Making books accessible to Visually Challenged
Publishers wrongly believe they have to do something differently to be able to make their books available to the visually challenged. Today almost all publishers use PDFs to print books and or create eBooks. The same PDFs can be used to integrate with technology to ensure the visually challenged are not deprived. Let’s make this world a better reading world for print disabled. Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, is an international agency that makes books available to the visually challenged. While, SAGE is at the forefront of this effort and would like to encourage/motivate more publishers to make their books available to the visually challenged. Here, Vivek Mehra, MD and CEO, SAGE India and Dr Homiyar Bodejmi, country head, Benetech in India, share more about this wonderful partnership.
AABP: How can publishers make their books available to visually challenged?
Vivek Mehra, MD and CEO, SAGE IndiaVivek Mehra: Publishers wrongly believe they have to do something differently to be able to make their books available to the visually challenged. Today almost all publishers use PDFs to print books and or create eBooks. The same PDFs can be used to integrate with technology to ensure the visually challenged are not deprived. Those that use ePUB 2.0, the same file integrates better with devices that help the visually challenged consume content.
AABP: What has been the role of SAGE and Bookshare in this direction?
Vivek Mehra: SAGE was one of the first partners to share PDFs or EPUBs with Bookshare through the Xavier Center for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC). It has also actively worked towards making their books available on sister platforms too.
AABP: How easy/difficult it is to make the books accessible to visually challenged?
Vivek Mehra: The easiest way is to work with a lN agency such as Bookshare or the XRCVC. They take care of protecting publisher’s IP and ensuring all deserving students get the content they want.
AABP: Tell us something about Bookshare online library for print disabilities.
Dr Homiyar Bodejmi: Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for persons with print disability. With a collection of more than 6,00,000 books in 36 languages; it serves more than 5,00,000 members in over 70 countries worldwide. After the USA, India is the largest single user base for Bookshare with more than 10,000 members. We provide Bookshare membership free to all persons with print disability in India and to organizations serving the print disabled.
AABP: How many books and genres are available there?
Dr Homiyar Bodejmi: The Bookshare collection is being divided into 48 categories such as Textbooks, Children’s books, History, Religion etc. The titles can be searched easily using our “Advance Search” feature, which can apply various filters such as search by Language, Author, publisher or category etc.
AABP: What kind of technology support and/or training is required for such people?
Dr Homiyar Bodejmi, country head, Benetech, IndiaDr Homiyar Bodejmi: The titles on Bookshare can be read across all platforms i.e. Windows, Android and IOS. There are various applications which can be used to download and read the books directly from Bookshare. The books can also be read online using our “Web reader” which also supports features such as Highlight, text colour, text size and audio support.
The technology is very simple and any standard user can grasp it within a few hours of use.
AABP: What were the challenges and how they were overcome?
Dr Homiyar Bodejmi: The biggest challenge in India is to cultivate reading habits amongst our print disabled users. Traditionally these users had to depend on a very limited source of books in accessible formats, hence they had lost the interest to read. Now with the advent of the Android phone, it has transformed the reading ways. The print disabled can easily read any content in the language of their choice. The only challenge is to spread awareness amongst the potential users across a vast country like India. For this we require support of all the publishers to create their publications in accessible formats, so that both the print disabled and the non-disabled readers can enjoy the pleasure of reading.
AABP: What is the vision of this project and where do you see this project 5 years from now?
Vivek Mehra: The vision for SAGE is to ensure no visually challenged person is ever deprived of a SAGE book.
AABP: Anything else you would like to add…
Vivek Mehra: I am not sure why publishers are wary of sharing their files with reputed centres such as the XRCVC. The law mandates that we share content. In addition,it is the right thing to do.