Finally, a Textbook Program for Students with Disabilities

Being part of the Wright State University community has given me a whole new perspective on students with disabilities.  Approximately 10% of our population is part of this community.  It is very difficult for these students to get their textbooks and other course material in a format appropriate to their needs.  That has just been made easier with the announcement of the U.S. College and University Partnership with Bookshare.  Bookshare is the largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities.  Their press release contains all the details of this new program.  Text of this release is also below, click on more.  
U.S. Colleges and Universities Partner with Bookshare
New Program Expands Collection of Accessible Textbooks for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
Ann Harrison, Benetech, 415-637-5262,
Valerie C. Chernek, 410-871-2670,

April 29, 2009, Washington, D.C., The National Press Club Bookshare announced today a University Partnership Program to significantly increase the availability of accessible materials and textbooks on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. post-secondary students who have a disability that keeps them from effectively reading printed books.

The Bookshare University Partnership will foster the growth of accessible materials for all U.S. students with qualified print disabilities through contributions of books scanned on college and university campuses legally under a copyright exemption in U.S. Copyright Law (17 U.S.C. § 121, often referred to as the Chafee Amendment). Under the Chafee Amendment, Bookshare membership is available to people who provide proof of a print disability, such as blindness or low vision, a reading disability or a physical disability that makes it difficult or impossible to read standard print. Eleven U.S. colleges and universities now participate in the program: Arizona State University, De Anza Community College, CA, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Monterey Peninsula Community College, CA, The Ohio State University, Texas A&M University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Montana, University of Idaho, and The Hadley School for the Blind, IL.

Typically, post-secondary students must wait months after the start of a semester before getting their textbooks in a format they can read. Each year, across the country, university personnel engage in a labor intensive process at the beginning of a term to scan books or obtain digital files from publishers to provide students who have qualified print disabilities with accessible textbooks.

“Working closely with U.S. colleges and universities, we can demonstrate the power of pooling our resources to benefit students with qualified disabilities who need timely access to accessible books,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization which operates Bookshare. “This program extends Bookshare’s core spirit of collaboration and partnerships to increase the opportunities for these students to have an equal educational experience.”

Adhering closely to the Chafee Amendment, Bookshare will only accept donations of books purchased and scanned for students with qualified print disabilities or given to a college or university by a publisher with express permission to share the book with groups like Bookshare. Each book scanned on campus and donated to Bookshare for distribution reduces the duplication of effort nationally, minimizing the cumulative cost of scanning books. Scanning and proofreading a book can cost $100 to $1000 depending on its complexity; a collaborative sharing program will save campuses time and money on an annual basis.

“In addition to building a substantial collection of accessible books, this program can ease the burden and the financial cost for university scanning operations,” said Jim Marks, President Elect of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), and Director of Disability Services at the University of Montana at Missoula. “We can serve thousands of students while saving our institutions time, resources and tens of thousands of dollars in scanning costs.”

With an increased collection of post-secondary books, many more students will find the materials they need in the Bookshare library and will benefit from a better overall educational experience. Colleges, universities, or post-secondary schools can become Bookshare organizational members, sign up their students with qualified print disabilities, and recommend that students register for individual memberships. Bookshare membership includes two free ebook reader software programs that read the text of the books aloud, READ:OutLoud from Don Johnston and Victor Reader Soft from HumanWare. Campuses with Bookshare memberships can install these applications on all computers used by students with print disabilities. Students with individual memberships can install the applications on their personal computers.

“Bookshare is expanding fast!” said Ashley Seymour, a college junior majoring in health care at the University of Michigan-Flint, who has been blind since birth. “It’s so easy for me to get my books on time and from one source. I don’t have to wait for days or weeks. I just download my books, convert to MP3 files for my iPod and go to class.”

Every book downloaded is fingerprinted using Bookshare’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Universities contributing books will benefit from increased protection against illegal file sharing. The Bookshare DRM technology maintains a record of each downloaded book to identify potential misuse and copyright infringement.

“Since 2003, we have worked with Bookshare to contribute the books we scan for students with print disabilities,” said Margaret Londergan, Manager of Adaptive Technology and Alternate Media Services at Indiana University. “With more campuses participating, we plan to search Bookshare before we begin scanning. This partnership will undoubtedly improve students’ wait-time and help us provide a true benefit for our educational community.”

Bookshare adds over 1000 legally scanned books per month from universities, the NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center), publishers, and volunteers. The collection now tops over 46,000 books, including textbooks, literature, teacher-recommended reading, New York Times best sellers, newspapers and periodicals. Higher education institutions interested in partnering with Bookshare to contribute legally scanned books in rich text format (.rtf) can email To register students with qualified print disabilities sign up at

About Bookshare

Bookshare,, is the world’s largest accessible online library 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 (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has more than 52,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech,, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.