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Bookshare is a Lifeline for the Blind Community in Latin America

Bookshare es una línea de vida para la comunidad ciega en América Latina

Special thanks to Gerardo Corripio, a Bookshare international member and native of Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, for this article. Because of Gerardo’s efforts many Latin Americans who are blind are now aware of the advantages of accessible ebooks and technologies through Bookshare.  

Bookshare member, Gerardo Corripio, says, “What a feeling to be able to make a difference in another Photo of Gerardo Corripio, Bookshare member in Mexico CityLatin American’s life.” Gerardo has used Bookshare for many years and says the online library is a lifeline for him and for people who are blind in his country of Mexico. “Bookshare is one of very few resources for the disability community,” he says, especially if they do not speak English.

Gerardo, who became blind at birth and also suffered severe hearing loss, has shown incredible gratitude for the people who believed in him and for the resources that have supported him. Throughout his life, he has taken that appreciation to heart with a mission to help the Latin American blind community prosper too.

Logo for Instituto de Estudios Superiores de TamaulipasFirst Blind Student to Attend a Private University in Tampico, Mexico

Thanks to supportive parents and two university administrators at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Tamaulipas (IEST) who believed in him, Gerardo was the first blind student to be accepted to a private university. He said, “Even though I lacked two important senses (sight and sound), with proper support from my parents, professors, classmates, and other university staff, plus the skills I learned to accommodate my blindness, I was able to study in a mainstream classroom and perform at the same level as my sighted peers.”

He received a degree in psychology and wrote a thesis on “The Adaptation Process of Families with Visual Impairments.” “Attending a private institution was a rare opportunity that most people in my country will never have,” he says. Yet, when a local parent heard about his accomplishments, she sent her son to the college and many more students with disabilities followed.

Improve English Skills with Text-to-Speech

Not only does Gerardo like to read accessible ebooks on all kinds of technologies using Bookshare, he Cover for Mindful Coaching by Liz Hallcan also polish his English skills listening to text-to-speech. He reads ebooks using apps on various devices, such as an iPhone with Voice Dream Reader, a computer using Kurzweil 1000, and Victor Reader Stream. Although he typically reads in English, Gerardo tells others about the vast Bookshare collection of over 500,000 titles, including 12,000 books in Spanish and other languages available to international members who qualify.

Advocating for Bookshare in Latin America

“The internet has given me the ability to connect with a community to share my knowledge,” says Gerardo. When he is not working with clients, he broadcasts for Eibero America and Radio General, two online radio stations started by two of his blind friends in 2009 to educate the Latin American blind community.

Gerardo creates podcasts and articles on topics such as Braille, technology using Windows, and tips on using Android and iOS smartphones. During his eight-year tenure on Eibero America, Gerardo has also discussed the psychological well-being of people living with blindness, as well as how to use Bookshare and assistive technology devices. To date, there are over 2,700 listeners, and many individuals download his episodes.

And if that isn’t enough advocacy, Gerardo also enjoys discussions about notable books on Twitter and through book review groups, including a Bookshare FreeList discussion group, the new Bookshare-hosted discussion forum, and Bookshare Twitter.

In addition, Gerardo has formed two groups — Accessibility for All, a Spanish blindness group, and Universal Access English Matters — where he discusses books he is reading. One recent favorite is Mindful Coaching, a psychology book by Liz Hall.

Bridging Social and Cultural Barriers

Gerardo insists that book topics can bridge diversity, improve cultural integration, and break through barriers to learning. “To read, learn, and share knowledge is a human obligation,” he says. “Discussing a book or sharing an interesting fact will never go out of style. I want to thank the Bookshare staff. The library has made a difference in my life and is a lifeline for people with print disabilities around the world to achieve reading equality. I hope my advocacy will help more individuals in Latin America learn about the advantages of accessible ebooks, and together we can open the door to improved social integration, meaningful conversations, further academic pursuits, and lasting friendships.”

Rompiendo barreras sociales y culturales

Gerardo insista que los temas de los libros pueden tender puentes sobre la diversidad, mejorar integración cultural y romper barreras al aprendizaje. “Leer, aprender y compartir conocimiento es una obligación humana,” él dice. “Conversar sobre un libro o compartir un dato interesante nunca pasa de moda. Quiero agradecerle al personal de Bookshare. La biblioteca ha hecho una gran diferencia en mi vida y es un salvavidas para gente con discapacidad para la lectura en todo el mundo lograr equidad de lectura. Espero que mi promoción ayudará a otros individuales en Latinoamérica aprender de las ventajas de ebooks accesibles, y juntos podemos abrir la puerta a mejor integración social, conversaciones significativas, emprendimientos académicos y amistades duraderos.”

Thanks to Rachel Bernstein, Program Manager, Benetech Human Rights, for her Spanish translation services.

One Comment

  1. carmen

    I am thankful for bookshare, my Daughter Maria Victoria uses bookshare for school and we live in Panama, Central America.

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