Many of us fail to realize what a tremendous gift it is to be able to read books, to go to book fairs and bookstores to buy the books that we like. It seems like an ordinary thing to do, nothing special. But people who experience difficulties reading—for reasons such as blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, and so on—may not be able to enjoy these activities and therefore cannot experience the joy that reading brings.
There is, however, an ebook library called Bookshare® that carries a huge collection of ebooks for the exclusive use of people with reading barriers. Currently, it has around 1,224,476 titles in over 34 languages, so far the biggest collection of accessible ebooks in the world. There are books for school or for work, fiction, children’s books, poetry, non-fiction, and many more. Bookshare® is an initiative of Benetech, a nonprofit that empowers communities with software for social good.
The ebook collection of Bookshare® is built through its partnerships with over 1,000 publishers in the United States and beyond. Organizations, volunteers, individual authors, and creators are also part of its wide network of support. Bookshare® operates from the US under a copyright exemption—the Chafee Amendment—which grants nonprofit organizations the ability to make books available to people with print disabilities without the need to obtain permission from publishers. It receives publisher permission to provide books to its members outside the US.
The works of Filipino authors, artists, and creators can be donated to Bookshare®, as well. Publishers and creators are assured that applicants go through a strict screening process to ensure that they are qualified to join as members and gain access to the ebook library. If you are a creator or publisher who is interested in donating titles to the Bookshare® ebook library, or if you have a reading barrier and would like to access the ebook library as a member, you can get in touch with Bookshare® via their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/bookshare
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, 90 percent of whom live in developing countries. An even higher number of people have dyslexia or a language-based learning disability that makes it difficult for them to read printed text. UNESCO has reported that if all students in low-income countries are able to leave school armed with basic reading skills, about 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty—a number that is equivalent to a 12 percent cut in world poverty. This is why reading is so important, and it certainly shows the impact of the work that Bookshare® is doing. Creators and publishers can be a part of this global initiative by donating their work to Bookshare.