Bookshare Ireland Launches to Increase Educational Equity for Irish Students

By Julianna Wright, posted on

Benetech, NCBI, and the Irish Department of Education team up to empower inclusive access to books and learning

Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, pictured with Ivan O'Brien (O'Brien Press), Lisa Wadors (Benetech), Aoife Watson (recent graduate), Aaron Mullaniff (NCBI), and Chris White (NCBI CEO)
Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD (center), pictured with Ivan O'Brien (O'Brien Press), Lisa Wadors (Benetech), Aoife Watson (recent graduate), Aaron Mullaniff (NCBI), and Chris White (NCBI CEO) for the launch of Bookshare Ireland

With the launch of Bookshare Ireland, people with reading barriers, such as dyslexia or a visual impairment, just got access to over 500,000 books that they can read in a variety of different formats, totaling two million reading options.

Operated by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) and powered by Benetech’s Private Label Bookshare platform, access is available to all residents with a qualifying print disability. Users will be able to peruse the collection and download books in their preferred format, customizing the reading experience to meet their preferences.

With options such as audio, large print, synchronized text-to-speech with word-highlighting, and refreshable braille, students can read their way using virtually any device that they choose, including laptops, tablets, Android and iOS smartphones, and assistive technology devices. In addition to providing access to the over 500,000 Bookshare titles available to readers in Ireland, NCBI has also partnered with many Irish publishers to increase the availability of local content in accessible formats.

Opening New Doors for an Inclusive Educational Experience

Students with reading barriers need equal access to course materials as their peers, but finding texts in formats that they need can be a challenge. Recognizing this disparity in educational equity, Ireland’s Department of Education funded the construction of Bookshare Ireland, as well as first year memberships for all qualified students. With Bookshare Ireland’s launch, students now have hundreds of thousands of accessible titles at their fingertips, thus leveling the playing field.

 “I absolutely loved my time in university but it was extra challenging for me as the books I needed were simply not in an accessible format. It was so frustrating seeing how easy it was for other students to access the books that I couldn’t” said Aoife Watson, a recent college graduate, who has sight loss. “Being able to access a book at the same time as your classmates is essential to creating an inclusive experience.”

Join the Global Fight for Equitable Access to Education and Literacy

We are thrilled to partner with NCBI to improve educational equity for students in Ireland. Around the world, there are millions more people who do not have access to books in formats that they can read. With help, we can increase access to education and literacy for students and individuals across the globe.

If you represent an organization that is interested in bringing an accessible library to your country, or if you are a funding organization interested in helping change the world through literacy, we want to hear from you.

If you are an individual interested in sponsoring Bookshare memberships or reading technology for students in low-income countries, learn more about how you can get involved today.

For more information about Bookshare Ireland’s launch, read the full press release.

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