Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Joined a New Federal Commission!

I recently was sworn in by Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter as one of nineteen people serving on the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities. The Commission has one year to do research, hold public hearings and make recommendations to Congress on what should be done to make higher education materials more accessible to students with disabilities.
Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter administering the swearing in oath, with Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny smiling in the backgroundWe have top leaders from the Department, the disability community including students, publishers, the Copyright Office, academia and other experts. The law that Congress passed that directed the creation of the Commission has quite a number of issues we're supposed to work on, including definitions of qualifying students and instructional materials as well as considering what systems might be established to help accessibility be better delivered.

The details are linked to here in the Federal Register, and includes a pointer to the actual law section. Our first meeting was mainly preparatory:
  • We elected Gaier Dietrich and Jim Wendorf as chair and vice chair (two noteworthy disability leaders)
  • We were taught all about our ethics obligations and dos and don't as commissioners
  • We divided into groups tackling different aspects of our charge
I'm excited about the promise of this Commission to figure out where we should go next. Opportunity to higher education is a crucial need for all students, and especially students with disabilities. People and organizations with an interest in this issue should be sure to participate in the public process and make sure their voices are heard.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mass Market Accessible Books

We've worked with O'Reilly Media for a long time. They were the first publisher to sign on to deliver their books electronically to Bookshare back in 2003, and gave us permission to provide their books outside the U.S. We take their files and convert them to the DAISY format which is a digital format designed specifically to create accessible materials for people with print disabilities. The big advantage of DAISY over typical scanned files is that DAISY includes much more extensive navigation (chapters, sections, page numbers, etc.).

More and more publishers are asking that we return to them the DAISY files we create. We're excited about this trend and the opportunities it creates for the commercial availability of mass market accessible books.

O'Reilly is again leading the charge. Check out this O'Reilly's announcement that their ebook bundles now include DAISY talking book format files to see the fabulous work they're doing. Why is this a big deal? Because Bookshare is only available for people who qualify under a very narrow copyright exemption. Making these files available as part of the mass market product, O'Reilly is ensuring that EVERYONE who can benefit from accessible materials can actually get them.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bookshare Volunteers Are the Best!

When Bookshare was first created, we conceived of the concept of a digital library built by the people who use the library, instead of solely by librarians deciding what people with print disabilities should read. Using a provision of U.S. copyright law, our volunteers scanned the books they wanted to read and then were able to upload them to Bookshare so that others could enjoy these books as well.

Many of our books come straight from socially minded publishers at this point, but our volunteers still play a crucial role, and Bookshare would not be what it is today without them. This email from one of our volunteers illustrates just one of the ways volunteers continue to contribute to the collection (now well over 80,000 titles!)
With the addition of the book "Bright Wampum" to the collection today (September 7th), Bookshare is one of the few (if not the only) libraries in the world to have copies of all of Dorothy Lyons' novels for teens. These novels were mostly published in only one edition during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and are highly collectible. Some of this author's titles are exceedingly rare, with copies bringing hundreds of dollars when they can even be found in the book collectors' marketplace.

I want to thank all the volunteers who helped make possible my hopes of getting all of Dorothy Lyons books into the collection, especially Shelley, Mayrie, Mike (Misha) and Robert for their contributions in finding, scanning or proofreading one or more of these books. It wasn't easy! None of the Dorothy Lyons books are in print. The titles had to be hunted out across the country by Bookshare volunteers from their libraries, through used book sites and in eBay auctions. It took about a year to get them all, but we did it! smile.

Bookshare Volunteers are the best!

Judy s.
I just want to add my thanks to all of our Bookshare volunteers, and to agree with Judy that Bookshare Volunteers are, most definitely, the best!