Honor Veterans Day 2013 with Bookshare for Veterans

By Benetech, posted on

On the evening of March 28, 2006, an improvised explosive device (IED) hit Staff Sergeant Jay Wilkerson’s Humvee, which was part of a convoy heading from Habbaniyah, Iraq, back to Baghdad.

Jay suffered serious physical injures. He was in a coma for 12 days. He couldn’t walk for months. But his doctors, and even Jay himself, failed to realize that something else was wrong with him—the way in which he sees.

It turned out that Jay suffered from hemianopsia, a loss of half of the visual field. It’s a problem of the brain, not of the eyes. As a result of the blast, Jay’s brain sustained an injury and didn’t recognize signals from either of his eyes’ left visual fields. Other hemianopsia symptoms also include difficulty concentrating and inability to read well.

In November 2010, KQED’s QUEST series reported on Jay’s story and the findings of his doctors at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto. These ophthalmology experts discovered that hemianopsia and other vision injuries were far more common than anyone had expected and that thousands of veterans had suffered vision problems as a result of traumatic brain injury. Sadly, in addition to those cases there has been an overall increase of eye injuries in veterans, which in 2010 accounted for more than a 10th of all battlefield wounds.

For Jay and scores of other veterans with service-related disabilities, reading standard print can be difficult, if not impossible. For them, Bookshare—our Global Literacy initiative and the world’s largest accessible digital library for people with qualified print disabilities—opens a lifeline to reading.

If you are looking for a way to make a real difference in honor of Veterans Day, please support our Bookshare for Veterans crowdfunding campaign and give veterans the gift of reading.

As you may know from our recent blog posts, this campaign is part of the Social Entrepreneurs Challenge, an effort launched by the Skoll Foundation in partnership with The Huffington Post and CrowdRise in order to support leading social enterprises. Funds raised through this Challenge will be used to enable our Bookshare team to expand our services and outreach to veterans who need access to books and information.

We’d like to extend a Big Thank You to everyone who has joined us in the Challenge: thanks to YOUR support, we’ve raised to date more than $3,000.

For those of you who haven’t made a gift yet—we have less than two weeks left until the Challenge closes on November 22nd and many veterans who need your help. Please consider supporting our cause by donating to and sharing our fundraiser with your friends, family and colleagues. Donations of any amount make a real difference for our veterans and can be leveraged even further with the Skoll Foundation’s matching gifts.

Do you know any veterans with disabilities who may benefit from accessible eBooks? Then here’s another important thing to know about and share: in advance of Veterans Day, Bookshare is offering a free 30-day trial membership for qualified veterans and organizations, including 24/7 access to Bookshare’s vast collection of nearly 220,000 (and counting) eBooks and periodicals. For more information on this free 30-day trial, please visit Bookshare’s Blog. If you have questions about Bookshare membership for veterans, please visit Bookshare’s website.

The men and women who have selflessly served our country deserve to read for school, work, or pleasure. Today, give the gift of reading to disabled veterans and empower them to live fuller lives by making a donation of any amount to our Bookshare for Veterans Challenge. Spread the word about Bookshare’s free 30-day trial for qualified veterans. And tell us how else you’re celebrating Veterans Day by posting a comment below!