Student Spotlight: Bookshare Opens a World of Possibilities for JaredBy Shareef Phillips, posted on May 22, 2023
Jared is a high-school senior in Southern California with a joyful personality and eagerness to evoke change for students like himself. He is the subject of Benetech’s latest student spotlight. Despite being quadriplegic with low vision and battling stage 2 spastic cerebral palsy, Jared continues to be an independent beacon of light in his community. Jared is a long-time Bookshare user and expert, who participates in the Bookshare Student Roundtables, which give students a chance to share insights on their educational experiences, provide feedback on their Bookshare usage, and learn from peers with similar reading challenges. After graduation, Jared plans to attend business school and develop a sensory accessibility device for people with disabilities.
In the following interview, Jared, along with Ms. Michelle, his TVI (teacher of the visually impaired), discuss the impact Bookshare has had throughout his educational journey.
Bookshare is an Integral Part of Curriculum
Eight years ago, Ms. Michelle introduced Jared to Bookshare, a service from Benetech that provides access to eBooks for students with disabilities. The digital library is a standard component in the curriculum for students with low vision or visual impairments at Jared’s school. A majority of Ms. Michelle’s students are given digital devices with Bookshare, and those students, like Jared, appreciate the features it offers, including enlarging the text size and text-to-speech generation.
“I won’t deny my educational experience before Bookshare was very difficult.”Jared
Life Before Bookshare was Challenging
Jared’s educational journey before Bookshare was challenging because he and his family had just settled in the U.S. from Juarez, Mexico, one year before being introduced to Bookshare. This transition required him to adjust to the U.S. educational system in a way that accommodates his low-vision disability and learning style. In those days, his English wasn’t the best, and he couldn’t advocate for his educational needs as he can now. Before Bookshare, Jared had to access his books and materials through a large CCTV screen, but it wasn’t until he switched to more accessible devices like a Prodigy Touch Screen and iPad that he felt more independent in using Bookshare and was able to advocate for himself more effectively.
Life After Bookshare Increases Independence
Using Bookshare’s online accessible library has been tremendously helpful because Jared can access certain books he needs for his coursework. Before he signed up for a Bookshare Individual Membership, Jared had to wait for assistance from Ms. Michelle to download books, but now he feels much more independent and can learn on his own. Bookshare has a lot of helpful features, but Jared especially likes being able to request the books he needs, and he recommends requesting books on the Bookshare Reader app. With help from Bookshare and Ms. Michelle, Jared’s self-efficacy and coping strategies have improved significantly.
“Reading with Bookshare takes me into a whole new world of adventure while also helping me cope with life’s challenges.”Jared
Jared Offers Summer Reading Tips
As summer approaches, Jared and Ms. Michelle share their own summer reading tips with Bookshare. In Jared’s opinion, what makes summer reading fun is having access to all the resources he needs on Bookshare. With 20 books on his Bookshare reading list, Jared encourages other students to read as much as possible throughout the summer. He recommends finding a book club with friends who share the same passion for reading to keep him motivated to read over the summer. His friends select their own books as well as a book to read together to share their opinions. Ms. Michelle seconds that approach. To keep her students engaged, she provides them with treats or snacks to discuss their summer reading in class. Among Jared’s recommendations for the summer is the Shadow and Bone trilogy, which is now available on Bookshare.
Thank you to Jared and Ms. Michelle for sharing their story. We wish Jared much success in achieving his goals.
Bookshare is only available for individuals who have a qualifying reading or perceptual disability, a visual impairment, or a physical disability that affects their ability to read printed works. Bookshare brings people from all backgrounds together through technology that makes reading easier. Learn more at www.bookshare.org.