Bookshare Showcases Student Technology and its Free, Federally Funded Accessible Book Initiative
DCPS Students with Disabilities Speak about Academic Equality, Higher Education, and Lifelong Learning at DC Public Library
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May 16, 2011, Washington, DC– Students with print disabilities and administrators from the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), along with library and government officials, shared their stories and progress toward improving academic equality and lifelong learning through the use of technology at an event last week at the DC Public Library.
Through the use of assistive technology devices, students can immediately download and access books through Bookshare, an online accessible library of copyrighted content federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).
As a result, students who were once waiting long periods of time for books to be transcribed to Braille or large print, or those who had aides reading to them, now can start reading their books independently at the same time as their non-disabled peers receive their books.
“DCPS is the first large urban district to undertake such a ground-breaking project promoting independence and inclusion for students with print disabilities,” said Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager of Literacy Programs at Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare. “We congratulate the District on their reform that is improving the lives of students who may fall through the cracks, and expect other districts will be inspired to follow in their example.”
DCPS students demonstrated how to read accessible books and textbooks using the technologies that best accommodate their visual impairments, learning or other physical disabilities, and commented on the changes in their lives due to the technology and Bookshare:
* Crichelle Brown, who has held multiple leadership positions in her school, now reads using large print on an iPad. She commented, “I was always behind. I had to wait so long for my books while they enlarged the print. Now I have several choices of college for next year and have to decide where I want to go. There are no barriers in front of me. They have been knocked down.”
* A schoolmate, Carlos Hilton said, “I used to have to sit in the back of the class and wasn’t engaged in the lessons. I might not get my large print books until halfway through the school year. It was hard on my friends. Now, with my laptop, instead of lugging a big device through the hallways, I’m sitting in front and paying attention. Yes, I’m doing better in school.”
* Danika Walker said, "Because I have access to this technology, I can stay on grade level with my peers. Assistive technology allows me to meet my goals."
“At DCPS, we seek nothing less than to create a system of world class services and supports that will help our graduates with disabilities to transition into pathways that ensure finishing college, holding well-paying jobs they love, and living as independently as possible,” said Dr. Nyankori, Deputy Chancellor for Special Education at DCPS. “Equipping our students with the right assistive technology devices is a key step in achieving this goal.”
DCPS partners with the DC Public Library, Adaptive Services Division. The Library teaches students with limited vision how to download the books they need in a format that they can use.
To qualify for free books from Bookshare, U.S. students must have a visual impairment, a physical disability, or a severe learning disability, such as dyslexia. Today, the Bookshare online collection holds more than 100,000 books, including K-12 textbooks, postsecondary books and journals, teacher-recommended reading, literature, children’s books, reference works, and periodicals.
Bookshare is the 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 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 qualifying print disability. Bookshare serves more than 130,000 members and is an initiative of Benetech, a nonprofit which creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.