Saturday, October 27, 2007

Website of the Day - Wowio Books

Wowio books is an online resource that provided free PDF versions of current books to readers. You must register in a way that allows verification of who you are (i.e. a non-private e-mail, like a school or company email) and you must fill out demographic information.

I was a little cautious of Wowio books at first because it hasn't really had great reviews, especially in the areas of privacy and because it is ad supported. However I discovered that some of the content included science books for children that could be used in an age appropriate manner with my high school special needs class so I gave it a whirl.

I have not been disappointed. As for my privacy concerns all Wowio really has is my name and school e-mail address, so I am not too worried. The advertisements have also not been a problem. They are small, if they exist at all in the books I have downloaded and they have all been for public service announcements so far.

The two things that have made using Wowio great so far are the more advanced accessibility features of Adobe PDF Reader 7 and the fact that Wowio has created the books in a way that allows copying and pasting content if needed to improve accessibility. Thus for some, not all, materials I can cut the text and paste into the "Symbolate" feature of Boardmaker 6 for my learners.

Using the most current version of Adobe's PDF Reader it is possible to make PDF's somewhat accesible meaning you can make it so as reader can "turn pages" with a switch (in the PDF reader under view choose full screen, set the switch as enter, now the switch turns the pages), use a touch screen, access multiple features with mapped switches (switches assigned to act as various keystrokes), access multiple features with an off the shelf joystick and Joy-to-Key, and to make the PDF read allowed. The new PDF reader is also more accessible to screen readers and has a build in "Read Out Loud" feature (which can be a bit buggy and is located under view).

I recommend giving Wowio a try and seeing if it can benefit your students.

Here are some links to help with understanding the accessibility features of Adobe Reader:
Here are the keystokes for Adobe Reader you can assign to switches using you switch interface or switch interface software or to joysticks or other access device (using Joy-to-Key):
  • Read to End of Document=shift+control+B
  • Read to End of Page=shift+control+V
  • Stop Reading=shift+control+E
  • Full Screen Mode=control+L
  • Go to next page (in full screen mode and some other modes)=enter

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