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High School Students College-Bound Thanks to Assistive Technology Support and Accessible Books!

Head shot of Victoria Foreman
Victoria (Tori) Foreman

High school students with print disabilities are now college bound thanks to their educators and the use of accessible books and reading technologies.  In this blog, we share the story of Rushelle and Aaron, from the eyes of Victoria (Tori) Foreman, their Assistive Technology Specialist. Ms. Foreman is also a third year Bookshare Mentor Teacher.

Rushelle transferred to our school. She had dyslexia and read below grade level. When I met her, she was ready to bolt from her remedial classes. We signed her up for Bookshare, and I couldn’t believe how quickly her reading skills improved. The first time she heard the words of a digital book read aloud through text-to-speech (TTS), her listening and comprehension skills soared.  It was such a relief for her!”

Last year, Rushelle completed her nursing certification and found many of the nursing books she needed in the Bookshare library. She now attends community college and is confident that she will land a nursing position. “Rushelle would not have passed her health certification courses without improved reading skills, and digital books and technologies gave her that ability.”

Evanston Township High School in Illinois serves more than 100 students who qualify for Bookshare.  Over many years, Ms. Foreman has observed that older adolescents with print disabilities compensate for their reading difficulties by building acute listening skills.  “We saw dramatic increases once students were able to access and read digital text.”

Another senior, Aaron, who suffers with a speech impediment and dyslexia, went from low-level reading to accelerated courses in physics, biology, and economics. In 2012, he applied to Boston College and was accepted.

“Once he was able to listen to a digital book and see and hear the text, he comprehended every word he read,” adds Ms. Foreman. “Sometimes students with dyslexia like to have a book in their hands and sit in front of the computer or portable device so they can listen and follow along. Word highlighting may help them have better eye tracking control. Technology tools built into the software can also aid students to build richer vocabularies, especially in advanced courses, college-prep and vocations.”

After several years working as a Bookshare Mentor Teacher, Ms. Foreman says she is better organized with all of the new features and formats on the Bookshare website. She also makes it a priority to encourage students who qualify to become individual members. “2013 is proving to be a whirlwind year,” she says. “I was always in panic mode searching for urgent book requests from the faculty and students. With an individual membership and the new Bookshelf feature, students download many of the books they need. They are more independent and feel prepared to pursue postsecondary courses. I can work more closely with our high school curriculum team to identify required reading lists ahead of time. Students will have the titles and textbooks they need at the start of school – a goal we can all stand behind.”

two students sitting in  front of a computer
Evanston IL high school students search for required reading accessible books on the computer.

Video 1(watch video) — Watch Ms. Foreman and her colleague describe Bookshare from the educator point of view.

Video 2 (watch video) — Watch Rushelle and another student share their experience reading digital text.

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