A mobile app aims to make books more accessible for people who are print disabled – this includes anyone who is unable to read due to blindness, sight impairment or a physical impairment which means they are unable to hold a book.
I recently attended training at my local library to use BookLink – a software app designed and developed by the Blind Foundation Library of New Zealand. It enables users to search, download and read audio books, audio magazines and other library content straight from an Apple device.
Currently this app is only available on Apple devices such as the iPad, iPhone or iPod. This is because Apple devices already have many accessible features built in that are ideal for blind or sight-impaired users. Some of these features include a voice-over function, larger text, increased contrast, zoom function and the ability to invert colours. Of course users must also have access to WiFi when downloading books or returning books to the library.
BookLink provides access to over 10,000 audio books as well as magazines and a range of newspapers in text format, which can be read using the voice-over function. Audio books in the collection cover a wide range of subjects and include fiction and non-fiction books. The collection also includes a selection of New Zealand books that have been narrated by well-known New Zealand actors and personalities.
To download the BookLink app you’ll need to contact the Blind Foundation and provide supporting evidence from your medical practitioner about your print disability. You’ll also need to join your local public library so you can access their ongoing support. There are currently 14 council-run libraries supporting BookLink across the country.
I initially had some challenges during the training because I had never used the voice-over function on my iPad. However, I soon mastered that, and then using BookLink was relatively easy. I was very impressed by the simplicity of the app, the two Blind Foundation trainers and the knowledge of our local Hamilton City Library staff who will be available should I need assistance in the future. I highly recommended Booklink for anyone who is print disabled.
Visit the Blind Foundation website for more information about BookLink.