Dear Bookshare: My Dream Has Come True

By Laura Deck, posted on

Mother of two who is blind uses Bookshare to earn a college degree and increase employment opportunities in the Philippines

“Dear Bookshare, I am 32 years old, a mother of two, and totally blind. I am now back in college thanks to Bookshare which is the answer to my passion for reading and a great help for my student life. It makes it easy for me to reach the world through different kinds of books. I never thought I could read independently or listen to as many books as possible until I got Bookshare. It is a dream come true for me.”     – Annabelle V., Palawan, Philippines

Annabelle V holds a basket of flowers with the Philippine coastline in the background

Annabelle has been blind since birth. She was born with a congenital cataract on her left eye, and her right eye did not fully develop. According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness around the world. In the Philippines, 400,000 Filipinos are blind from cataracts. Although cataracts are correctible with surgery, not everyone can afford it.

Annabelle lives with her husband and two daughters on the island of Palawan, rated one of the most beautiful islands in the world with its aquamarine water and secluded beaches. She began her college studies at the Philippine Normal University in Manila and then moved back to her home town on Palawan. In 2018, she enrolled in Palawan State University, Brooke’s Point Campus, to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Resources for the Blind Introduced Annabelle to Bookshare

“In 2017, I was using a computer in the student resource center at Resources for the Blind, Inc. and saw a folder labeled Bookshare, so I asked what it was,” explains Annabelle. “Ms. Mayette Regala, the Operations Manager, asked me if I wanted to have a Bookshare account, so that was the start.” Annabelle reads Bookshare books using FS Reader by JAWS and Voice Dream Reader on her iPhone. She also uses Dolphin EasyReader. She relies on mobile data from a prepaid internet account. “Even though we live in a rural part of the Philippines, I’m thankful I can still access the internet,” says Annabelle.

From Book Desert to Abundance

When Annabelle was in elementary and high school, she read braille books. When she first started college she used some braille books and mp3 audiobooks or had someone record themselves reading so she could listen to books on a cassette player. Later, she was able to access some free PDF books on the internet, but the selection was extremely limited. Now she is grateful to have access to 600,000 books in the Bookshare library in a variety of formats including braille, text, and audio.

“I enjoy reading business books by Robert Kiyosaki, leadership books by John C. Maxwell, history books, and even self-help books. I also read academic books on how to teach English, math, and science which are required for my college classes,” says Annabelle.

Annabelle is Wife, Mother, Student, and Budding Entrepreneur

Once she gets her degree, Annabelle hopes to teach persons with disabilities in her community who have not been given much attention. “I want to help them learn skills so they can be independent and work for a living. I dream of opening a training center since the regular school set up is not practical for everyone,” she explains. Annabelle is inspired to start her own business and earn money to fund her dreams because she does not expect the government to provide financial support.

What do Annabelle’s daughters think about her being a college student? “I’m not sure what they think about me being in college, but I guess it seems normal to them because they also go to school every day. I hope they’re proud of me,” she says. She remarks that jobs are not as plentiful in Palawan as they are in Manila, so Annabelle and her husband are learning new skills and hope to open a mini-store very soon.

Contact Aggie Angeles, Bookshare Outreach Coordinator, to learn more about Bookshare membership in the Philippines.

Resources for the Blind, Inc. is a nonprofit that provides programs and resources to help visually impaired people in the Philippines to reach their full potential. According to the Department of Health, around 2.5 million are blind or have low vision. The Philippines has the fourth largest population of blind and visually impaired persons in the world.