Canadians with print disabilities are reading like never before through a partnership between the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library. Canadians with visual, physical and learning disabilities can sign up for free Bookshare memberships and access over 345,000 titles!
So how do Canadian members like Bookshare? Let’s check in with three new members.
Vashti Persaud became a Bookshare member in March and is already amazed.
“I’ve just started to download, but it’s been amazing! Ocular fatigue is a big issue for me. Ordinarily, I spend ten minutes in front of a computer or a book before my minimal vision deteriorates, and I can’t work or read anymore. Because I am monocular and suffer from uvetic glaucoma, glare is also a challenge.”
Bookshare’s ebooks allow Vashti to adjust the print size, font colors, and background contrasts making reading easier on her eyes. When her eyes get tired, she listens to books with VoiceOver, a gesture-based screen reader that also helps prevent headaches.
She is also finding many different uses for the books she reads.
“I read a lot of fiction and autobiographies. I use mobile and Mac devices, as well as an iPad. I’m even considering starting a book club with my friends called “Book and a Bottle” and will be pursuing continuing education courses. Bookshare has literally been an eye-opener!”
Bookshare is Liberating
Fran Cutler is an Ottawan with Stargard macular dystrophy, a rare eye condition. Fran used to wait for weeks to get the books she wanted in audio format. With Bookshare, she gets books faster and enjoys reading them at the same time as her friends.
Fran said, “I heard an interview with author Alan Gold about Bell of the Desert. This fictionalized work on the life of Gertrude Bell, the British adventurer, diplomat, and scholar, takes place in the Middle East during and after World War I. I searched Bookshare and found it had been added on January 25, 2015. Fast work!”
Fran’s friends can’t believe how it all works. She demonstrates how easy it is to download books from Bookshare onto her iPhone and then read them using Read2Go, an ebook reader for iOS devices. “It takes just five seconds and I get the books! Seriously, it’s great to be able to read what friends are reading and recommend books to them. Bookshare liberates me from the frustration of waiting months or years to catch up on what my friends were talking about.”
Text-to-Speech Can Still Make You Cry
Noelia Da Rosa is a blind Canadian who was not a big reader. She preferred that another person read to her. She found out about Bookshare through her local library and was impressed by the number of books in Bookshare. “I thought I might as well give it a try with the free membership through CELA,” she said.
Noelia now reads more than 30 books a month on her own.
“I wanted someone to read to me. Now, I’m amazed at the number of books I can read, as opposed to the books I previously couldn’t get. Whether you listen to audio or text-to-speech (TTS), you can still cry from a good book.”
Noelia encourages all Canadians with print disabilities to join Bookshare. “I’ve never been this crazy about reading. Now, I discuss books with friends and tweet about them. I encourage others to give TTS a chance!”