Bookshare.org received federal grant funds to provide free accounts for downloadable text for students that have been identified by the school or district as having a print disability. I was informed at our state meeting that if a school submits a name for a free account to Bookshare.org, they should have the print disability identification documentation in the student's file to support your claim. You will need to fax that identification letter to Bookshare.org in order to set up the account. If you don't know who can identify a student as having a print disability, check my post yesterday on access and legal definitions. You can also read through the Bookshare.org legal requirements page. They give a list that includes a learing disability specialist, i.e. a school psychologist.
Once a school has submitted a student for eligibility to the Bookshare site and they are approved, the student is assigned a quantity of download files and a password. The downloadable texts are free. If you have the eligibility documentation but are not in school, the cost is $50 a year and a one time fee of $25. Books can be downloaded in BRF - a cross platform Duxbury braille format file for braille readers and printer/embossers, and in DAISY: Digital Access Information System Consortium - a digital talking book format used by several readers - explained bwlow. You can read about the format at Bookshare here. You can also search a list of NIMAS format texts on the site.
There is a catch to this system:
If you believe that print text should be freely accessible to all folks with disabilities, then you might think twice about this site - especially if you don't have the money to maintain eligibility after you are out of school. One of the comments made by a very well-informed colleague who has been commenting on this topic should be noted. He shares that after an individual is out of school, and even in college years, maintaining the required documentation for eligibility can be quite costly. Being seen by a specialist and having a documentation letter written every three years to maintain status is difficult for many.
"I believe in "lifespan" solutions, not things that are only useful in school. And once students leave school they will need to have medical coverage in order to remain "listed as disabled." In fact, students who move from high school to community college to universities often need to pay large amounts to be re-certified as "disabled" because their school psych reports are now "over 3 years old."
I think this is very important to remember. I am addressing tools for education for the most part here, so I will present the information and leave your use of these tools -based on ethics of these issues - up to your own discretion. Maybe we need to explore options to get a continuing diagnosis freely provided for those with print disabilities. I'm sure there are groups lobbying for it as we speak.There is a great article from Reading Rockets on Accessible Textbooks that is a great guide for parents. I discovered it reading a post on Charles Fox's Special Ed Law Blog in a search though his posts on assistive technology.
Don Johnston Company has just announced that they are in the process of providing their Solo: Read Outloud format on Bookshare.org. in the 2008-09 school year. Their texts will be free to all Bookshare.org members. For more information on the Read Outloud tool go to the Don Johnston website here. The company also has a reader called the Classmate Reader which I will present tomorrow. I am going to explore seeing if Don would be available to discuss the Read: Out Loud component to Solo and the Bookshare.org relationship they are building. It could be quite interesting.
P.S. I discovered another great archive of links to public domain texts of all kinds... check out:
All the best to you!