This article highlights Bookshare, a nonprofit that provides free specialized electronic copies of books to students with certain print disabilities. This story is an example of how e-book technology has great potential for students who previously relied on more burdensome and harder to obtain alternatives to the traditional book.
Bookshare makes books to be read aloud by computers, magnified, and spaced differently so that students with vision problems or learning disabilities can read them. Bookshare’s agreement with 160 publishers allow them to make these special need e-books available at the same time new releases reach bookstore shelves, unlike typical audiobooks.
Bookshare memberships are for students who are blind, have low vision, have such learning disabilities as severe dyslexia, or have a disability such as cerebral palsy that could keep them from holding a book. For these children, Bookshare is free, due to a $32 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education four years ago that’s led to 150,000 student Bookshare memberships across the nation. And the department’s office of special education programs gave the organization another $3 million in mid-October to take its work even further during the next year.
The article says barriers still remain. For example, many books are filled with photographs, diagrams, charts, and drawings that may be supplemented by a single line or two of text. Although e-books can read aloud that simple description, more elaborate details aren’t available in most cases.