Visually impaired students to access academic texts with NCBI’s digital library

PIctured: Aoife Watson. Credit: NCBI

Bookshare was designed to provide visually impaired students with equity of access

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15 November 2019 | 0

Students with visual impairments or print disabilities can now access academic texts digitally, thanks to The National Council for the Blind of Ireland’s (NCBI) new digital library, Bookshare.

With Bookshare Ireland, visually impaired students have the same equity of access to the curriculum as their sighted peers. The service provides third-level students with access to 500,000 academic books and other materials. Students can access texts in their preferred format, be that DAISY Audio, DAISY with images, digital braille, PDF or Word.

Bookshare.ie is open to all universities, colleges and further education environments.

Chris White, CEO, NCBI said: “We are acutely aware that studying in third level with sight loss is a huge challenge, obtaining books and information in accessible formats should not be an additional barrier to achievement for students with a visual impairment in higher and further education.

“Through using Bookshare.ie, these students will no longer be at a disadvantage but instead be able to embrace and thrive in third level education like their peers as the books and resources they need will be available to them. It will also hopefully lead to an increase in the number of students with a visual impairment attending third level as it is chronically low at 1.8% of the student population.”

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland welcomed the project. The organisation’s CEO, Rosie Bissett said; “Given one in ten people have some form of dyslexia, we are delighted to be part of the Bookshare.ie initiative. It means students with dyslexia will be on par with all other students, thereby empowering them to reach their potential.”

Aoife Watson, a recent NUI Maynooth graduate with sight loss, added: “I absolutely loved my time in university, but it was extra challenging for me as the books I needed were simply not in an accessible format. It was so frustrating seeing how easy it was for other students to access the books that I couldn’t. I know if I had access to the books I needed when I needed them, I would have achieved a higher overall mark in my degree.

“Having Bookshare.ie will now revolutionise a student with visual impairment’s experience of third level, as being able to access a book at the same time as your classmates is essential to creating an inclusive experience. I am envious of them yet feel I will return to do a master’s sooner than planned now because of Bookshare.ie.”

To register students for this service, visit: bookshare.ie

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