Individuals with disabilities that affect their access to print have some free options for obtaining audio and braille books, magazines and pod casts. The local public library is bound to have a collection of popular audio books that can borrowed at no cost, as long as you have a library card and return the books on time. In many libraries, books can be reserved in advance and/or brought in from another branch so you are not limited to what happens to be on the shelves of that branch on a particular day. Public libraries often raise money by selling donated books and used ones that they have replaced. It’s a low-cost way to build your home library.
The North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has a history that goes back to 1958. With Federal, State and private funding, it eventually became part of a regional network of libraries operated by the the Library of Congress. Even though the name of the library has not kept up with current preferred disability language, the library itself has continued to change with the times and now offers materials in a wide variety of accessible formats fr people of all ages. Individuals must complete an application and provide documentation of a disability that qualifies them to use the library. Please visit the website to learn more http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/lbph . If you don’t live in North Carolina, ask for the branch that serves your area.
Bookshare is another great resource for people who have print disabilities. Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students and schools, thanks to funding from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. Organizations and non-students can apply for paid memberships that will give them access to accessible materials through Bookshare. Check out Bookshare at https://www.bookshare.org to see if you or someone that you know can benefit from what it offers.
Whether you are reading for school, work or pleasure, it’s good to know that there are some free services available to make sure that people with print disabilities have access to the information, ideas and wonderful imagining that is contained in printed text. Read on!
Have you heard about the Tar Heel Reader? It’s a website that provides free access to books on a wide variety of topics for individuals of all ages who have a low reading level. Tar Heel Reader was created through the collaboration between the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The collection currently contains over 24,500 titles, including some in 19 languages other than English. Each book is easy to read with pictures or visuals on each page. The amount of text on each page is limited and the language is generally simple and easy to understand. The vocabulary may be specialized based on the topic. For example, there is a version of Lord of the Rings on the site that contains names of people and places that you don’t run into in the natural world!
Topics range literally from soup to nuts. There are books on foods, animals and nature, health, history, fairy and folk tales, poetry, people and places, sports, fiction, art and music, and so on. Some of the material is appropriate for younger children, but a lot of it is targeted toward adolescents and adults who have a low reading level. It’s a way to enjoy printed material on age-appropriate topics in spite of struggles with reading. Students can even use Tar Heel Reader to do research on a subject or person as part of a school assignment.
Here’s the best part: each book can be speech enabled so that someone can listen to the text as it is read to them in a choice of voices! The books can be read directly from the website or downloaded as slide shows in various formats. There are interfaces available to make the books accessible through the use of touchscreens, IntelliKeys, switches, etc.
Tar Heel Reader even offers a way for people to create their own books, which can then be “published” on the site. Parent supervision is recommended, especially for younger children and those for whom content control is advisable. A “Favorites” page is available that can be used as a way to steer someone to a selection of approved options.
I’ve added Tar Heel Reader to the short list of things that I find myself describing as “the best thing since sliced bread.” Check it out! http://tarheelreader.org