One of the presents that Connor Meadows first unwrapped in 2012 was an iPad. Within days, this 7th grader was reading his first digital book.
Connor has Cerebral Palsy. Using the iPad, he does not have to worry about asking someone to read to him. â€œThe learning process took on a whole new meaning,â€ said Casey Meadows, Connorâ€™s mom,Â â€œWe couldnâ€™t download digital books fast enough!â€
That same year, Mrs. Meadows signed her son up for a Bookshare Individual Membership. Bookshare is a free online library, thanks to federal funding by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The service is free for U.S. public schools and students who qualify with print disabilities.
Digital accessible books can transform the learning experience for students who are blind, have low vision, a severe reading disability or a physical disability. Connor uses Bookshareâ€™s portable reading app for Apple devices called Read2Go on his iPad. The app costs $19.99.
Mrs. Meadows says, â€œConnor has more freedom to learn and fewer physical burdens. He also gets his school books on time.â€Â Connor is able to follow highlighted words on the tablet screen and listen to text read aloud. The multi-modal reading experience (to see and hear text aloud) helps him to comprehend information.
â€œAs Connorâ€™s reading skills improved, so did his ability to communicate,â€ said Casey. â€œHis sentences got longer using his Dynavox and head switch.â€
In the past, Connor depended on his mom or an aide to read to him. His reading assignments had to be requested in large print, but that often took weeks. Now, he doesnâ€™t rely on others so much and reads digital books on his own from a stationary stand on his wheelchair. â€œHe has better eye tracking,â€ adds Meadows.
Mrs. Meadows met with her local school to talk about the advantages of digital accessible books and reading technologies. She shared information about a local Bookshare training program, Accessible Books for Texas and encouraged the school to apply for an Organization Membership at no cost.
â€œDigital books and technologies can improve the learning experience for any child,â€ said Mrs. Meadows, â€œwhatever their reading level or disability might be.â€
Bookshare is an online library of copyrighted digital accessible books and textbooks, free for U.S. K-12 and postsecondary students with proof of disability. Students who typically qualify for Bookshare have an IEP (Individual Education Program) or 504 Plan that requires accessible (digital) materials and reading technologies to access the general curriculum, as required by IDEA 2004 law. Bookshare offers a vast collection (223,000+) of novels, teacher recommended reading, periodicals, best-sellers and over 7000 K-12 textbooks; many with image descriptions. Members can download free reading technologies to improve reading comprehension and fluency, increase their independence and make easier transitions to college.