School Boards Can Drive Demand For Accessible Content From Publishers

“Bookshare” is an initiative launched by Silicon Valley non-profit tech company Benetech that allows publishers to release accessible books, on the same day they become available for sale in Chapters and Amazon.

In the US, 850 publishers have direct partnerships with Bookshare, allowing it to release accessible versions of new titles as they are published. Books can be ordered in braille, large print, and audio versions as well as what Bookshare calls “karaoke-style,” which reads a digital book aloud while the words are highlighted. Ironically, Brad Turner, Benetech’s Vice President of Global Literacy hopes to see Bookshare put right out of business -- he’s encouraging publishers to create accessible content as part of the standard publishing process.  Benetech’s Born Accessible initiative pressures publishers to produce new titles in accessible formats while they are preparing them in digital formats, and gives them information about how to do so. 

School districts are some of the biggest users of the Bookshare service.  Vicki Grant, who assesses assistive technology for the Los Angeles Unified School Board explains how deeply accessible books can impact children in schools: “These kids think they can’t do that because they can’t read by themselves, but with this resource they are able to access any book that any kid is reading. They are no longer locked out of reading the most popular books their peers can pick up in the library, which opens them up to a greater sense of belonging in social conversations about reading.”

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