Why is The elai Project?
There are so many reasons for why we created The elai Project. But the most compelling is that disabled persons do not have the same access as people without disabilities. And that means my daughter couldn’t read.
We could discuss the use of disability as a pretext for denial of civil rights, or the fact that, prior to 2008, judges overwhelmingly ruled against disabled plaintiffs in discrimination suits because the courts redefined the term “disabled,” or that justice for disabled persons is so expensive that most cannot afford it. Inequity abounds. The life of a disabled person is one of fighting for basic civil rights, such as access, that non disabled persons generally take for granted. But I will leave that for another day.
When my daughter could not read a printed book, after being a voracious reader, I wasn’t worried about fairness. I was worried about the education that my daughter was missing.
We homeschooled. The library was a powerful source of educational material. Because of her allergies, Joni couldn’t read anything from the library. We tried buying new books from Barnes and Nobles but we eventually realized she was allergic to soy ink. I couldn’t afford an e-reader and the thousands of dollars in books it would take to keep Joni reading. The library could loan me an e-reader for 3 weeks but it would have to be disinfected at first, and then it would have to be returned. The library’s e-book system was antiquated, had a three day hold time (not enough for a disabled kid), and a one to two week checkout with no renewals. And the e-book catalog was not extensive. When I researched, I found out that three of the “Big 6” publishers refuse to sell e-books to libraries.
Sometimes we are faced with problems and there is just no way through. For two years, we went around. Joni did not read; she did other things. She taught herself 3D animation software, she drew, she taught herself quadratic equations, and she watched anime in Japanese with English subtitles. But she missed reading. So I decided to go “through.” And elai was the route through.
So ultimately, the story of why we started The elai Project is a small one. It’s about one girl and a book. Or, in this case, an e-reader.