Bookshare Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with Free Membership Offer

Offer Extended to Any Qualifying American

Bookshare Media Contact:  Valerie Chernek, 410-871-2670, valerie.c@bookshare.org
Benetech Media Contact:  Ann Harrison, 415-637-5262, ann.h@benetech.org

July 26, 2010, Palo Alto, CA – In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Bookshare announces a free membership opportunity for all Americans with qualifying print disabilities, regardless of age or student status.  With this offer, Bookshare celebrates the huge strides forward towards inclusion and equality for Americans with disabilities resulting from this act.

Individuals with print disabilities including visual impairments, physical disabilities, or severe learning disabilities are invited to sign up for a free membership, good for 20 book downloads per month for 3 months.  The promotion begins on August 1 and runs for 30 days. This 20-3-30 free trial creates an opportunity to try accessible books without an upfront commitment to a year-long membership.

“We’d love to see seniors, veterans, and other adults with print disabilities experience the joy of accessible reading,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare. “I’m honored to have been invited to the White House today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA with President Obama.”

The Bookshare collection includes many titles of interest to Americans with disabilities of all ages. To see suggested titles, visit Bookshare’s Facebook page. With hundreds of books flowing into the collection every week from digital files contributed by publishers and volunteer book submissions, new members will find accessible books they want to read.  

Participating individuals will have access to over 77,000 current, copyrighted books, including fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and magazines, as well as two free software applications that simultaneously highlight words and read them aloud using high-quality, human-like voices.  In addition to the complimentary Bookshare-provided software, (Victor Reader Soft and Read:OutLoud), individuals can read the accessible books with many of the commonly available assistive devices and software applications. The Getting Started pages on Bookshare’s website have information about these tools. Short video tutorials on the Training pages demonstrate how to use the free software tools.

“Before Bookshare, our family could count on one hand the number of books we had read together,” said Valerie Maples, a Mississippi resident who has severe dyslexia.  Valerie, her husband, Doug who is a quadriplegic, and daughter, Nichole with cerebral palsy, are all Bookshare members. Valerie and her husband are also Bookshare volunteers.  “We enjoyed our books from Bookshare so much that we wanted to improve the choices available for everyone who wants electronic text.  We became volunteers and have taken great pride in scanning and proofreading books, knowing that we have helped to make more books available to others.”        

To participate in Bookshare’s 20-book-per-month, 3-month, 30-days-to-sign-up free trial, people with qualifying print disabilities should:

1.    Sign up. Select the 18-and-over membership option.
2.    Complete the contact forms online. Be sure to enter ADA20 in the promotion code field, if it is not there.
3.    Agree to the terms of use online.
4.    Provide proof of disability with either an NLS certification, an RFB&D member number, or the Bookshare proof of disability form signed by a qualified professional and fax-ed to 650.475.1066.

At the end of the 3-month trial, Bookshare will reach out to new members to explore alternatives for continuing memberships, such as an individual membership for $50/year or an organizational membership from a sponsoring organization.  Bookshare will waive the $25/ first year set up fee for individuals who want to continue their membership. Full details of this offer are online.

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility issues so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 77,000 books and serves more than 100,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit which creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs. 

About Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed July 26, 1990 as Public Law 101-336 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq ) and became effective on January 26, 1992. The ADA is landmark federal legislation that opens up services and employment opportunities to the 43 million Americans with disabilities. The law was written to strike a balance between the reasonable accommodation of citizens' needs and the capacity of private and public entities to respond. It is not an affirmative action law but is intended to eliminate illegal discrimination and level the playing field for disabled individuals.  Learn more.