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Bookshare.org: Excellent Example of Accessibility!

December 20, 2004 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Bookshare is a revolutionary service that provides tens of thousands of accessible electronic books to subscribers who are blind or have other print reading disabilities. Bookshare volunteers scan printed books, perform optical character recognition, clean the text and publish their results for subscribers to download and read on their computers and portable reading devices. The service operates legally under exceptions in United States copyright laws permitting redistribution of books in alternative formats by non-profit organizations serving people with print disabilities.


Bookshare staff must insure that books go only to qualified users with print reading disabilities. This necessitates a disability verification process. This process could be painful and inaccessible, but it is not so in the case of Bookshare subscription.


Bookshare permits two methods of disability verification. The first and simplest involves Bookshare staff contacting NLS, verifying your subscription to their services, and thus verifying your disability with no further action needed on the part of the new subscriber. The second involves the completion of some paperwork on the part of a doctor or other qualified professional verifying your disability. Even the second, more complicated verification process is as accessible as it possibly could be. The process was well thought out and involves the following steps, which can be totally accessible to the blind subscriber:

  1. Subscriber completes an accessible online form.
  2. Subscriber prints the resulting form and presents it to a qualified professional such as a doctor.
  3. That professional completes and signs their portion and sends it to Bookshare by way of a FAX.
  4. Bookshare receives it and promptly sets you up as a qualified subscriber to download copyrighted books.


Providing reasonable, accessible accomodations to the blind does not have to be very difficult at all. All that is required is some professionalism and thoughtfulness on the part of the service provider and all of its employees. This is really all we ask for: a little bit of respect and proper consideration for us and our needs.


As always, comments are appreciated.

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