People will tell you that I like to consume information, but that was not always the case. For most of my life, I struggled with reading so badly I never thought I would be scholarly or have a successful career, but my fear of the printed word is no longer present. Once I discovered accessible books with reading technologies, my life changed. Bookshare is one of the resources that gave me a competitive edge.
Today, in my fifties, I will graduate from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, with a Master of Science in Health and Medical Informatics. The faculty will honor me as the student marshal for my class. This prestigious recognition is given to a student who goes beyond coursework to help their community. I tutor children with dyslexia and teach them about assistive technology. I talk with their parents about Bookshare.
I only wish the online accessible library had existed and my family had known about it when I was a child. If not for my parents, a few teachers, and my faith, I would not have the courage to write about myself today.
Dyslexia – Years of Hidden Pain
I know a thing or two about this learning disability. My childhood was filled with difficult memories. At eight years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I read slowly and poorly with almost no comprehension. It was frightening and debilitating. It raged a storm inside of me that almost knocked me down. I was suspended in school for bad behavior. I built up walls and pushed people away. I felt unworthy.
Some research studies suggest a correlation between depression and people with learning disabilities. People may show signs of withdrawal, aggression, poor self-concept, and unsatisfactory peer relations.
To parents and teachers, I say explore accessible resources and accommodations for your children. Try listening to words read aloud through digital accessible books and seeing them highlighted on a screen. This capability enables me to comprehend more content. I am able to keep pace in the learning process and be measured by my abilities rather than my lack of literacy skills.
I remember downloading my first book from Bookshare in 2007, The Preacher and the Presidents, a story of Reverend Billy Graham by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. In the book, Graham is reading, The World is Flat by Thomas Freidman. This was the second book I read.
Since that time, I have read hundreds of accessible ebooks, of all types, from novels and scientific health journals to religion, academia, and career development. My Bookshare membership allows me to take full advantage of the online library’s vast collection of over 446,000 titles, thanks to over eight hundred publishers who contribute their digital files to the library.
Reading Takes Discipline
I am the Executive Director of a diagnostic and radiology center in Florida. My responsibilities are to review contracts, oversee a large staff, monitor and manage purchasing, and execute strategic plans. I also work with a technical team. We are developing an app for physicians to receive patient diagnostic reports in real time. I learned how to develop an app using an iOS application book for dummies from Bookshare. I think my tech team really respected that.
For me, reading is a discipline. When I get ready to read a hefty contract or document, I gear up and focus on the task. To comprehend the context, I use Voice Dream Reader and am grateful to Winston Chen, the developer of the application. This reading tool is so easy to use with Bookshare.
Wonderful Feeling to Be Hooked on Knowledge!
It is a wonderful feeling to be hooked on knowledge and to know how really smart we can become. Digital accessible books and technologies have given me this freedom. To people living with a print disability, young or older, I say, fuel your passions and interests using digital accessible books and technologies. Your life will be more meaningful. There is nothing that can stand in your way, except your own motivation.
Special thanks to Davis Graham for sharing his personal story.
Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 446,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.