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Graduate Student Finds Books in Bookshare

Many thanks to Lauren Conner, graduate student, for sharing her story.

Lauren Conner stumbled across Bookshare last year looking for postsecondary accessible books for her studies in Community and College Counseling.  She attends Longwood University in Virginia and has impaired vision.  “When I look for a textbook on psycho-pathology, ethics or behavior modification, I am thrilled that the digital book is already in Bookshare’s online library collection,” said Lauren.  “Another member must have taken the same course and requested all the required books that I need.  I love that!”

Since birth, Lauren’s visual impairment made it difficult for her to keep up with reading assignments. Traditional Braille books were bulky and inconvenient to carry, whereas waiting for scanned, electronic copies to be produced was time-consuming. “Other students could just go to the campus bookstore at the last minute, while I waited for weeks to get audio or electronic copies of my textbooks.”

Today, Lauren uses a Braille Note mPower (produced by HumanWare) to read the Bookshare versions of the latest textbooks needed for her graduate classes.

Each college semester, she begins the process by meeting with her University’s DSS Accommodation Coordinator to discuss upcoming lectures and assignments. She contacts her professors and receives a list of books and instructional materials she will need. Lauren is very prepared.  As a member of Bookshare, she then downloads the textbooks prior to class and is ready to learn. For her, the convenience and speed of Bookshare is a welcome relief from the days of struggling to receive accessible books in time to complete course requirements.

“Our DSS office likes Bookshare too,” said Lauren. “They haven’t scanned any books for me in over a year.  On the rare occasion when I don’t find a book I need, I request it using the online request a book in one click and a staff member at Bookshare notifies me within a few days or weeks that the new textbook is available. It’s a great resource.  I am reasonably confident that I’ll always get the books I need and don’t have to worry about getting them in time to complete assignments.”

Initially, Lauren wanted to be a school teacher.  In 2007 she interned in a special education classroom of a local elementary school.  She worked alongside sighted youngsters in grades 3-5 and found the experience rewarding.  Later, she volunteered in elementary schools working with older kids who could benefit from one-on-one or small group reading practice.  Using accessible books found in Bookshare, she could download the books and follow along, providing reading and phonics assistance to the youngsters when necessary. “Without Bookshare, I wouldn’t have been able to experience this opportunity to help children improve their reading skills.”

With her Masters Degree in Counseling, Lauren plans to work at a college or a local mental health center.  She is working now to complete her degree requirements and receive her certification to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. “I guarantee that I’ll use Bookshare in my practice,” adds Lauren.  “In my profession it is important to keep up with the latest research, technology advancements and best practices, so I fully expect to be a member for life.”

Lauren recommends Bookshare to students and teachers as well.  “A friend of mine trains blind and visually impaired individuals in the use of assistive technology. He works with high school students who are transitioning to college and often refers them to me for advice on getting accessible textbooks.  I tell them to sign up for Bookshare’s individual membership and to talk to their university DSS counselors and administration now.  My experience with Bookshare has been one of great success.  I value the educational resource and am excited to see the broad collection of books, journals and textbooks growing.  Today, a student with a print disability can easily and quickly obtain a required book for K-12 and postsecondary studies, and they won’t have to go through the waiting game frustration that once dictated my life, but no more.”

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