Accessible Content for All: Building Equity & Engagement with Tech Tools

Providing Access to Digital Books

Providing accessible reading options, such as eBooks and audiobooks in addition to printed books can increase student engagement.  Some students may prefer an illustrated graphic novel, while students who speak multiple languages may want a book in their preferred language. In this module, we will cover practical ways that educators can provide digital books for their students.

Section Objective:

  • Discuss options for free online digital books for students who prefer or require this accommodation to access curriculum content.

Review Tip 4 in the document 8 Tips to Make Curriculum Content Accessible

Free Digital Books

Many websites and resources provide free digital books to all students at a variety of reading levels and formats including picture books and human-narrated books. To see these resources,  Explore SETC’s webpage: Access to Storybooks.  Note that the Libby App is a public library source available to everyone.  Storyline Online features celebrity voices narrating books and Tar Heel Reader is a great customizable source for early readers and includes options for alternative access.  

Explore SETC’s webpage:  Access to Chapter Books, Text Books, and More  Note that EPIC! is free for educators and has great elementary-level books and the ability to customize student profiles by preferred genre and reading level.  Newsela provides a robust reading tool for older students that include real-world texts, diverse perspectives, and 5 reading levels.  

Libby App

Many school districts are recognizing the value of every student having universal access to the public library for books and audiobooks! Libby is a free app where you can borrow ebooks, digital audiobooks, and magazines from your public library. You can stream titles with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read them anytime, anywhere.  This public library access provides limitless opportunities for offering UDL instructional choices in your classroom.

How to use the Libby App

How to set up and use the Libby App (3:24 min.)


What do you do when your textbook or class novel is not available in an accessible digital format through the vendor or library?  Most school textbooks and novels can be accessed in an accessible format through Bookshare.  Bookshare is a free online digital library for individuals who have a qualifying reading or perceptual disability, a visual impairment, or a physical disability that affects their ability to read printed works.  Bookshare makes reading easier by customizing the reading experience to meet the preferred learning style of each student. Learn more about Bookshare

Use Bookshare Reader across devices for easy access to reading for your students.  Watch this 1 min video for a quick overview:

Bookshare Reader: Read What You Want, Where you Want (1:07 min.)

Supporting Reading for Students with Specific Disabilities

Students with specific disabilities have special factors and may need assistive technology to improve access to digital books.  Links and Resources to Support Students with Specific Disabilities may provide additional information on resources and agencies that can provide support for students with specific disabilities.

What would this look like in my classroom?

Bookshare Helps Student Become Lifelong Learner (2:47 min.)

Lesson Tip: Collaborate with school librarians/media specialists to make sure all students have a library account through the Libby App as part of their everyday classroom routine. AT Specialists and Special Ed teachers can also collaborate with school librarians to help enroll eligible students for Bookshare.


1. How can providing an option for listening to digital books support diverse learners in your classroom? 

2. Reflect on the Self Assessment Rubric below as you think about applying your learning to your instructional practice. Where are you on the continuum?

level 1

level 2

level 3

I have a general understanding of accessible digital book resources.I watched the video on the Libby App and practiced using it for myself.I have identified at least one student on my caseload who would qualify for Bookshare and collaborated with my school team to set up a Bookshare account for that student, set up the Libby app for them to use, or are using one of the links to online books with my students.


  • Accessible Reading Format - customized format for specific needs such as audiobooks, braille, large print, following with highlighted text.color backgrounds and text style.
  • Human narrated books - read by a human person and recorded as an audio file
  • Digital Screen Reader - software program that allow users with visual or learning difficulties to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
  • Accommodation - is an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks.