RNIB Bookshare is able to be used with learners with autism. Autism is a print disability  that is covered under the Copyright Act. We are not however, specialists in providing support for learners with autism. The information provided here is only intended as general information, we aim to refer you on to various specialist organisations, where you will be able to find lots of specialist information and contact details. 

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. There are approximately 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

There are many famous people who are said to have had autism or autistic characteristics. Some of them are Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Bill Gates, Mark Twain, Van Gogh, Mozart and Andy Warhol. These are people recognised for being extraordinary and indeed genius' in their fields

The autistic spectrum

As every person with autism is different, displaying different traits, behaviours, a range of conditions (from autism to Asperger's syndrome) characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication, it is often described as a 'spectrum'.

Signs and characteristics

Every autistic person is different, and the signs and characteristics will vary widely, but there are 2 common characteristics:

  1. difficulties with social communication and interaction – autistic people may find it hard to join in conversations or make friends
  2. repetitive behaviour, routines and activities – such as fixed daily routines and repetitive body movements
Autistic people may also be under- or oversensitive to certain sounds, lights, colours and other things, known as sensory sensitivity.

These characteristics are present over time and have a noticeable effect on daily life. (Source.


People with autism can appear to behave unusually, this is often a way of coping with a situation or circumstance or it may be communication


Children with autism may need additional support with their education, wither by needing specialised education, mainstream education with support or home education. Find out more about education choices and getting help. The National Autistic Society provides lots of information and support on education issues including bullying, school absence and exclusion, homework, exams and transitions).

Sight loss and Autism

RNIB's Visual Impairment and Autism Project aimed to identify and share practice that supports the education of children who have visual impairment and autism.

RNIB, The National Autistic Society, Brookfields Specialist SEN school, and Sunfield collaborated to produce a resource to address these needs.

For more information visit RNIB's educaation pages.

Autism and RNIB Bookshare

Under the terms of the The Copyright and Related Rights (Marrakesh Treaty etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 , Autism is defined as a print disability. This means that a learner with Autism is entitled to use RNIB Bookshare to access the curriculum and leisure titles they want to read.

As a learner with Autism you may find it easier to use our accessible electronic files of titles you need on a tablet or other elctronic device. You can then listen to, or change how you view the text in terms of font colour and style and background. You could also modify the title to print out and read, whatever works best for you.

If you need any help in using the titles, please just get in contact with us.


Most people on the autism spectrum have difficulty interacting with others. They may have difficulty with initiating interactions, responding to others, or using interaction to show people things or to be sociable. Understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder.
Some autistic children are delayed in their use of language and some autistic adults don't use speech. In those cases, other methods of communication need to be established.
The person may appear not to hear what you say to them, not respond to their name, or appear indifferent to any attempts you make to communicate.
Communication tips (The National Autistic society)
(Source: The National Autistic society)

Using images to communicate

Tactile images can be a useful and alternative communication source for someone on the Autistic spectrum. The National Autistic Society has more to say about visual supports.
They can be used to communicate using basic symbols, calendars, events, feelings. Some of the tactile and large print images we have on RNIB Bookshare can be used for this purpose.

For more information, RNIB produced a research report on Exploring the need for accessible images for people with dyslexia.