this recent educational review of the app on their website.

There you have it, our 2014 TCEA roundup!

We know that not everyone can attend conferences, so we encourage you to keep your feedback coming. You can do this by commenting directly on this blog, contacting us on the ABT website, or sharing on Facebook.


ABT logo new URL

Accessible Books for Texas logo

About Accessible Books for Texas (ABT)

Through funding from the Texas Education Agency, Benetech delivers custom accessible educational materials and face-to-face Bookshare training to educators, parents, and students throughout Texas. The team also applies dedicated resources to Texas membership, including answers to support questions and Texas book requests. Anyone interested in a similar partnership may contact Christine Jones at for information.


It’s Only About Copyright!

2014 March 26
Post written by Jim Fruchterman, Benetech/Bookshare Founder and CEO.

Which students qualify for Bookshare in the United States?

This is an important question for American students with disabilities, since Bookshare is the largest online library designed to provide accessible eBooks to people who cannot read standard print.

a screenshot from the beginning of a video showing text-to-speech software

Student reading an accessible book on a computer screen with text-to-speech and word highlighting.

The answer: it’s only about copyright.

It’s not about special education, and not about special education disability categories.

It’s not about 504 plans or Individualized Education Programs.

It’s not about state policy, or local policy.

It’s not about private schools or home schools.

It’s not about medical doctors.

It’s not about whether your teacher or professor, parent or spouse thinks you should qualify.

It’s not even about whether Bookshare’s staff thinks you should have access.

This surprises a lot of people, which is why we’re writing this blog.  There’s a lot of confusion about this, especially in education because Bookshare serves over a quarter million American students with disabilities.

The social deal that makes a library like Bookshare possible is built into American copyright law.  The copyright law (Section 121) says that we only will serve people who have a disability that gets in the way of reading print.  That’s what we call print disabilities.

And, the only way someone qualifies is if an expert (called a competent authority in the law) assesses your print disability and is willing to sign a form saying that in their professional opinion, you have a disability that significantly interferes with reading print.  That’s it.

A person who can get a bona fide expert who qualifies under the law as a competent authority to determine (in good faith) that that person has a qualifying print disability is eligible to become a Bookshare member and download over 200,000 accessible titles (there’s one caveat that applies to about 5,000 books: I’ll get to that one at the end).

The fact that it’s only about meeting the copyright law requirement means that when people ask us a whole bunch of other qualification questions, the answer is rarely yes or no.  Here’s a sample list:

Q: Do students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with 504 Plans qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with learning disabilities qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with dyslexia qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with autism qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with hearing problems qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with mental illness qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Do students with disabilities who go to private school or are schooled at home qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Our state says that students with learning disabilities need to have a medical doctor certify them.  Do students without such certification qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.

Q: Our school has agreed to provide digital materials to certain students with disabilities.  Do these students qualify for Bookshare?

A: Some do, some don’t.


I think you get the idea.  So, when we try to get clearer, we end up going back to the copyright law, which we think is reasonably clear.  But, we depend on an expert examining the person in question to make the decision: our staff can’t make these decisions because we don’t have the professional credentials to assess disability.

So, here’s a new list of questions and answers, based on the copyright framing:

Q: Do students who are blind or legally blind qualify for Bookshare?

A: Yes, as long as someone who is a competent authority says that they are legally blind.  Legal blindness is a standard built into the law.

Q: Do students who have dyslexia qualify for Bookshare?

A: Yes, as long as someone who is a competent authority says so, which involves assessing that the dyslexia significantly interferes with reading.

Q: Do students who have physical disabilities qualify for Bookshare?

A: Yes, as long as someone who is a competent authority says so, which involves assessing that their physical disability significantly interferes with reading.

That’s basically it, although you can read more — and see examples of competent authorities — on Bookshare’s qualifications page.

The same points in this blog apply to American adults who are not students, as well as to our many users in other countries, although national laws may apply things slightly differently.

So, the one caveat?  Part of Bookshare’s collection includes roughly 5,000 textbooks that come to Bookshare from a special repository for K-12 educational materials, called the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center (the NIMAC).

The NIMAC was set up under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), and books that come from the NIMAC can only be provided to students who are covered by the IDEA law AND the copyright law.

In special education lingo, these are students who have both IEPs and who meet the qualifications under the copyright law.  So, these NIMAC books are only available through American public K-12 schools who can confirm which of their students with copyright-qualifying disabilities also have IEPs.

Interestingly, the copyright law enables us to scan the exact same textbooks we get from the NIMAC, without these restrictions.  But, these tend to be complex textbooks that are expensive to scan and proofread, so we try to use our limited book scanning budgets for books that aren’t already in the Bookshare collection.

Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman

In conclusion, access to Bookshare is fundamentally limited to those people with a disability that significantly interferes with reading, assessed by a competent authority with the professional expertise to assess that disability, meeting the standards set forth in U.S. copyright law and regulations or the equivalent in other countries.  We want to serve this community with the best services we can devise to help ensure that a disability that interferes with reading print is not a barrier to education, employment or social inclusion.

At the same time, we value our relationships with publishers and want them to trust us enough to keep providing books. Adhering to the copyright laws is not only the right thing to do; it’s in members’ best interest as well.

Post written by Jim Fruchterman, Benetech/Bookshare Founder and CEO.