Blind Students Get Free Access to Cambridge U. Press Books

Texts for visually impaired college students are hard to come by. But a new agreement between Cambridge University Press and Bookshare, a nonprofit organization that converts books and journals into formats that blind people can read, may enlarge this library.

And in the U.S., it won’t cost students a cent.

Bookshare, which already has digital-copy sharing agreements with 11 colleges and universities, as well as with the open-access textbook publisher Flatworld Knowledge, gets digital files from the publishers and converts them to files that can be read using text-to-speech software or Braille embossers.

The group operates under an exemption to U.S. copyright law known as the Chafee Amendment. “That allows any U.S. student with a disability that affects their ability to read standard print to join Bookshare and get a free copy of a book,” says Valerie Chernek, a spokeswoman for Bookshare. A college can also sign up for an institutional membership to acquire free book copies for its disabled students. The cost of converting the digital files and providing students with appropriate software is subsidized by a $32-million grant that Bookshare received from the U.S. Department of Education to provide free access to all U.S. students with a print reading disability.

Cambridge is giving Bookshare its entire backlist, consisting of more than 10,000 titles, says Ms. Chernek, and in the future the press will contribute new titles, on the order of about 3,000 each year.



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