Ever since I was young I have been drawn to books. To this day I can remember myself looking at my parents’ bookshelf and seeing countless fascinating books that I told myself I would read one day. As I grew up and had more of a capacity to read such books, I found that my physical ability, rather than my capacity to read was holding me back. My mom still says to this day with a smile on her face, “You were my only kid that actually wanted to read, and you could not hold a book up!”.
Being the type of person that she is, my mom would never be satisfied until I was able to read for however long I wanted to without losing the strength to do so. In order to make this happen she tried a number of things. Even going so far as to purchase a brand new desk for me that was higher up so I would not need to look down to see my book. While this did solve that issue, I still had problems, as I could not reach my book when it was elevated in order to turn the pages.
From this point we managed to solve most issues by having a book holder sit on top of my elevated wedge on the tray of my wheelchair so that the book was elevated, fully open, and relatively easy to reach to turn pages. My mom made it even easier for me by suggesting that I use the eraser on a pencil to do so. From that point on I could read as often as I desired without too much trouble. This remained true for some time until I reached the next level in my academic career.
When I reached University I discovered that I would need to read at a much faster rate than I was ever able to while dealing with a physical book. Therefore I had to figure out a new method of reading all over again with the help of the Paul Menton Centre at Carleton University. This place was very helpful in showing me all of the different methods they had for giving me the information I needed in my text books. For example, I could even get my books printed in brail if I wanted! Instead though I chose audio books.
Learning how to read in a different way though is challenging enough as it is, let alone picking it up at a crucial time like the beginning of university. I found it incredibly difficult to take in the information as I was so used to reading with the words in front of me. Because of this, and also the fact that it took an extended period of time for my books to be transferred into such a format, my grades suffered. A couple years later I was told I could also have my books changed to PDFs so that I would receive them much faster. This suggestion completely altered my academic path.
From this point on I became interested in how technology such this is helping to make History, my course of study, more accessible to me. This is how I discovered the Digital Humanities with the help of Dr Graham after taking his class The Historian’s Craft. I am now writing my honours thesis on this subject. What I am hoping to accomplish through this process is to compare the development of the e-book, that has been such a fantastic creation for me as a disabled individual, to the incunabula, or early book. I would like to prove that the incunabula improved the way people received their information at that time just as much as the e-book has for me now.
Stay tuned for updates!