Classroom Resources

The Classroom Teacher, spring 2013

Accessible Books for Texas is a state-funded project designed to give Texas educators a broader understanding of what digital accessible books are, how they can help students succeed and how to obtain and use the accessible materials. A key resource for the program is Bookshare, an online library of 185,000-plus accessible reading materials including textbooks, reference books, English literature, teacher-recommended titles, bestsellers, magazines and newspapers. Awards from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs make access free for all U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities.

Teacher training

In 2011, Benetech, Bookshare’s parent organization was awarded a contract with the Texas Education Agency to conduct local training and outreach on the benefits of accessible instructional materials for Texas K-12 students with print disabilities. Since then, the Bookshare In Depth training has been delivered at no cost to hundreds of K–12 educators in Texas. All educators who work with students with print disabilities may request the training — teachers of the visually impaired, assistive technology specialists, special education directors, reading specialists and general classroom teachers.

Student eligibility

Students eligible for free Bookshare memberships are those with visual impairment, blindness/low vision, a physical disability such as cerebral palsy that significantly affects the use of printed materials, or a learning or reading disability with a physical basis that significantly affects the use of print, including dyslexia. See a detailed list and FAQs.

Free memberships

U.S. public schools can use their organizational memberships to download more than 7,000 K-12 digital textbooks. Parents can also register eligible children for individual memberships that allow them to download digital books at home for school assignments and pleasure reading. The individual signing up for services or the organization serving that individual will be asked to provide a certified proof of disability form.

Using Bookshare

Bookshare members may read books from an iPad device, Internet browser or free downloadable reader designed for their particular disability. Formats include DAISY, audio, MP3 and Braille. “I can go in and download books for one of my students onto his iPad. Because he is visually impaired, he uses a reading software called Read2Go to have the books read aloud,” says Christa Utzinger, a TCTA member and teacher of the visually impaired in San Marcos CISD. “Another option is for a Braille reader to use a refreshable Braille display to read the downloaded books.”

Want to know more?

For training, contact the Accessible Books for Texas outreach coordinator for your region. Sign up for Bookshare at bookshare.org.