Introducing RNIB Bookshare: electronic resources for widening accessibility

The University has been a member of Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Bookshare scheme for many years, including in its previous incarnation as Load2Learn.  The support of the RNIB is invaluable in providing students and staff with many of the accessible formats they need. Upon declaring a disability to the Library, we meet with individual students to discuss their needs, and those who qualify and wish to take advantage of accessible formats are signed up with RNIB Bookshare.  We try to purchase accessible e-books (which you can find in the Library catalogue) whenever they are available, so the sooner we know what units are being studied the sooner we can obtain resources. If the particular title needed cannot be purchased as an e-book, we then check RNIB’s list of publisher partners. If the publisher is working with RNIB, we can request the book through the Bookshare website.  

Many titles have already been requested for previous students both here and at other participating universities, so sometimes the results are instant!  Copyright restrictions mean we can only request electronic copies of titles we hold ourselves but these don’t restrict students from using their membership to make direct requests.  Anyone requesting an electronic version directly should be aware that publishers often send only a plain PDF file, while the Library would usually add navigation to the document before passing it on to students.  That said, some publishers provide their books in multiple formats, including DAISY, HTML, MP3 and EPUB, which offers students a fantastic choice. Bookshare even provide free software to play these formats, available to download from their website, as well as test apps and extensions for many common devices.

So who can use RNIB Bookshare?

This definition is taken from section 31F (2) of the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014.

“Disabled person” means a person who has a physical or mental impairment which prevents the person from enjoying a copyright work to the same degree as a person who does not have that impairment, and “disability” is to be construed accordingly.

Any individual who falls under the above definition may be eligible to access downloaded items from UK education collection.  This definition is broader in scope than the previous legislation and includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blind and partially sighted: persons who are blind or have a visual impairment that cannot be improved by corrective lenses.
  • Learning disability: persons who are unable to effectively read print due to dyslexia or other cognitive learning disabilities such as Autism or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
  • Physical disability-sons who are unable, through physical disability, to hold or manipulate a book, or who are unable to focus or move their eyes to the extent that would normally be acceptable for reading.

Non-qualifying disabilities

English as an additional language and low literacy levels are not classed as print-disabilities. These learners would need to have a print-disability as outlined above, to be able to benefit from the accessible resources on UK education collection.

If you think you have a qualifying disability and want to find out more about our alternative formats service or are currently registered with us and need your username and password to make individual requests via Bookshare, please email us at  Please don’t provide sensitive information at this stage.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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