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Author is a Champion for Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Books

Bookshare member Katherine Schneider describes her passion for inclusion and why she originated the Schneider Family Book Award

Bookshare members come in all shapes and sizes, and they all have a unique story to tell and wisdom to share. Today we meet Katherine Schneider. She grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Purdue University. She taught, counseled, supervised, and directed several university counseling services before retiring. She currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with her ninth Seeing Eye dog, Luna.

How did you develop a love of reading?

I started receiving Braille and talking books in the mid-1950s from the National Library Service. My mom also read to me, but it always seemed there weren’t enough books to keep me satisfied.

How long have you been a Bookshare member? How has Bookshare supported your reading efforts and personal and professional goals?

I’m not sure when I started getting Bookshare books, but it’s been a love affair the whole way. Reading to keep current in my field and to see what was available in disability memoirs and children’s books about disability issues as I wrote mine have been extremely helpful. Then there’s the joy of getting a current thriller the day it’s published and ahead of my sighted friends.

What reading tools and devices do you use to read books?

I use hardcopy Braille, download audio files from Bookshare and the National Library Service, and have just started using a refreshable Braille device. I still rely on a human reader occasionally.

What do you think about the digital text-to-speech voices?

Coming from a background of book scarcity, I don’t care how the voice sounds (human or digital) as long as I can understand it. Occasionally, like for poetry, a human voice with expression is nice.

What inspired you to establish the Schneider Family Book Award for literature with the American Library Association?

The books I read as a child had few blind or disabled characters, so I knew there needed to be more and better characters presented to children. Louis Braille, Helen Keller, and the seven blind men who went to see the elephant were about all that was available back then. Some of the kids’ books I’ve seen made the characters with disabilities be “inspirational” or an object of pity. So I established the award for librarians to highlight the best of the best every year and hoped it would make publishers and authors take note. It has, and more and better books are out there now. It makes my heart happy.

What advice do you have for others who are blind or have visual impairments?

I’ve got way more advice than is generally needed or wanted. I’ll limit myself to build a good support network, expect to give 110%, and enjoy the journey toward your goals. Good luck!

About Katherine and the Schneider Family Book Award

Established in 2004, the Schneider Family Book Award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for children and adolescents. Bookshare is proud to offer the full collection of winners including 2018 winners:

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., is a retired clinical psychologist and author. She has published a memoir, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities; a children’s book, Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold; and a book about aging, Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, all available on Bookshare. We encourage you to read her blog.

Bookshare is an ebook library for people with reading barriers. If you know someone who cannot read books due to a disability like blindness, dyslexia, or cerebral palsy, learn how Bookshare can make reading easier.


  1. A Bookshare fan

    I really like Ms. Schneider’s book for kids: Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold.

    I especially appreciate these wise words: “When it hurts to be different, telling a parent, teacher or friend can help. These people are treasures. They can listen, give you a hug, and tell you they care. They can’t make the hard part about being different go away, but they can share the load.”

    This reminds me of what the new Surgeon General of California, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, has to say. That buffering, caring relationships have been shown to improve children’s health now and in the future by reducing their stress response. “The existing evidence clearly demonstrates that safe, stable and nurturing relationships are healing for children.”

    Thank you, Dr. Schneider!

  2. Gerald Mercadel

    I find this information is very inspiring.I would like follow up information.

    • Laura Deck, Bookshare Communications

      Gerald: Thank you for your comments. What kind of information do you want? Please let me know so I can assist you.
      Laura, Bookshare staff

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