Minster Mitchell O’Connor welcomes launch of Ireland’s largest accessible digital library for people with print disabilities

The Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today attended the launch of Bookshare.ie – an initiative of the NCBI to provide a place that will be a single, secure platform to host both home-grown and international book titles across all higher and further education study areas/fields. Bookshare.ie will allow all eligible students to search and instantly download books freely.

NCBI is Ireland’s national sight agency which provides life-changing supports and services to over 6,000 people each year.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the once-off funding of €150,000 for NCBI to promote Bookshare.ie. The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education highlighted the fact that students with sensory disabilities continue to be less likely to enter higher education than students with other types of disabilities. I am confident that the introduction of this new platform will have a positive effect and will enable prospective students from this key target group to access higher education and achieve their potential.”

The NCBI Library service is a specialised service within NCBI which aims to provide timely access to print for all library users and funding for the Library is secured through donations and charitable activity.

In support of equity of access for students with visual impairment and print disability in higher and further education in Ireland, the Minister announced a once off grant payment of €150,000 to NCBI for the development of Bookshare.ie.

Until recently, the NCBI Library Service was both limited by design and in its methods of production, which sought to fit a traditional ‘library for the blind’ format, relying heavily on securing and often purchasing books for manual transcription before being shared via An Post or through other media playing platforms to clients.

In anticipation of digital library developments, the Library Service has acquired and developed the NCBI Easyreader App which is designed to integrate with Bookshare.ie which will help create and manage booklists for all higher and further education students.

It is within this context that NCBI engaged with the Department of Education and Skills with a view to develop the Bookshare.ie platform and is why the Department has made once off funding available to assist NCBI in the development of the initiative to support students with print disabilities.

The Department’s engagement with NCBI on this initiative will help to build a more inclusive learning environment that achieves the best educational outcomes for students with visual impairment which aligns to their individual learning needs and which complements the targets set for this group in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (2015-2021).

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