One of the reasons that web accessibility is so important is that traditional print is traditionally, old-fashionedly, dreadfully, inaccessible. Think of all that tiny writing and all those clumsy pages!
According to Bookshare’s founders, under five percent of books (including school textbooks, novels, newspapers and magazines) are accessible to people with visual or reading disabilities.
One solution to this injustice is to wait until our society becomes pretty much totally internet- and computer-based. It’s already happening, with iPads and e-readers popping up all over the shop. Many of these can be adjusted for people with disabilities – for example by increasing the text size, or by reading the text aloud using a screen reader.
But Bookshare aren’t waiting for that. They exploit a useful loophole in copyright law which allows them to make copyrighted digital books legally available to people with qualifying disabilities.
They use volunteers as well as staff to scan, upload and proofread books and to add them to the Bookshare library. You can only access these books if you have a genuine print disability (and the documentation to prove it). There’s a small fee – but disabled US students get unlimited access for free.
More on this – and on the possibilities for disabled people opened up by e-readers and mobile internet technology – soon. Watch this space (or better – subscribe to the RSS feed above).Google+