The first of this month, the Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS) network has made more than 425,000 accessible e-books available for free to patrons who cannot read traditional print books due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia and other print disabilities. The online library is made possible by Bookshare, a Benetech global literacy initiative. Every Georgian with an eligible print disability will now have free access to Bookshare’s vast online library including best-sellers, literature, nonfiction, picture books, educational texts, career guides and much more as GLASS patrons.
Currently, all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities can access Bookshare’s library for free under an award from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. This new partnership serves eligible Georgia patrons of all ages, whether they are students or not. “Georgia is only the second state to offer this program to its eligible readers,” explained GLASS Director Pat Herndon, noting that the first such program was begun by the New York Public Library in November 2015. “Bookshare will be a wonderful complement to our materials from the free national library program administered by the Library of Congress and the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped,” she said. “We are thrilled to make this valuable new resource available to Georgians with certified print impairments.”
With Bookshare e-books, GLASS patrons can customize their reading experience in ways that work best for their individual needs. They can choose to listen to words read aloud with high-quality text-to-speech voices; read with enlarged fonts; see and hear as words are highlighted; read in braille; and more. They can also read Bookshare e-books on a wide variety of devices, including tablets, smart phones, computers, assistive technology devices and on MP3 players using a variety of free and purchased apps. Bookshare offers free apps, including Bookshare Web Reader — which can be used on any computer and laptop — and Go Read for Android.
“We are proud to partner with GLASS to open up new horizons for Georgians with print disabilities,” said Brad Turner, vice president of global literacy for Bookshare developer Benetech, a nonprofit Palo Alto, California-based organization that develops technology for social good. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with GLASS and are working to set up similar agreements with other public library systems across the U.S. so that all persons with print disabilities have full access to the world of books.”
Georgians with qualifying disabilities who wish to sign up for free access to