These organizations serving individuals who are blind, have low vision, a physical disability or a severe learning disability now offer Bookshare memberships to provide access to over 13,000 internationally available titles. The number of titles increases daily as publisher-contributed digital files pour into the collection.
“At Vision Australia, clients say that access to information is vital for their ability to participate in daily life, whether it is for education, employment, or recreation,” said Julie Rae, General Manager for Community Information Access. “Through our work together, we can assure our clients have access to a much wider range of published materials.”
Greg Kearney, Manager of Accessible Media for the Association for the Blind, in Western Australia said, "We chose to work with Bookshare because of its proven ability to deliver a wide range of recently published materials in accessible formats. We felt membership is an important step to extend the range of books available in Australia and New Zealand for our citizens who are blind or have print disabilities. Going forward this partnership will ensure that our citizens can read for entertainment and more importantly gain information that is critical to their full participation in a modern liberal democracy."
Other partnerships in Asia and Africa foster literacy opportunities in schools and local outreach centers. In Tibet, Bookshare has a relationship with Braille Without Borders to extend Bookshare to schools. In Africa, Bookshare partners with Our Reading Spaces in Kenya and the Ghana Society for the Blind. In Nigeria and Thailand, Bookshare recycles hard-copy printed books after scanning to provide reading materials for sighted students in poor and rural schools.
Inge Padkaer Nielsen, Head of Development for NOTA Denmark, said “Sponsoring Bookshare membership is one way we can help our citizens with print disabilities gain access to reading and thus participate in the life of the community on equal terms.”
In India, to empower citizens with print disabilities to become economically independent, Upkar Prakashan Publications granted Bookshare permission to convert its test prep books to accessible formats to prepare for the bank clerk’s and civil service exams. These materials will increase students’ employment skills and workforce opportunities and are now available in English with Hindi translations coming soon. To stay current with popular content, Bookshare members can also read ‘Thendral,’ an online magazine written in Tamil.
S.M.A. Jinnah, Founder and Secretary General for the Indian Association for the Blind in Madurai, India, said, “A book is the best friend of man, but not true in the case of the visually challenged…until Bookshare came along. Through this accessible library, our students can access books in DAISY and Braille and enjoy more reading opportunities to increase their knowledge in various fields, just like their sighted peers.”
Bookshare is a nonprofit organization with a social mission to serve the international population with print disabilities, providing equal access to published content. Today, partnering organizations providing memberships and services represent 30 countries. Publishers in Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and India donate books, including titles written in Hindi and Tamil.
“Our agreements with publishers have greatly expanded access to international content and our partnerships in other countries make global access a reality today,” said Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager of Literacy Programs at Benetech, the organization that operates Bookshare. “We’ll continue to work on three fronts to remove barriers to published content for people with print disabilities through:
- more publisher relationships providing global rights to their works,
- more countries partnering with Bookshare for access to this content, and
- continued support for the efforts with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to allow cross-border sharing of books.”
Bookshare members from international organizations – like U.S. members – can download fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, reference books in DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready Format) formats, plus two software applications that read digital content. Proof of disability is required. Bookshare protects publishers’ copyrights and guards against illegal sharing through a proprietary Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. The DRM technology fingerprints and maintains a record of every book downloaded to identify potential misuse and copyright infringement.
“The Bookshare library holds a substantial collection of titles to prepare individuals for the workforce and to advance their education opportunities,” said Catarina Hummelstrand, Manager of XML Production of TPB Sweden. “We value this important resource for our citizens.”
Anyone with a qualified print disability from any country is welcome to sign up for an individual Bookshare membership. Fees are nominal and vary by country. International organizations are also welcome to sign up for organizational memberships. Government and non-governmental agencies interested in partnering with Bookshare to serve qualified individuals within their countries should contact our international team.