Digital library available for students with visual impairments and print disability

Cian Dunne

More than 500,000 academic books and other resources will now be accessible to students with visual impairments and print disability.

Bookshare Ireland, the country’s largest digital library was launched on Thursday 14thof November by The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills.

Students with visual impairments will be able to access these resources in their preferred formats, including DAISY Audio, DAISY with images, digital braille, PDF and Word.

The organisation has stated that the range of resources and material available for those with visual impairments was extremely limited. The new digital library now accessible means that for the first time ever, students with visual impairments, and other disabilities such as dyslexia, will no longer be at a disadvantage in their respective courses.

“We are acutely aware that studying in third level with sight loss is a huge challenge”, said Chris White, chief executive of NCBI. “Obtaining books and information in accessible formats should not be an additional barrier to achievement for students with a visual impairment in higher and further education”.

The NCBI hope that the new digital library will increase the number of student’s with visual impairments and other disabilities attending Third level education. Just 1.8% of the student population are those with visual impairments and print disability, with NCBI describing this figure as “chronically low”.

A recent graduate of National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Aoife Watson has experienced sight loss, and has said that university work was even more challenging for her, as the academic books and materials she needed was not available in an accessible format for her.

“It was so frustrating seeing how easy it was for other students to access the books that I couldn’t,” she said. “I know if I had access to the books I needed when I needed them, I would have achieved a higher overall mark in my degree.”

“Given one in ten people have some form of dyslexia, we are delighted to be part of the initiative”, said Rosie Bissett, CEO, Dyslexia Association of Ireland. “It means students with dyslexia will be on par with all other students, thereby empowering them to reach their potential.”

Bookshare Ireland will continue to increase the quantity of academic resources available to those with visual impairments and print disability, to further increase the number of students attending Third level education.

Cian Dunne

Image Credit: Britannica