Kevin Leong is a bright fifth grader in Palo Alto, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley. He is an avid Apple computer fan, and on a typical day he may use several technology devices at home, school, or on the go. As you watch Kevin adeptly use these devices, you would never guess that this voracious learner with impeccable social skills is visually impaired. Kevin has optic atrophy, which makes reading time very slow and frustrating for him.
“It takes me much longer to read than other students,” he says. “By the time I look up a page in the table of contents, everyone is ahead of me. It tires me out!”
Kevin’s parents, Drake and Jessie, knew that their son needed more support, so they tried digital accessible books. “We hoped it would be easier for him to grasp the technology and use accessibility features that enable him to enlarge fonts or see highlighted words in color on a screen,” said Drake. “Now he can more easily track the words with his eyes.”
Drake and Jessie signed Kevin up for an individual membership with Bookshare. Individual memberships help students build independence by finding their own books and using Bookshare’s free reading tools.
When Kevin and his classmates go to the school library now, Kevin goes online, logs on to Bookshare, and searches for his own reading assignments in English and other subjects. He uses the new Bookshare Web Reader to access his books. “I don’t have to download any software,” he says. “I just select “Read Now” to open a digital book directly in my web browser. I’ve always been good at math and science, but now I’m good at reading and using technologies. A couple of minutes on Bookshare and I’m ready to go!”
“The reading technologies allow Kevin to be more independent and self-reliant with his reading assignments,” says Jessie. “He can adjust the brightness and contrast of text according to how his eyes feel. The flexibility of manipulating digital content encourages him to read more. His grades and reading ability level shot up in one year. In addition to his academic progress, he became more social. He doesn’t feel different in school and talks with everyone about what he reads.”
According to the STAR test performed in his elementary school, Kevin was behind grade level by midyear in fourth grade. His writing and science grades were borderline; he ranked in the 50th percentile. One year later, he was in the 70th to 80th percentile, and his reading comprehension was above the norm.