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How did an Occupational Therapist Help to Build Statewide Delivery of Accessible Instruction Materials?

Photo of Nancy Dunn
Nancy Dunn, OT, Iowa Heartland Area Education Agency

In 2010, the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) developed True AIM, a statewide initiative to ensure that all students with qualified print disabilities receive timely access to accessible instructional materials (AIM). To deliver on this promise, the Iowa DOE partnered with Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit.

Nancy Dunn, an occupational therapist and Bookshare Mentor Teacher, supported this initiative at the Iowa Heartland Area Education Agency. She and others on the assistive technology team trained educators about the benefits and delivery of accessible instructional materials. Their efforts helped to build capacity in more than ten Iowa districts. What did Nancy and the team do?

  • Assisted with interventions to determine which students qualify for Bookshare and are able to benefit from electronic text
  • Helped educators and parents determine the need for assistive technology and reading tools to support student learning
  • Supported IEP teams to document the need for accessible materials
  • Provided training to school staff and parents on accessing Bookshare and downloading books through Organizational and Individual Memberships

“I always begin my training by telling participants that Bookshare is free to students who qualify through federal awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs,” says Nancy. “It takes time to set up the district Organization Membership and build capacity, but once it’s done, it’s easy to download books for students. They don’t wait for books anymore and teachers do not have to send books to our central office for scanning. Bookshare has helped us remove some of the barriers of easily providing accessible instruction materials.

“I follow Bookshare in Action newsletters and sign up for webinars to hear about the latest tools and enhancements. I also network with other mentors who share best practices about their districts,” she said. “I am proud of the Iowa True AIM initiative and our accomplishments to build statewide capacity and to enable more students to reach their goals.”

Last year, a high school senior with a physical disability became an Individual Member of Bookshare. Nancy believes it was one of the best things she ever did to help a student. “He has so many interests, but cannot hold a book steady,” she said. “We explored many devices before we found a solution. Using the iPad mini, he could activate the keys with his knuckle or a stylus. Now, he independently accesses books using the Read2Go app and has a better chance of becoming a lifelong reader. I felt so good about him learning to use technology and having access to Bookshare before he graduated!”

Kristina Cohen working on a computer.
Kristina Cohen – Bookshare Sr. Education Manager giving a training session.

About the Bookshare Mentor Teacher Program

This program began in 2010 to support the nation’s top teachers and assistive technology specialists with training tools to engage educators, parents, and students in the effective use of Bookshare’s online accessible library and reading technologies. Over 500 educators and specialists have now joined the network and work in their local communities and schools to advocate for students with print disabilities.  Bookshare Mentor Teachers also develop and share best practices with other teachers across the United States.

Learn more at

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Sign up for an online course through Perkins to learn more about training others on Bookshare best practices!

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Logo for Perkins eLearning Workshops

Perkins eLearning is offering a five-week online course starting January 26, 2015.  Sign up for this online course before December 31, 2014, and take advantage of an early bird discount!

Upon completing the course, you can earn 25 continuing education credits. This course is geared toward assistive technology specialists, trainers, teachers, and other educational specialists interested in gaining the tools and resources necessary to train others on Bookshare.

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