Thursday, September 17, 2009


Individuals with serious disabilities that affect their ability to read should know about a program called Bookshare.

Bookshare is available to schools, libraries, and other organizations as well as individuals -- children and adults -- who are unable to access standard reading materials because of a specific disability. It is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education and is free to all who qualify for its services.

The key to this program is the waiver of copyright laws by publishers of books and periodicals to make them available to Bookshare for members to access via adaptive technology -- text to speech readers, computers with enlarged or adapted text formats, or even Braille readers for those who require them.

Qualified individuals include those"with visual impairments that keep them from reading standard print (blind, legally blind, or with other functional vision limitations) ... or with severe learning disabilities that keep them from being able to effectively read standard print." This latter group would include "students with IEPs that call for text accommodation to respond to specific language learning disabilities".

Still another group which would be covered by Bookshare are individuals "with physical disabilities that prevent them from reading print or using a print book. Such a limitation could be the result of a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, a neurological condition, etc."

All individual users of the site are required to provide proof of their disability, but the kinds of proof required should be easy for qualified individuals to obtain. If you know someone who could benefit from this free program, please let them know.