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Harry Potter Returns as A Play: Marketing Strategy Creates Unintentional Accessibility!

When Harry Potter returned on July 30 as Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, the play, there was a new marketing scheme in place. The shift from the exclusive debut of the book in print to one where the story is enacted is a welcome development for those who care about making the text of a literary work accessible to struggling readers. 

Equal Footing  At least in London at the Palace Theater where the play opened, all Harry Potter enthusiasts were on equal footing as members of the audience. That means that students who have reading disabilities, those who have limited vision or are blind, and those who have difficulties handling a book because of a physical disability have a viable alternative to print and access to the story from the outset.

Formats, Please  In addition, this ninth book in the series by J.K. Rowling is not published solely in print. Alternatives to the traditional book format mean that learners who struggle with print can read what their friends read. Some are ready now, and some could come via a special federally funded program if a child receives special education services and is eligible. While the publisher is thinking more about how people like to read than disabilities, the move has the effect of being inclusive and that is a positive step forward for literacy. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One & Two is released as in hardcover as a "Special Rehearsal Edition as The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production." A hardcover edition presents challenges to students with print disabilities. For these readers, consider options that follow. 

A Kindle Edition: Read it with the free Kindle App. Unfamiliar with the power of the app? It offers assistive technology features including text-to-speech reading, voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation, and accessible shortcuts.

An Apple iBooks edition: iBooks, an ebook reader app for IOS devices, works on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. iBooks can open ebooks in an ePub format and it is fully compatible with the VoiceOver screen reader built into IOS. There also are enhanced editions of previous Harry Potter books with features that could support struggling readers. 

An Adult Reader: For students who struggle with print, an adult reads the book aloud. This can be a teacher, a volunteer, a teaching assistant, or a parent.  

A Book Conversion: For an eligible student with a disability, a teacher or librarian can request a book conversion to one of several possible formats — audio, digital, braille and large print. They are produced under an exception to copyright law by each state's accessible learning materials program (AEM or AIM). 

In fact, and thanks to a prior request for an individual student or students, AIM-VA right now has six Harry Potter Books ready for readers who prefer access text using large print: Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

Specialized Book Services: In time, two partners that work with the national accessible educational materials program (AEM/AIM) may choose to convert the book. Learning Ally records books using human narrators. Bookshare records books using synthetic speech, as well as making conversions to a braille-ready file. These services provide learning supports, not simply audio-only versions of books. Both book services are free for any student once an Individualized Education Program team considers and selects AEM/AIM. 

Other Sources for Audiobooks: On the weekend of the debut of the print version, there were no plans to produce an audiobook version. 


For more about the Harry Potter marketing mania, read "Harry Potter and the Return of the Bookselling Frenzy," on July 26 by Shannon Maughan on the website

Visit the Pottermore website to learn more about the book's debut. 

We Are AIM-VA  Accessible educational materials (AEM) help to create access to the curriculum for students with dyslexia, learning disabilities, vision or physical challenges, and others. A federally funded AEM program in every state assures that books in alternative formats are provided free of charge to eligible students with disabilities whose education teams take action. The AEM program operates under a legal exception to federal copyright law. Check out the AIM-VA home page to learn more about eligibility in Virginia. In other states, contact a special education teacher, a school administrator or download a list of AEM state contacts.External Link to AEM state contacts (New Window).

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