Nick is a retired professor who is blind and relies on Bookshare for his scholarly research, pleasure reading, and ticket to lifelong learning.
This week we shine the spotlight on Bookshare member Nick Racheotes, PhD. A resident of Boston, Nick is an Emeritus Professor of History at Framingham State University and an Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard. He has been a Bookshare member since 2009, and he believes it is important to “put as many tools in the learning toolbox as possible.”
Nick answered questions via email, and the exchange has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
What is the nature of your visual impairment that makes it difficult to read traditional printed books?
I have been unable to read print since the age of nine when I was in fourth grade. I learned braille at the age of 12. Throughout college and graduate school, I relied heavily on personal readers, the offerings of what was then known as Recording for the Blind, and recordings on request from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind.
How did you learn about Bookshare?
The director of the Perkins Library, a friend, and other members of Blind Academics told me of the excellent library at Bookshare and how promptly books were made available shortly after being published.
How has Bookshare supported your reading efforts and personal/professional goals?
For recreational reading, preparation of lectures, and research, I have benefited enormously from this source of reading material. It permits me to stay current in my field, up to date with recent publications of interest, and in other respects.
“Bookshare is one of the most valuable tools in my kit. For scholarly pursuits, for keeping up with literature making a current splash, for diving back into items overlooked in earlier reading adventures, and for so many other reasons, I cherish this resource, congratulate you on refining it perpetually, and recommend it whenever appropriate. In short, Bookshare is exactly the sort of library for which those of us have long yearned.” -Nick Racheotes
What reading tools, devices, and file formats do you use to read books?
I read on the computer with Kurzweil 3000 (for scanning and download access), on a Victor Reader Stream (handheld audio player), and with the digital player from the NLS. For the sake of speed, I’m an audiobooks consumer and do not have a braille display, though I have used braille in the past for learning foreign languages, magazine reading, and continue its use in lecture and conference presentations.
What do you think about the digital text-to-speech voices?
I am genuinely impressed at the clarity and articulation of the current digital voices. One of their by-products is especially valuable to me: being able to access correct spelling with alacrity has made me a better speller and much less dependent on the spell-check function.
What advice do you have for others who have visual challenges that affect their ability to read?
Put as many tools in the learning toolbox as possible. Keeping up with the glut of information, the demands of school and work, the enrichment that reading offers, and the expectations of society require lifelong learning and dexterity in finding, absorbing, and manipulating information. No single medium or application suffices in meeting them, so it’s important to use a variety of tools and resources.
Bookshare Unlocks Reading
Do you or someone you know have a reading barrier like Nick? Bookshare makes reading easier. People with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers can customize their experience to suit their learning style and find virtually any book they need for school, work, or the joy of reading. Learn how Bookshare can help.
Bookshare thanks Nick for sharing his experiences and wishes him many years of happy reading!