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Bookshare Celebrates 250,000 Milestone and Members of All Ages!

Bookshare is helping people with print disabilities around the world to read books for school, work, and fun so they can reach their personal goals and more fully participate in society. This summer, we celebrate a very important milestone: we now serve 250,000 members!

Did you know that Bookshare members include students, adults, seniors, veterans, and international members in over 40 countries?

We could not have achieved this milestone without the help of members, advocates, and partners like you. Your tireless efforts have helped to build Bookshare’s thriving community. And your continued support will help us reach hundreds of millions of more people with print disabilities who could benefit from the online library in the future.

For this milestone blog, we wanted to feature some of our members’ stories from every grade and age, from kindergarten to graduate school, as well as young adults and seniors who access Bookshare every day.  Disabled Veterans come to the library to read books for school or to enjoy our special collections. Additionally, there are thousands of adults and seniors who log on to Bookshare routinely to download novels, nonfiction, and daily news through Bookshare’s partnership with NFB-NEWSLINE.

Let’s meet some of these members now!

Mrs. Jennifer Pletcher with her daughter Finley seated on her lap
Mrs. Jennifer Pletcher with her daughter Finley seated.

Finley of Massachusetts is a six-year-old with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, a vision disability. This early learner can read by herself thanks to accessible books and technologies.

Her mom, Jennifer Pletcher, said, “Reading has been a struggle because Finley only has 20% usable vision. When her teacher introduced us to Bookshare, it opened a new world! Now, reading digital books is a daily must.”

Dane seated at a conference table with  his tutor Mr. Ayers, and his mother Kathryn. He is speaking into a microphone.
Dane seated at a conference table with tutor Mr. Ayers, and  mother Kathryn speaking into a microphone.

Fifth grader Dane Roset of Arkansas loves frogs and lizards, but multiple disabilities impeded him from learning more about his amphibious friends. In this video, Dane describes his frustration with reading.  Since becoming a Bookshare member, he reads novels and talks to educators and parents at conferences about his use of assistive technologies.  “Dane’s comprehension improved significantly,” said Mrs. Roset, “as did his creativity and independence! We encourage other parents to try the library!”

Texas eighth grader Anna Martinez encourages students, parents, and educators to try Bookshare. Vision impairments hold many children back from reaching their potential, but not Anna!  Thanks to her teacher, an informed educator who understood the benefit of accessible books and technologies for children with print disabilities, Anna won second place in her Region 10 Technology Olympics for excellent comprehension skills.

Jeffrey with grandparents and CT Governor
Jeffrey with grandparents and CT Governor Dannel Malloy.

When you look at Connecticut teenager Jeffrey Thompson, you would never think this all-American boy almost gave up ever reading grade-level books. Due to his severe reading disability, he fought years of frustration in school and grueling homework at night. By middle school, his mom Kathy quit her job to find answers to why her son had such difficulty with reading. Jeffrey was diagnosed with dyslexia. The family met with their local assistive technology center and learned about Bookshare and reading software. Today, he is doing well academically. He plays lots of sports and wins wrestling competitions.  Last year, his family met with Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy, who also has dyslexia. The governor encouraged Jeffrey not to let his reading barriers prohibit him from his life goals.

Tara Carty in her graduation gap and gown.
Tara Carty in her graduation gap and gown.

For Tara Carty, a young adult from New Jersey, it wasn’t the inability to decode words, but blindness through juvenile diabetes that kept her struggling academically. Through the loving support of family and educators trained to serve persons with disabilities, Tara was able to attend college, navigate the campus, and receive postsecondary journals to earn a college degree from Caldwell College.  She also learned to play the piano and loves to cook.  We understand that she downloads many cookbooks from the Bookshare library.

Zach in his graduation gap and gown seated in his wheelchair.
Zach in his graduation gap and gown seated in his wheelchair.

Other members have physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, that make it almost impossible to hold a book steady. This is the daily challenge for Maryland resident Zach Bryant, a brilliant young man, whose loving mom and many teachers spent thousands of hours scanning books for this avid reader. Today, Zach attends Wright State University.

International member and student, Aristides Damoulakis, from South Africa studies Politics, International Relations and Law. He says, “Bookshare has so many academic and educational books. Whenever I want to learn a subject, even my own disability, I search for titles in the library and get the most up-to-date information.  I have also read about different countries and cultures, nature, and viewpoints of many people through the periodicals.  With the WIPO Treaty near completion, I may even get to read the latest novels at the same time as my sighted peers to deepen our discussions.  Bookshare has expanded my horizons and taught me so much about our world!”

Dr. Coombs holding his new book.
Dr. Coombs holding his book.

Perhaps one of the first and senior members of Bookshare is Professor Norman Coombs, who is blind. Dr. Coombs is a well-known educator, author, and the CEO of the Equal Access and Software Information (EASI) organization. He is legendary for his accessibility teachings and wrote Making Online Teaching Accessible, which members can download from the Bookshare website.

Yes, these inspiring member stories are fitting for our celebratory 250,000 milestone blog, but we also know there are so many more individuals who could be served.

How can you help?

Learn more at Follow @Bookshare on Twitter. Join our lively community and book discussions on Facebook. And please share our news and events with other students, seniors, and Veterans with print disabilities that can benefit from accessible books and reading technologies.   Thank you!

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