Textbook Access for Students with Dyslexia or Visual Impairment

Audio books are an important resource for people with a visual impairment or dyslexia.

Audio books are an important resource for people with a visual impairment or dyslexia.

Many students with dyslexia can find school college books just as unreadable as the blind do. A new library that converts textbooks to audio and braille can help dyslexics excel in college.

by Lillian Mongeau

Elizabeth is a college freshman who has severe dyslexia that makes it impossible for her to decipher printed materials. Nearly every night for 12 years of school, Elizabeth’s mother would sit down and read her daughter’s school work to her because that’s the only choice they had.

But a few months before starting college, Elizabeth discovered an online library called Bookshare.org, run by a small non-profit called Benetech.

“My life changed as I entered the world of accessible literature,” Elizabeth wrote on Bookshare’s blog.

For Elizabeth and the millions of students who are “print disabled” — meaning they have trouble reading because of dyslexia or vision impairment — many textbooks are not available in an audio format or in any other format that’s easily accessible. Bookshare converts texts into accessible digital formats–mostly audio and digital braille–for those who can’t decipher print.

It’s not that Benetech invented accessible literature. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), which is part of the Library of Congress, has 300,000 titles and close to 1 million registered readers. The library provides audio books, Braille books and digital files that communicate with electronic Braille notetakers. However, many NLS books must be requested by mail and wait lists for popular texts can be long. In the last few years, the NLS has started offering some texts for download.

A few other services, like the nonprofit Learning Ally which has been around since 1948, also offer accessible books for the visually impaired.

Read more at For Dyslexic and Visually Impaired Students, a Free High-Tech Solution.

[From NPR]

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