Friday, 14 October 2016

A golden day at ‘The Hive’!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

On Wednesday 12 October I visited and spent the day with staff from the University of Worcester at the fantastic location of The Hive. As well as having a fabulous golden roof, it’s the first library to be both a public and university library. As a combined facility for the whole community to use, the project has developed into one of the most exciting new libraries in Europe. It is collaboration between the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council.

It’s a fantastic space to use and visit and it was wonderful to see such a busy library.

Who was there?

It was great to meet the staff who are responsible for creating accessible resources at the university and customer services who all wanted to learn more about RNIB Bookshare. We also met with representatives from local Colleges and schools. 

What we talked about

During the morning session we had a general introduction to the site and focussed on the new features of RNIB Bookshare. We discussed:

The afternoon session was dedicated to more detailed discussions on:

More resources for students

It was brilliant to hear from the team how much easier it is for them to get hold of titles for students through our request service. As a result they said that they now have the time to get more titles than before for their university students!

Great to spend time with you Worcester!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

iPads for Education service

A new service launched by RNIB will enable thousands of students with sight loss to read their course materials using an accessible Apple iPad.

RNIB are excited to be working in partnership with O2 to offer subsidised iPads to children with sight loss so that by using these devices with RNIB Bookshare, users can have portable, immediate access to all of the books and texts needed for their curriculum.

Through the iPads for Education service the learner receives an Apple iPad Air 2 32GB, connectivity through wi-fi and 1GB of 4G data each month. The cost to the family or organisation is £14.50 plus VAT per month.

Apple iPad resting against a pile of hardback books

Steve Tyler, Head of Strategy and Accessibility at RNIB, said: 
“We are very excited to launch iPads for Education. We know that blind and partially sighted young people need access to books and textbooks at the same time as their peers. This can help with greater participation in lessons, research and homework.  
“We are really pleased to be partnering with O2 and DHL in the UK and to be able to deliver this fantastic service to students with sight loss.”

Saturday, 8 October 2016

TES SEN Show, Islington - 7 October 2016

By Jennie Short, RNIB Bookshare Product Manager

TES SEN Show colourful cogs logo

On the train

It's been a few years since RNIB's had a stand at the Times Educational Supplement Special Educational Needs Show and I'm really looking forward to going again. I think the last time I attended I was working in our product team looking after our educational products.

Harrison's been dropped at breakfast club, Ben gave me a lift to the station and I'm now sat on the 8.12am train ready to depart Peterborough on the quick train to London King's Cross. October is RNIB Wear dots ... raise lots fundraising month so I'm wearing my spotty blouse today. 

Jennie on the train ready to depart Peterborough, wearing a purple blouse with white spots

This month we've got lots of promotional activity planned and are really excited to be launching the iPads for Education service in partnership with O2 to offer subsidised iPads to children with sight loss. It's dawned on me that I don't have any information to hand out at the show, we only finalised the flyer text last night!

Phew! A quick call and email to the lovely Rose Doyle in our London resource centre at Judd Street and she's going to print some flyers off for me to pick up enroute.

The show

After my quick stop at Judd Street I headed back to the tube station and jumped on the Northern Line to Angel. As I was heading to the escalator to exit the station I spotted a lady carrying a display banner and asked if she was heading to the SEN Show too. She was indeed and happy I'd asked as she didn't know where to go, so we walked up to the Business Design Centre together. Afraid I can't remember her name, she'd travelled up from Devon and was from the WESC Foundation - Specialist Foundation for Visual Impairment.

My colleague, Stewart McKay, was at our stand when I arrived. Stewart works in our Product Sales Team and spends most of his week travelling around the country doing events and visiting resource centres and local societies. Ella High, who works on our newsletter and service for education professionals, Insight Online, wasn't far behind me. Our trio was ready for the day ahead. 

The doors opened at 10am and there was a great steady flow until about 1pm when it slowed down (Friday afternoon!), but we still had some valuable conversations with visitors. About 12pm a wave of teachers from Wales arrived who were excited to learn that RNIB Cymru will soon be uploading their Welsh language titles to RNIB Bookshare.

We talked to visitors about our reading services including the RNIB Newsagent which provides a range of kids magazines including Horrible Histories, National Geographic Kids and First Weekly News. We had some of our multi-sensory toys on display; the scented stationery was very popular and Wikki Stix are always a fun product. 

Box of eight Scentos, our scented colouring pens

We handed out lots of information on our services for children and young people and families. We had some RNIB "half full not half empty" mugs and Insight Online journals to give away, well in return for them signing up to the Insight Online newsletter; we got 50 new subscribers. 

It was great to talk to customers who are using RNIB Bookshare and who are seeing their staff and learners benefiting from accessing materials quickly in a range of formats. A couple have signed up to our "you come to us" RNIB Bookshare training day in London on Friday, 16 December to learn more about getting the best out of the site.

We took it in turns to go to lunch, but all went to the same amazing Pho, Vietnamese restaurant; super delicious food. Towards the end of the day we had a walk around the other exhibits and had a competition to see who could get the best freebie! Ella and I both got squeeze stress apples from the Education Support Partnership. I squeezed it for the rest of the day and broke the stalk off! Stewart got a great pen which flowed very nicely on the page. 

I caught up with our friends at Dyslexia Action and spoke to the team at NASEN SEND Gateway to see how we can make best use of their service and ensure we keep our pages up to date. I spoke to the SEN Magazine team, we have an ad in their October edition, which has helped us see a recent increase in membership applications and also been quite timely for other magazines to contact to us having seen the ad in SEN Magazine, and we'll be promoting the iPads for Education service and RNIB Bookshare through a range of channels through October and November.

I ended the day talking to The National Autistic Society and have a go on their virtual reality specs which put me in the position of a child with autism visiting a shopping centre with their mum. A really interesting and useful insight. I bought the take home kit to use with the free Autism Too Much information (TMI) app so I can share it with my family and colleagues. 

Stewart will be doing the show on Saturday too with Nuala Salter from our Library team and Funmi Hinmikaiye from Fundraising. Hope they have another fun and successful day.

As the show ended at 5pm the tube was heaving and although all heading to Kings Cross got split up at Angel to ensure we could all squeeze onto the tube train! I've managed to get a slightly earlier train home, but am sitting on the floor! Looking forward to getting home, getting the kids to bed and having a relaxing evening.

It was a good show and thanks to all who came and spoke to us. If you need any further help you can contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Next stop... lovely Lincoln!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

We went east for our next training day as Ian and I traveled to Lincoln to meet with Lincolnshire Sensory Education Support Service and other locally invited schools.

We had a very grand venue at the Council Chambers in their County Offices, I promise that neither of us sat in the really posh seats at the front!!

A grand wood panelled Council Chambers

We were a large group of 25, and everyone had brought laptops so that they could join in and navigate around the site with us and try out the new features. Some were regular users of RNIB Bookshare, others new to the site.

What did we talk about?

We talked about the copyright legislation and qualifying print disabilities, new accounts for learners (Members) including the free web reading tool. We searched and downloaded books and talked about requesting books and how we work with publishers.

Using and creating structured word documents, and using different file formats was a really useful discussion and especially how easy it is to convert DAISY files into MS Word.

We then looked at how staff and learners can use the site and resources with their devices, such as iPads and Kindles and various tools such as the Kindle app with RNIB Bookshare files.

Ian leading the group in training

How does RNIB Bookshare affect your learners?

“Promotes independence”
“It will be a massive support for them at school and at home”
“To be able to read more interesting books”

How does RNIB Bookshare affect how you work?

“Greater ability to promote independence and more accessibility to the curriculum for our SEN students”
“It saves me time”
“Makes adaptations quicker and easier to use”
“Reduces the need for me to type everything by hand”

What did you like most about the training?

“Being able to chat face to face”
“How to convert DAISY file to a Word document”
“How things were illustrated as they were being spoken about so it became easy to follow.” 
We had some really positive comments about how everyone felt about the afternoons training and how they will now be able to use RNIB Bookshare so much more effectively.

Thanks for having us Lincolnshire Sensory Support team and friends! Next time I visit Lincoln, I really hope to see more of your beautiful city!

A view of Lincoln with the Cathedral on the skyline

Friday, 9 September 2016

A Grand day at Kings College London!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

Sarah and Caroline were on their travels again as they took a train down to London to meet RNIB Bookshare customers from a number of London based universities, kindly hosted at Kings College London. We met at the Library in the Franklin-Wilkins Building on the Waterloo Campus.

Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Campus

Who was there?

We met with Disability officers and Library Staff from  Kings College London, City University, London School of EconomicsGoldsmiths (University of London) and the University of Westminster. It was a great opportunity to find out how these busy institutions are using RNIB Bookshare and to help them get the most of our using our service.

We talked about…

What did everyone have to say about RNIB Bookshare?

It was great to hear that everyone found the practical aspects of the day really useful. Here’s what everyone said….
‘Its brilliant! and the revamped site has made it (my work) easier’

How will it affect your learners?

‘It will speed up access to course and research materials where previously it was necessary to go directly to publishers’ 
 ‘Gives them more autonomy’
 ‘Really useful to have a variety of download and options’

How will it affect how you work?

‘Save time eg reducing amount of time allocated to scanning materials to produce alternative formats' 
 ‘I would like to start using it, particularly as I help to create reading lists at work.’
 ‘has the potential to improve my work providing the publishers cooperate.’

Thanks again to Kings College University for hosting us. Good luck everyone, and keep up the great work your doing in providing great accessible resources to your print disabled learners!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A day at the University of Nottingham

By Sarah Bennett, Reading Services Assistant, RNIB Bookshare

The journey

Whilst planning my journey times for the day, I noticed that the route to the university from the train station ran mainly alongside Nottingham Canal, so I booked myself on an early train to take in the sights en route.
Nottingham Canal path

Nottingham Canal path
Six miles later, I met up with accessibility support staff and librarians from both Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham.

We met in a really well equipped workshop in the Hallward Library, a fabulous venue which owing to the summer holiday was pleasantly quiet. 

The training

There were seven attendees, some of whom had previously used the RNIB Bookshare service and some who were in new roles, so it was perfect timing to tell them about the service we offer to help them and their print disabled students.

We talked about:

The newest feature on RNIB Bookshare - shared reading lists

A new feature, launched just last week, is the ability to share reading lists.  This functionality allows Sponsors (staff) to share their reading lists with other Sponsors within the same account. You can create a reading list to be shared and also edit an already existing reading list to share it among Sponsors. 
The Keighton Auditorium, The Mathematical Sciences Building

The feedback

Most useful: 
  • "Practical, hands-on examples to play with"
  • "Learning how to search for books and store records of them in reading lists".
Thank you to the Nottingham crew. Please remember you can call us anytime on  0300 303 8313  

Friday, 26 August 2016

Press Release: Oxford University Press teams up with RNIB

Oxford University Press teams up with RNIB to provide accessible school books for UK learners with sight loss or dyslexia

Students with sight loss or dyslexia can now access a wider range of school resources thanks to an enhanced collaboration between Oxford University Press (OUP) and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

OUP, which is a department of the University of Oxford, and the UK’s leading schools publisher, has provided RNIB Bookshare with UK textbooks since 2012. The new agreement builds on OUP’s commitment to quickly and easily maketheir textbooks available to print disabled learners through the RNIB Bookshare service.

RNIB Bookshare (previously known as Load2Learn) allows learners who cannot read standard print, including those with dyslexia or who are blind or partially sighted, to read the same books, at the same time as their classmates.

The service is completely free and is open to all educators enabling them to download textbooks and accessible images to meet their students’ needs.

Richard Hodson, Sales, Marketing, and Operations Director for OUP’s education division, said: “Ensuring our titles are available to the widest possible audience is absolutely key to our educational mission, and we are proud that our schools resources are available through RNIB’s excellent service.”

Alison Long, Senior Manager Children, Young People and Employment at RNIB, said:
“We’re delighted that our new agreement with OUP has enabled us to increase the number of their titles on RNIB Bookshare. We’ve already helped thousands of students throughout the UK to access books that meet their needs, and OUP’s high quality educational publishing is a fantastic addition.”

Schools looking to sign up to RNIB Bookshare should go to


For further information, please contact Dan Selinger, Head of Communications, Oxford Education, at Oxford University Press on or +44 1865 355037 

Notes to editor 

About Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence. It currently publishes thousands of new publications a year, has offices in around fifty countries, and employs nearly 7,000 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing programme that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college resources, children's books, materials for teaching English as a foreign language, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and academic journals.

About RNIB

Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and we're here for everyone affected by sight loss - that's almost 2 million people in the UK. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem, RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit