We welcome Rochelle Pretsell-Davis, the Bookshare Team Leader at RNIB, to the Dolphin Blog. Rochelle is dedicated to the individual needs of students and educators and is an advocate for equal learning opportunities through accessible textbooks and technology.
RNIB Bookshare provides over 1 million curriculum materials for children and young people with print disabilities.
RNIB Bookshare is a collection which offers educational books and other learning materials in a range of accessible formats. These can be read electronically with a reading app such as EasyReader App or adapted to suit the personal reading needs of learners.
Accessible resources are an important and useful way to provide equal access to learning opportunities for children and young people with vision impairments and other special educational needs and disabilities.
In this blog, Rochelle highlights some of the reasons behind the need for more accessible learning material, and the work that's taking place at RNIB Bookshare, to ensure it reaches the children and young people in education now and in the future.
Decrease in budgets and rise in children with a vision impairment
It is estimated that across the UK there are around 41,000 children and young people aged 0-25 with a vision impairment (VI). Around half of these children with a VI have an additional Special Educational Need and Disability (SEND). The majority of children and young people (around 70 per cent) with VI attend mainstream schools, where they may be the only child with a vision impairment.
Three-quarters of English local authorities have cut or frozen VI education services budgets at least once in the last four years. This is despite a 10% increase in the number of children recorded as having a VI SEND.
This means there is less - or no - resource in some areas to produce curriculum materials in accessible formats.
Lower education attainment compared to their sighted peers
RNIB research reveals that children with a visual impairment as their primary Special Educational Need or Disability have lower attainment compared to children without a SEND.
Although children with a primary SEND of VI are one of the highest-performing SEND groups. For example, at Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 the attainment gap is 32 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
Why does accessibility for VI matter?
Children and young people with VI require a range of specialist skill development, interventions and support that are essential, as they promote equity, inclusion, and personal agency.
A recent survey of 285 educational professionals using RNIB Bookshare showed that 62% strongly agreed or agreed that Bookshare enabled the child to reach their academic potential.
This is backed by parents of visually impaired children. Melanie Marjoram from Chelmsford is mum to 14-year-old Alfie who has had a vision impairment since he was a baby.
“After fighting for the right support for his 11+ exams, Alfie got amazing marks in the top 5 percent in the county with the help of RNIB Bookshare resources and now goes to a local grammar school."
Supporting Teachers, SENCo's and Educational Support Staff
RNIB Bookshare supports over 33,000 teachers and SENCo staff by providing accessible textbooks for their students with a visual impairment and print disabilities, including dyslexia and dyspraxia.
It offers support to educational institutions such as early years centres, schools, colleges and universities, sensory support teams and adult learning centres.
Onyx Peynado, 30, who works as an English teacher at Priestley Smith Specialist School in Birmingham, says:
“When previously teaching at mainstream schools, I had to always print out text in a large format. But now, using RNIB Bookshare, I can give the pupils paper copies of text or in Braille format. If I need to give them a larger section to read, I can also share the text online."
There are over 12,000 educational institutions downloading from the extraordinary RNIB Bookshare service. It supports over 42,000 students with visual impairments and print disabilities to have accessible textbooks and materials through the digital download service. This allows them to learn on the same level as their peers.
RNIB Bookshare Education Collection is helping to bridge a gap in education for children and young people with visual impairment and print disabilities.
RNIB Bookshare has over 1 million titles in different formats such as digital Braille (brf), Audio and PDF. Providing these different formats allows students to gain independence that will reach far beyond their educational years.
Join Steve Bennett from Dolphin and Rochelle Pretsell-Davis from RNIB Bookshare on 14 February 2023 in a joint webinar for educators: The 'Accessible Textbooks for Inclusive Reading'. This webinar is free to join and is highly recommended for teachers, TAs, SENCo's and other support staff. It will demonstrate how your students can find, download and read accessible textbooks on any device.
About RNIB Bookshare
RNIB Bookshare is a collection of accessible books and other learning resources, for learners with a print disability. This includes children and young people with dyslexia as well as those who are blind or partially sighted. Recently, RNIB Bookshare has hit a milestone of one million learning resources in accessible formats - including books for education in early years, primary, secondary, college and universities in the UK. It's free to join for students who meet the eligibility criteria
For more information visit rnib.in/bookshare >
EasyReader is a free app which makes access to libraries such as RNIB Bookshare easy. You can use it to read accessible books on smartphones, tablets and laptops. It has features to help learners with vision impairments, dyslexia and other print impairments which might make holding or reading traditional paper books difficult.
Use EasyReader App to study or read for pleasure in ways that suit your vision and reading preferences.
Schools, colleges and universities in the UK, USA and Sweden can also take advantage of EasyReader Premium Education Subscription, which unlocks additional, premium features in the EasyReader App that help with independent reading and study.
Find out more about EasyReader App >
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