For a lot of students with low vision, spending lots of time on the computer or brightly lit devices can easily cause eyestrain/eye fatigue, especially for those taking a lot of virtual classes. One of the ways that I help to reduce strain on my eyes is by using my eReader to display information so that I don’t have to look at my computer as much to read through longer documents. Here is how I’m using my eReader to support virtual learning, and tips for using eReaders for accessible materials.
Why use an eReader?
While it may seem like a strange choice to use an eReader as assistive technology when tablets are so popular, there are quite a few reasons why I like to use mine:
- My particular eReader has a paper-like display with an optional backlight. As long as I have adequate lighting wherever I am sitting, I can read the display without having to stare directly at bright screens
- eReaders are portable and most don’t require an internet connection to read books that are downloaded to the device
- Display settings can be adjusted to include large print, different font types, or an inverted background if needed
- They are fairly inexpensive for an electronic device- a new device costs around $100 and can be purchased online, or eReaders can be found secondhand for as low as $30
- eReaders do not need to be updated frequently, and basic models do not become obsolete quickly- lots of people have one lying around their house that they can use
- eReaders and Low Vision
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Adding content to an eReader
While the exact method for adding documents/books to an eReader will vary depending on the model, here is the general step-by-step for how to add additional content to an eReader:
- Check to make sure the file type is supported- my eReader supports PDF and EPUB files, though some also support other formats
- Connect the eReader to a computer
- Copy the document that you want to add to the eReader
- Go to the file folder for Content or Books
- Paste the document that you want to add
- Make sure to properly eject the eReader before disconnecting, and restart if needed
- How I Organize Digital Files For My Classes
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Reading textbooks/textbook excerpts
Many of my professors will give students excerpts of text to read for an assignment or provide a copy of the textbook online. While I tend to read these on my computer whenever possible, some of my friends prefer to read textbooks or textbook excerpts on an eReader because it’s easier for them to hold and some of their devices support having books read out loud- a very useful tool for helping to manage eyestrain.
- How To Request Accessible Textbooks In College
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Downloading PDFs that I can easily access from anywhere
If I have to read a lot of text for a research paper and don’t want to do it at my computer, I can download a PDF copy of whatever I am reading to my eReader and read through the information that way. I can take notes using the Notes function built-in to my device, though I prefer to take notes either by hand or by typing in Microsoft OneNote whenever possible, as this helps me to stay more organized. Another bonus is that I don’t have to worry about losing the link to the full text of a source- all of the information is on my device.
Checking out books from the library
Many libraries have awesome services that allow users to check out a variety of content, including magazines, eBooks, and more. This is a great way to explore new titles or do read a book from the college library that is hard to find elsewhere. Of course, for students with print disabilities, Bookshare is another great option for free eBooks and has hundreds of thousands of titles available for users to download and keep forever, with new titles added frequently.
- Digital Library Resources For Vision Impaired Patrons
- RBDigital Magazines and Zinio For Libraries Review
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Sometimes, it just helps to step away from a screen and see writing on a different device. One of my friends was telling me about how they will download their finished papers in a PDF format so that they can review their writing on an eReader and catch mistakes before they turn in their paper. For them, it’s much easier than reading large amounts of text while being close to a screen, or using a screen reader to go through every detail. While I haven’t personally used this method, I think it is an awesome idea!
- Tips To Make Proofreading Feedback Accessible For Low Vision
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I love using my eReader, as it was one of the first assistive technology devices I ever used and it helped me tremendously with being able to access print materials and finally read whatever book I wanted. Years later, I’m still using it to help me with virtual classes and to read books in accessible formats, and it makes a tremendous difference. I hope this post on using eReaders as assistive technology to support virtual learning is helpful for others!