Posted on January 30, 2011

Qatar Assistive Technology Centre (Mada) has partnered with Bookshare to provide accessible electronic books to people with disabilities in Qatar as a first step, but the facility could be expanded to include the region at large.

For the first time, over 23,000 books in accessible electronic format will be made available for free to people in Qatar whose disability makes it very difficult or impossible to read standard print.

“This partnership reflects our work with international partners in bringing the benefits of technology to people with disabilities in Qatar,” said Faleh Mohammed Al Noeimi, Mada CEO. “It is an important step in ensuring that people with disabilities gain access to a wide range of titles at home, school and in the workplace.”

Jim Fruchterman, Bookshare CEO has welcomed the Qatari initiative calling it a real commitment to an inclusive society.

Although the books will initially be provided in English, Mada is actively working with Bookshare and also with regional and local partners to develop accessible electronic books.

In addition to the blind and people with low vision, Mada’s partnership with Bookshare will also benefit people with such learning disabilities as dyslexia as well as those with physical disabilities.

Through Mada, eligible people to be assessed by the centre and be given one year membership to download books in accessible electronic format, including Daisy Talking Book format.

From contemporary bestsellers to important academic references, Mada will now bring a wide collection of titles to people with print disabilities for the first time.

Bookshare is a global online library for readers with print disabilities. Readers are able to download a variety of formats such as Braille, synthetic speech, text-to-speech and large print. Currently over 85,000 titles are available on the website. It is an initiative of Benetech, a high-tech non-profit social entrepreneurial venture that provides technology solutions to social causes.

Readers with print disability needs to be assessed by Mada which then will provide them a username and password to access all Bookshare titles, a service available for free.

Mada in association with Bookshare is working to develop a wide selection of accessible e-books in Arabic language and the cooperative project intends to issue some 500 books in Arabic by the end of this year.