California Seniors with Vision Loss, Other Reading Barriers Can Read for Life with Bookshare and Ability Central

By Julianna Wright, posted on

California adults 55 and older with reading barriers can enjoy free access to a vast collection of ebooks through smart assistants and other devices

A collage of seniors using smartphones and smart speakers to listen to ebooks.

Benetech, the leading software for social good nonprofit, today announced a new initiative to enable California seniors with vision loss and other disabilities to read for life. Leveraging the power of voice assistant technology, this special program makes it easier for seniors with reading barriers to continue reading the books that they love, using the technology that they already know and use, like mobile phones, tablets, and smart speakers.

Through Benetech’s Bookshare initiative, seniors get unlimited access to the world’s largest library of ebooks for people with reading barriers. The collection has more than a million titles, including new releases, classics, New York Times best sellers, biographies, cookbooks, and more in easy-to-read formats like audio, large font, and braille. Plus, seniors can enjoy Bookshare books on the devices they already own including smartphones, computers, and now Alexa.

“Aging shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you love,” says Brad Turner, vice president and general manager of global education and literacy at Benetech. “Older adults with reading barriers can use Bookshare to read, learn new skills, and pursue their passions.”

Reading with Bookshare Reader for Alexa is as easy as using your voice. Bookshare members can read and enjoy books on any Alexa-enabled device, including smart speakers, mobile phones, and tablets. Seniors will also enjoy new features coming this summer:

  • Live support with in-app calling: Call Bookshare customer support directly from the Alexa app.
  • Connect with the Bookshare community: Use Bookshare Reader for Alexa to call into Bookshare community events, such as the monthly Bookshare Book Club, and connect with fellow readers. 
  • Voice Search: Peruse the vast Bookshare collection, directly from your smart speaker

These new enhancements to Bookshare Reader for Alexa are supported by Ability Central, a foundational partner and a resource for people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them. Their mission is to transform the field of communications and information access so that all individuals can realize their right and ability to receive information and express themselves.

“Communication and information access is essential to everyone,” says Jessie Galloway, associate program officer at Ability Central. “Many older adults, particularly those who age into disability, may not have access to specialized assistive technology, but Alexa is affordable, easy to use, and readily available. Additionally, people with disabilities experience isolation. We are enthusiastic about supporting Benetech’s Bookshare Reader as an innovative way to provide access to a reading experience for people with vision loss and other disabilities, and to foster a virtual community of readers to reduce isolation.”

Special Offer for California Seniors

Through generous support from Ability Central, adults 55+ with reading barriers living in California can sign up for one year of Bookshare for free, using the code Read4LifeCA. Additionally, the first 50 people to sign up to beta test the new Alexa features will also receive a free smart speaker.

This program concluded on 12/31/2022.

Qualifications Details

In order to sign up for Bookshare membership, seniors must have a qualified reading barrier such as vision loss, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and other diagnoses that make it difficult to read or manipulate a print book.

About Ability Central

Headquartered in Oakland, California, Ability Central is the philanthropic division of the California Communication Access Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 2003. For more than a decade, Ability Central has been committed to improving communications and information access for individuals who are Deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse and their communities of support. Visit for more information about their grantmaking and other initiatives.

About Benetech

Benetech is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing social and economic inequity in partnership with the communities that we serve through software for social good. Benetech’s initiatives are transforming how students, jobseekers, and older adults across the globe read, learn, and work. Benetech believes that access to information is a human right, and no person should encounter barriers to education, literacy, or employment due to differences or disability. Visit

About Bookshare

Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, makes reading easier with the world’s largest ebook library for people with reading barriers. Members can access over a million titles and read their way with specialized formats that enable users to customize their reading experience. Visit