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Helping Individuals Who Are Blind Transition to Work Through Training and Accessible Ebooks

September 8th is International Literacy Day, and Bookshare is honoring those individuals and organizations that make a lasting difference to ensure literacy happens for everyone.

Bill Powell provides training for an adult at Bosma Enterprises
Bill Powell provides training for an adult at Bosma Enterprises

Each day, Bill Powell, Assistive Technology Director, and his staff at Bosma Enterprises in Indianapolis, provide job training, employment services, rehabilitation, and outreach to help adults who are blind transition to the working world. To accomplish this goal, the team downloads digital accessible books using Bookshare.

Bill says, “With the right education, mentors, technology, and resources like accessible books, individuals with disabilities are highly capable of working in many fields, including training and technology, after their schooling.”

In 2012, Bill received the Thomas C. Hasbrook Award as a leading advocate for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Accessible Books Are Life Changing

Bill Powell, Salman Haider, Imran Ahmed
Bill Powell with Salman Haider and Imran Ahmed

When asked about successful transitions and talented individuals, Bill points to two colleagues: Salman Haider and Imran Ahmed. Both men, who were born in Pakistan and have visual impairments, are assistive technology trainers. They both experienced childhoods filled with uncertainty due to the lack of academic resources.

“My first eighteen years of schooling were difficult, especially in reading and writing,” says Salman. “In high school, I finally learned about assistive technologies and came to America. “This transition was life changing!”

As an international student studying in the United States, Salman used his technology skills to tap into a network of people and resources. He started to love reading and absorbed knowledge through accessible ebooks and technologies using the Bookshare library. “I found college-level books and computer programming books for my job,” he said. “For any student with vision challenges, finding an accessible textbook that is free and quickly available takes the hassle out of getting books scanned.” Salman also downloads novels, mysteries, and Asian fiction to keep him connected to his heritage. “The library has tons of titles for academia and pleasure reading,” he says. Salman Haider graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Technology from Purdue University.

Imran trains an adult who is blind how to download ebooks from Bookshare
Imran trains an adult who is blind how to download ebooks from Bookshare

Imran Ahmed is an assistive technology trainer at Bosma Enterprises and a longtime Bookshare member. “Before I came to America, I did not have direct access to books,” he says. “When I arrived, signing up for Bookshare was first on my list. I have never been disappointed. The library continues to be a source of unsurpassed knowledge for me professionally and personally.” Imran appreciates that the Bookshare collection continues to expand with international titles, especially South Asian authors which he and his wife enjoy reading together. “We can even download children’s books and read them to our inquisitive toddler,” he says.

Imran also finds technical books he needs to improve his professional skills. “I want to increase my knowledge concerning computers and business acumen,” he adds. “The fact that I can choose whether to read books via speech output or with a braille display makes the library useful and flexible. I read on a DAISY player, a computer, and an iPhone. I teach blind people how to use a computer, navigate the web, utilize resources, and sign up for individual memberships to the library. Bookshare is an integral part of our curriculum.”

As a result of passionate trainers like Bill Powell, Imran Ahmad, and Salman Haider, and organizations like Bosma Enterprises that believe in empowering individuals with disabilities, more persons who are blind and visually impaired are able to make easier transitions from school to work. We thank them for sharing their stories and empowering more people to live fulfilling lives through literacy.

About International Literacy Day

Fifty years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day to mobilize the international community and promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies around the world.

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people who cannot read printed books due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and other print disabilities. Through Bookshare’s extensive collection of over 450,000 educational, international and popular titles, including K-12 textbooks, specialized book formats, and reading tools, the online library offers the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy.

With Bookshare books, members can listen to their book, follow along with highlighted text, read in braille, and customize their experience in ways that make reading easier. Sign up today!

Bookshare is a global literacy initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.

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One Comment

  1. Zeray Debesay

    Interesting life experience guys! I wish I could get such life changing opportunities. This is your brother Zeray from Eritrea, east
    Africa.

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