Dear Bookshare: My Dream Has Come True
Mother of two who is
blind uses Bookshare to earn a college degree and increase employment
opportunities in the Philippines
“Dear Bookshare, I am 32 years old, a mother of two, and
totally blind. I am now back in college thanks to Bookshare which is the answer
to my passion for reading and a great help for my student life. It makes it easy
for me to reach the world through different kinds of books. I never thought I
could read independently or listen to as many books as possible until I got Bookshare.
It is a dream come true for me.” – Annabelle
V., Palawan, Philippines
Annabelle has been blind since birth. She was born with a congenital cataract on her left eye, and her right eye did not fully develop. According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness around the world. In the Philippines, 400,000 Filipinos are blind from cataracts. Although cataracts are correctible with surgery, not everyone can afford it.
Annabelle lives with her husband
and two daughters on the island of Palawan, rated one of the most beautiful
islands in the world with its aquamarine water and secluded beaches. She began
her college studies at the Philippine Normal University in Manila and then
moved back to her home town on Palawan. In 2018, she enrolled in Palawan State
University, Brooke’s Point Campus, to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Resources for the Blind Introduced Annabelle to Bookshare
“In 2017, I was using a computer
in the student resource center at Resources
for the Blind, Inc. and saw a folder labeled Bookshare, so I asked what it was,”
explains Annabelle. “Ms. Mayette Regala, the Operations Manager, asked me if I
wanted to have a Bookshare account, so that was the start.” Annabelle reads
Bookshare books using FS Reader by JAWS and Voice Dream Reader on her iPhone. She
also uses Dolphin EasyReader. She relies on mobile data from a prepaid internet
account. “Even though we live in a rural part of the Philippines, I’m thankful
I can still access the internet,” says Annabelle.
From Book Desert to Abundance
When Annabelle was in elementary
and high school, she read braille books. When she first started college she
used some braille books and mp3 audiobooks or had someone record themselves
reading so she could listen to books on a cassette player. Later, she was able
to access some free PDF books on the internet, but the selection was extremely
limited. Now she is grateful to have access to 600,000 books in the Bookshare
library in a variety of formats including braille, text, and audio.
“I enjoy reading business books
Kiyosaki, leadership books by John
C. Maxwell, history books, and even self-help books. I also read academic
books on how to teach English, math, and science which are required for my
college classes,” says Annabelle.
Annabelle is Wife, Mother, Student, and Budding
Once she gets her degree, Annabelle
hopes to teach persons with disabilities in her community who have not been
given much attention. “I want to help them learn skills so they can be
independent and work for a living. I dream of opening a training center since the
regular school set up is not practical for everyone,” she explains. Annabelle
is inspired to start her own business and earn money to fund her dreams because
she does not expect the government to provide financial support.
What do Annabelle’s daughters
think about her being a college student? “I’m not sure what they think about me
being in college, but I guess it seems normal to them because they also go to
school every day. I hope they’re proud of me,” she says. She remarks that jobs
are not as plentiful in Palawan as they are in Manila, so Annabelle and her
husband are learning new skills and hope to open a mini-store very soon.
Contact Aggie Angeles, Bookshare Outreach Coordinator, to learn more about Bookshare membership
in the Philippines.
Resources for the Blind, Inc. is a nonprofit that provides programs
and resources to help visually impaired people in the Philippines to reach
their full potential. According to the Department
of Health, around 2.5 million are
blind or have low vision. The Philippines has the fourth largest population of
blind and visually impaired persons in the world.