Mrs. Shell mentioned an organization called Bookshare that provides text in alternate formats. What do you think alternate formats are? What further information would you want about this service?
Page 3: What Is Bookshare?
Bonita and Steven have print disabilities that impede their use of standard print material. Electronic text provides an alternate format that enables them to access required text. In order to use electronic text, though, Bonita and Steven require assistive technology (AT), devices or services that help a person with a disability to do something that he or she could not do otherwise.
Did You Know?
Scanning books is a common process teachers use to provide materials for their students with print disabilities. Ordinarily, this involves:
Cutting the spine off the book
Scanning the pages
Proofing the scanned version of the book
A relatively simple book can take an hour to scan, whereas a more complex volume with tables, charts, and graphs can take 200 hours.
Listen as Vikki Vaughan discusses how her school system has traditionally scanned books for readers with print disabilities (time: 0:57).
Vikki Vaughan Vision Specialist Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
In our school system, we have several people that engage in scanning activities. We have special ed teachers, we have a certified braillist and paraprofessionals who do it. They’ll scan in the materials and then produce it in the format that the student needs. That might be large-print, that might be braille, and it could be in an audio version, depending on the needs of the students. It’s very challenging. We as the special educators try to encourage our gen ed teachers to provide us with materials as far in advance as possible. But we know realistically that’s not always possible, so a lot of times we are scanning or brailling on the fly. So as soon as we can get the materials from the gen ed teacher we’re scanning it in and translating it into whatever version the student needs. It’s not a perfect science, for sure. We just do the best we can.
The world’s largest online library for accessible materials, Bookshare® (http://www.bookshare.org) is a federally funded program that provides digital text and software applications to people with print disabilities. The library contains more than 300,000 digital resources, including fiction and non-fiction books, textbooks, supplemental educational materials, children’s books, newspapers, and magazines. School-age students who meet certain criteria qualify for free membership. The intent of Bookshare is to:
Help schools to comply with IDEA ’04 requirements regarding accessibility and timelines of instructional materials
Equalize educational experiences for students with print disabilities and encourage independent reading and studying
Provide access to the general education curriculum for students with print disabilities
Reduce the burden and cost of scanning books
Federal legislation that requires that all students are included in the general education curriculum to the greatest extent appropriate. In order to access the general education curriculum—which includes access extracurricular activities—the school must provide assistive technology (AT) when needed.
Listen as Betsy Burgess talks about the positive influence Bookshare has had on students’ lives (time: 1:37).
Betsy Burgess Former Director of Marketing, Bookshare Palo Alto, CA
Bookshare Members absolutely love Bookshare. We cannot tell you how many times we go to a conference and we meet our Members and they tell us, “I love Bookshare.” It has just changed the lives of so many people around the country. We have one eighth-grade student with physical disabilities and she always had an aide reading to her. But when she got Bookshare and she began to be able to read on her own, she began to read so much that she’s now decided she wants to be an author when she grows up. We get many, many, many stories like this about kids and how we have changed their lives and it is such wonderful work, such a wonderful thing to be able do for a student, to give them the world of books or to open up the world of books to them, to equalize their educational opportunities, to give them access to the general curriculum. They just love Bookshare.
There are wonderful stories. One is about the student with cerebral palsy who wants to be an author now when she grows up. There’s another of an eighth-grader who couldn’t play on the soccer team because his grades weren’t good enough. And he got Bookshare, his teacher introduced him to Bookshare, and he began to keep up with his classmates, to get his school work done, and he brought his grades up and was able to be on the soccer team again and he then went on to enjoy the world of books so much and he began to learn more about sports stadiums and sports and read all about a number of topics just because of his Bookshare membership.
For Your Information
Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, whose main purpose is to develop new technology for underserved communities. Bookshare is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to expand the availability of accessible electronic books and to provide related software. Prior to Bookshare’s existence, only about 5 percent of all published books were available in alternate formats.
Bookshare is committed to adding digitized books that are both accessible and aligned with their printed versions on an on-going basis and in a timely manner. Its goal is to provide materials to students with print disabilities at the same time that their classmates receive their materials. Through its partnerships with publishers and a number of agencies and programs, Bookshare has created an expansive library and support services for these students.
Publishers who partner with Bookshare provide digital files of the books that they publish. Because Bookshare acts as a repository for these files, publishers often direct other individuals and organizations requesting digital files to the Bookshare Website.
Agencies, programs, and other major supporters
Bookshare partners with a number of agencies and programs, which include:
Assistive technology providers or companies that create products for people with disabilities (e.g., hardware manufacturers such as American Printing House for the Blind, and LevelStar; software developers such as Go Read, Kurzweil, Read2Go, and Emacspeak)
Organizations and agencies that provide services to people with print disabilities (e.g., National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), libraries affiliated with the NLS, Vet Success, and many others)
Federally funded family resource centers that help parents learn how to support the needs of children with disabilities, including how to use the Bookshare resources
In addition to the agencies and programs listed above, there are other major supporters of Bookshare, such as the U.S. Department of Education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, the Bernard A. Newcome Fund at the Silicone Valley Community Foundation, and many others.
Among other things, these agencies and programs promote Bookshare services, consult with Bookshare to make digital materials more accessible, and develop software for accessing and manipulating these materials. By partnering with Bookshare, these agencies and programs are better able to meet the needs of the individuals with print disabilities that they serve.
In addition, teachers and others can volunteer their time to scan books and proofread digitized materials. Volunteers can perform these tasks from any location and then send the files to Bookshare for inclusion in the library. For more information about volunteering, contact Bookshare.
Listen as Jim Fruchterman talks about increasing the number of books available in the Bookshare online library (time: 2:04).
Bookshare offers a way of getting sort of critical mass in number of books, because it costs us so much less to add a book to our collection then the traditional ways. We’re adding 2,000 books a month. And that’s five or ten times what you’d be able to do with the same amount of money, if you were doing human narration. What I would like to see is that 90 percent of the time when someone comes looking for a specific book, that it’s already on Bookshare, in high quality and in a form that they can use. The number of students using Bookshare has just exploded. It’s gone from probably 2,000 students, and we see at the end of the five-year initial period that we’ll be serving several hundred thousand students. And we promised the Department of Ed that we’d serve a hundred thousand students. So for the same amount of money we’re going to be able to serve two hundred to three hundred thousand students, and I think that kind of leverage means that we’ll actually be able to solve this problem. That students will have access to high-quality material, the assistive technology they need, and it’ll be easy and Web-based so that sixty seconds after they decide they need a book, they’re reading it. Bookshare puts a lot of the power around information access in the hands of our Members, of students, and parents, and teachers. If anybody who’s a parent or a teacher or a student wants a book that we don’t have, they can always scan it and add it into Bookshare. And that is a dramatic power shift. If you think it’s worth three hours to scan and proofread it and add it to our collection, we think it’s worth sharing it with the entire community. That’s a very different model for a library. It’s a model that gets beyond the limitations of funding and technology. It’s in the hands of the people that share our drive to make books accessible.