Making Textbooks more accessible

(By Jo Linton, Organisation Development Manager at Dyslexia North East)

As a Dyslexic I sometimes find it difficult to read from a computer screen and if I have a lot to read I sometimes print it out. Shhh don’t tell the forests. I’m not sure if this is due to my age and that I was brought up with reading from paper and books rather than a computer or if I am just weird.  I sometimes find the physical act of highlighting words and sentences helps me to retain information and reading from a screen does not allow this kinaesthetic approach.

I have recently been finding out about the options available for accessible textbooks through RNIB bookshare Yes the RNIB is for blind and partially sighted people but surprise! As a dyslexic you are considered as being reading disabled or print disabled. Maybe not the nicest phrase to use but on the plus side it allows us dyslexics access to thousands of free, yes free accessible textbooks and regular books.  You need your school or educational establishment to register with RNIB bookshare which is free, once they add you as a member and you’re up and running with the option to listen to your textbooks and alter the font. 

Other ideas which may make text books easier to absorb are things like scanning pens, although these are not so accessible financially.  If you are a student at college or University you may have the option to purchase a scanning pen with Disabled students allowance.  Scanning pens do exactly what they say, they scan the text and read it aloud.  Don’t worry about them being noisy as most of them come with a port for earphones.  You can get two types of scanning pen. One for exams which is very basic but bizarrely a similar cost to the all singing all dancing model which includes a dictionary, thesaurus, language option and the ability to scan sections of text and upload them to you computer.  Scanning pens are awesome but unfortunately rather pricey, especially for young children who struggle to remember to bring home their lunchbox never mind an expensive piece of equipment. 

A more accessible option is using an app on your phone or tablet. Many are available where you use the camera to photograph the text and save it as a pdf then use another app to read it back to you.  These can be a bit faffy and time consuming but try a few different versions and you may find a one that works for you.

I have found a company called Oaka book which makes dyslexia friendly text books and I really like them as they are bright and colourful with lots of images.

I hope that some of this has helped. If you would like us to do blog post on anything in particular then let us know.

Jo Linton

Organisational Development Manager