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NCBI highlights that one of the positive unintended consequences of Covid19 has been the surge in students with print disabilities availing of NCBI’s Bookshare platform which is Ireland’s largest digital accessible library. Bookshare Ireland officially launched in November 2019 and is funded by the Department of Education.
Aaron Mullaniff, Deputy Chief Services Officer said “with all the public and college libraries closed, the NCBI Library Access Service has remained open as it is correctly identified as ‘an essential service’ providing access to critical information in alternative formats for all blind and visually impaired people. We have seen a 70% increase in students signing up to join Bookshare in March/ April 2020. For these students, it means equity in access to their 3rd level books and resources. Prior to Bookshare, students with various print disabilities were at a disadvantage as reading materials were not often available in accessible formats. Thanks to the generosity of publishers, students with print disabilities can now instantaneously access their titles from Bookshare.ie”.
Bookshare Ireland is specifically designed to support students with a visual impairment and / or print disability attending higher or further education by providing access to over 500,000 academic books in the student’s preferred format (DAISY Audio, DAISY with images, digital braille, PDF and Word).
Mr Mullaniff added “furthermore, the NCBI Library has provided a lifeline during Covid19 for over 4,000 people who are blind or visually impaired through providing our collection of accessible books and essential government and HSE information on Covid 19 through the Freepost Service. In 2019, we issued over 28,000 titles and we expect to far outstrip that in 2020, and all of this is free to those who need it.”