Free e-books for disabled US students (and low cost availability for others with disabilities)
In the USA, there are provisions under the law that enables “authorized entities” to make books available to people with qualifying disabilities.
One of the most important element of that is the Chafee Amendment, which created Section 121 of Title 17 (US copyright law).
That enables these “authorized entities” to produce these specialized editions, which include “…digital text which is exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities…” without first obtaining permission from the rightsholder.
That’s important. While publishers do cooperate with these sorts of programs, it didn’t always used to be the fastest system. If an authorized entity needed to file a request and wait for a response giving them permission, that was sometimes unwieldy. The Chafee Amendment eliminated that potential bottleneck.
So, the key points are:
- This only applies under US law (but there may be similar laws other places…I’m just familiar with the US)
- It has to be done by an “authorized entity”, not just anybody. According to Section 121: “authorized entity” means “…a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities”
- It has to be done for people with certified disabilities…you can’t produce the e-book under the Chafee Amendment and then just make it available to anybody who wants it
None of this says that the e-book has to be made available for free to people with disabilities. Yes, it has to be a non-profit, so that part would be scrutinized, but if they don’t have donations or grants or the equivalent that pay for the production costs, they could charge for them.
Now we are about to get into the specifics of one such source.
I’ve written about
before, in conjunction with the text-to-speech issue.
This organization has recently celebrated ten years of public service.
If you can certify a disability (making you a legitimate person to receive their services under the law), you can get e-books from them.
They are currently funded (I think it may end later this year, but could get renewed) by a grant from OSEP (the Office of Special Education Programs) of the US Department of Education to give books to students for free. Specifically, this covers:
- K-12 (public and private)
- Home-schooled students
- Post-secondary (public and private)
- Adult education
Obviously, you would need to prove you were a qualifying student (as well as proving your qualifying disability) to get the books for free.
If you do have a qualifying disability but are not a qualifying student, you can get a membership for a $25 one time set-up fee, and then a $50 annual fee (those can also be gifted to someone).
For $50 a year, then, you have access to something like 140,000 e-books for no additional cost, if can certify a qualifying disability.
What sorts of books?
The Hunger Games trilogy, Harry Potter, Fifty Shades of Grey, Calico Joe by John Grisham…lots of popular books, and more.
You can search at the Bookshare.org website.
You can also do organizational memberships.
One interesting thing I noticed in writing this post. They do have international options. For more information, see
What prompted this post is that the use of Kindles by the disabled had come up in an Amazon Kindle community thread, and I mentioned Bookshare. I got some good response from people who had been unaware of it…so I wanted to share it with you.
If this does help you or someone you know, I’d appreciate hearing about it. If you have personal experience with Bookshare, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.