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Article of Interest - Assistive Technology

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Bridges4Kids Membership Driven Site That Offers Electronic Books

For more articles like this visit dramatically increases access to books for the community of visually impaired and otherwise print disabled individuals. This online community enables book scans to be shared, thereby leveraging the collections of thousands of individuals who regularly scan books, eliminating significant duplication of effort.


To visit, go to takes advantage of a special exemption in the U.S. copyright law that permits the reproduction of publications into specialized formats for the disabled.

  • Who can benefit from

  • How does it work?

  • What does it cost?

  • Where do the books come from?

  • How is different than NLS or RFB&D?

  • Who is behind

Who can benefit from
People who are blind or have severe visual impairments that prevent them from reading ordinary newspaper print, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.

People with learning disabilities such as dyslexia which interfere with the ability to read print material.
People with mobility limitations that interfere with holding or turning the pages of a book. will also serve organizations such as the state, local and federal educational system, the rehabilitation system, specialized nonprofit agencies and various governmental units that provide accessible materials to people with disabilities.

Copyrighted digital books are available for download to U.S. residents who submit proof of a disability that affects reading. Find out more about individual memberships or organizational accounts.

Excellent or Good quality books from the collection can be ordered in embossed Braille, to be mailed to anyone in the United States, without requiring membership. Find out more about ordering embossed Braille books.

How does it work?
Log onto and register. Separately provide us with a written proof of a print disability. After paying a modest annual subscription fee, access the entire collection. Select books to download in a format to use with common Braille or synthetic voice reading devices. Read to your heart's content! is a web-based system supplying accessible books in digital formats designed for people with disabilities. These digital formats are the NISO/DAISY XML-based format for the next generation of talking books, and the BRF format for Braille devices and printers. Access to copyrighted books from is limited to people in the United States with bona fide print disabilities and the non profit organizations serving them. An array of security protections and Digital Rights Management solutions ensure that these books are available only to authorized users. Read more about legal information.

What does it cost?
Individual subscriptions cost $25 to sign up, $50 for the annual subscription.'s goal is to break even financially with modest membership fees and extensive volunteer support from its community of members and supporters. Find out more about subscriptions.

Where do the books come from?
The collection is built and shaped largely by its community of members and supporters. By scanning a book to submit to the collection, a volunteer or member can provide access to that book to other members. If you have digital copies of books that you have scanned in for your own use, you can submit them and enable others to benefit from your scanning effort. Find out how to Submit a Book.

We also accept original digital copies supplied directly from the copyright holder. For more information, visit our information page for authors and publishers.

Finally, to help increase the awareness of other accessible books that do not originate from, we list accessible books from other providers. These are called "Remote Books" and are indicated as such when the collection is searched. We refer you to the book providerís web site to find out detail about ordering the book. These providers may have different requirements and fees that are outlined on their web sites.

How is different than NLS or RFB&D? will provide a vast library of low cost scanned books instead of a small library of high quality digital books.

Both the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS) and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) offer high quality digital book services. Contract narrators at NLS and volunteers at RFB&D record the audio books. The cost per book is quite high because of quality control requirements, and this limits production. NLS has a server providing roughly 4700 books in the Braille BRF format available on the Internet. RFB&D launched their digital program by making 6000 DAISY formatted audio books available on CR-ROMS in September 2002. cannot guarantee the quality of the books it provides because it is relying on its community of members and supporters to produce books by scanning. This method should produce a library of tens of thousands of books shortly after is launched. is fully legal under U.S. copyright law. Read more about legal information.

Many of these publications will be carefully proofread, providing high quality full text, with structure and audio. The great majority, however, will simply be scanned books, redistributed in a digital format. Compared to investing three hours to scan a book, as each of thousands of disabled people do daily, the opportunity to instantly get a book equal in quality to a personal OCR scan will lower a major barrier to access.

Who is behind
Benetech, a new kind of nonprofit enterprise, is sponsoring the initiative. Benetech melds the mission and heart of social activism with the powerful methods and tools of the technology community. Benetech doesn't give technology away, but instead develops socially beneficial and affordable products and services that are not financially attractive to for-profit companies. For more information, visit

Benetech's origins start with its Arkenstone project. In 1989, a group of visionary Silicon Valley engineers and executives asked themselves a profound question: "Why couldn't the far-reaching power of the PC with voice synthesis be combined with scanning technology to create a usable, affordable reading machine for the blind?" The market was small and for-profit companies were not interested. Benetech was formed as a nonprofit enterprise to bridge the gap between "the possible and profitable."

During the past 11 years, Benetech sold literacy products under the Arkenstone brand in more than a dozen languages to over 35,000 individuals in 60 countries. The goal from the beginning was to empower people with vision and learning disabilities to use state of the art technology to achieve independence and high performance in the workplace. During this time, 99 percent of the nonprofit's budget came from product sales.

Today, Benetech has become one of the nation's most successful examples of high technology social enterprise, using an innovative business model to achieve major social objectives in education, employment and independence. The Arkenstone product line was so successful that it was purchased by a for-profit company and was thereby assured expansion capital and sustainability. The income received from the sale of Arkenstone provided the core capital for Benetech and seed investment for


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