That was then…
When we first met Jessica Pinto in 2008, she was in eighth grade at Kennedy Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this video, Jessica explains how cerebral palsy made it extremely difficult for her to hold standard printed books and how Bookshare was a game changer for her because it let her read digital books independently.
This is now…
Fast forward ten years when I recently had the pleasure of learning about Jessica’s journey since 2008.
How long have you been a Bookshare member?
When I was in eighth grade, Megan Shanley, AT specialist for Albuquerque public schools, introduced Bookshare to me. She knew I hated reading and thought that Bookshare would make it easier for me. She said, “You are going to love this!” And I did.
What was your reading experience like before you started using Bookshare?
I always enjoyed stories, but holding a book physically was nearly impossible for me due to my cerebral palsy. I also needed books with large print. My mom would have to read to me because it was so exhausting and difficult for me to hold a book. Now I love reading because I can read what I want by myself.
Which reading tools and devices do you use?
Bookshare has improved so much over the years. Now there are so many formats available. When I read on my MacBook, I download the EPUB format because it is compatible with iBooks, and I also use the Read2Go app on my iPad and iPhone.
What do you think of the digital text-to-speech voices?
I like them a lot because they have improved so much over the years and I am accustomed to them. I particularly like an Acapela voice called Heather.
Which features are especially helpful?
I enlarge the font and use the word-highlighting feature to help me see the words better.
How did Bookshare help you in high school?
I mostly used it in English class when we read novels and classic literature. The books were always available in Bookshare. I think it’s so awesome that the books come in many formats, including braille, and are available in foreign languages.
Many things! After high school, I took one college course and it was challenging for me, so I had to reevaluate what I wanted to do. One thing I am very passionate about is advocating for people with special needs. I participate on some human rights committees. People crave my input on this topic because I represent the community.
Once a week I teach computer skills to persons with special needs. I created a curriculum and love helping people who are afraid of computers. I tell them that whichever button they press, the computer won’t explode! In addition, I recently completed a contract position doing data entry and hope to do more computer work.
Employers look at people with special needs and only see their limitations and disabilities, not their capabilities. It’s so frustrating because I have been offered a few jobs and I say, “But I can do so much more!” It is important to me to make a difference and advocate for people with special needs.
I mostly read for pleasure now that I’m not in school any more. Books offer escapism, enjoyment, and fulfillment. I have read seven books so far this year and that never would have happened without Bookshare. I have three favorite authors at the moment: Bella Forrest, Christina Lauren, and Colleen Hoover. I just finished A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell because I want to compare the book with the movie.
What advice do you have for students with disabilities?
Give Bookshare a try and don’t give up on reading and learning! I know how frustrating it can be to read, but Bookshare has so many tools that make it easier. George R.R. Martin said it best in A Dance with Dragons: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
The Bookshare team thanks Jessica for sharing her story. @jessrocks300
Bookshare is FREE for qualified U.S. students with reading barriers.