Thank you for your recent article titled "Publisher Delays E-Book Amid Debate on Pricing ".
There is a bright side to digital publications made available to the print disabled.
Recently I was selected as one of the 14 finalists of Bookshare's members’ contest, which asked us how bookshare has changed our lives. The Lord Jesus has blessed me with the gift of dyslexia, which was diagnosed in 1967 at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. Text-to-speech software, organizations such as Bookshare.org, the Gutenberg project and speech to text software has changed what most of society thinks today as a disability into a gift.
In the light of the "digital text-to-speech readers’ debate", there is a whole other bright side, of which our education system could use to inspire a new fervor for learning. Let's just take Bookshare.org, who has taken digital text and the Internet and turned it into a virtual book.
Recently, I have been reading, A. Lincoln: a biography by Ronald C. White Jr.. When reading about Abraham Lincoln, there are plenty of subjects which are mentioned which I have no clue as to what they are. So I just highlight them. Click on dictionary go to the Internet and read about the subject for example, Stephen A. Douglas, Kansas-Nebraska act, Cyrus McCormick, the financial panic of 1837 and the list goes on.
But let's step forward and apply this technology and the Internet to education. Let's take it from being a dyslexic in class reading at 89 words a minute, where the average reader reads between 200 to 250 words per minute. That was yesterday. Today I read between 400 and 450 words per minute. And if I don't understand what the word means I highlight and look it up as stated above, then make a footnote with the definition and go back to reading.
Now let's take it to a student who doesn't have a disability. They have their book, which is downloaded to their computer (How green is that?). They come to the financial panic of 1837 highlight it and looked up, the event on the Internet. They don't have to put their book aside and look up the event in an encyclopedia or on the Internet and go back to reading.
This technology is available today for students with qualifying disabilities because of funding by an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). This technology and software combination would interject youth back into today's educational classrooms.
Sure there is a cost but there is also a savings because there is a change in lives, such as mine.
The following is a copy of my Finalist award winning submission to Bookshare:
Today the successes which have taken place in my life have been from a compassionate ear, a foundation of a solid family, Jesus Christ’s presence in my life and technology.
Bookshare has for the first time in my 50 years of life, put me on the edge of a reading chair which was never in my life before. This chair is at work, at home, on vacation, and in my conversations with many.
Today the written word is not a hurdle to me nor should it be in the way of education for any student in the academic environment in the United States of America. By combining technology of text to speech, and gathering the printed word in digital format, Bookshare has overcome the initial hurdle; Bookshare has made a pioneering pathway for an unbridled learning environment.
Never in my life before Bookshare have I ever felt more a part of my community and industry. Bookshare’s partnership with Victor Reader Soft and Read:OutLoud have enabled me to read the Wall Street Journal, The World is Flat, Same Kind of Different as Me, Just As I am and more to be read. In the past, if someone were to come to me and say, “Did you read…,” this would send ripples of memories of failure and frustration which came from hurts from the casualties of dyslexia.
Prior to Bookshare, most of my published reading was restricted to the Gutenberg Project, and whatever book I was really intent on reading I would have to do the following:
1. Scrape the glue off the binder then cut the binder.
2. Scan the book into PaperPort then process the scanned book with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) it into a text rich format, then save in Microsoft Word.
3. Then read with text to speech software.
When it came to reading the Wall Street Journal, which my wife bought for me with expiring air miles, I would scan the paper headlines, then cut out the article, then repeat the above process for reading a book, and then read with text to speech software. Then a librarian told me about Bookshare, and in November of 2007 I joined, and have been reading more than ever before.
Dyslexia is a “gift” to me today, because of the barriers which have been leveled by technology; Bookshare has picked up the baton and made reading for me today a pleasure while allowing me to sharpen my mind and spirit by the printed word.
As for me and my children, the current and future technologies which are here to aid in education make the mountain tops of the creative mind obtainable. We in this country have one thing which surpasses all others, Freedom: freedom to dream, freedom to speak, freedom to learn, and freedom to achieve.
Thank you for your pursuit of making the printed word more accessible, which in turn, allows goals of reading to be set and obtained for the print disabled of our Nation by using today’s technology for tomorrow’s hope.
Thank you for serving the print disabled and our children.