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Global Literacy

Photo of Jim Fruchterman shaking hands with data entry operators in a large room of computers.Photo of Benetech employee Rob Turner using an assistive technology device to listen to an ebook.Photo of a student listening to a Bookshare ebook being read out lout on a compeer screen.

Benetech’s Global Literacy Program

We live in a world dominated by the printed word, images and video. The information we read, share and use to learn is central to our everyday lives—We get our news or follow important issues using newspapers and websites. We study for exams or complete homework using textbooks and online libraries. We share what we read and contribute our experiences through social media, text messages and online forums.

Yet, there are millions of people that remain locked out of living fully in this kind of world. Why? Whether it’s because of economic issues, political or social norms or disabilities that prevent them from using most standard formats, some people simply lack the access they need to information that is critical to their lives.

Some people cannot see text or images. Some cannot physically turn the pages of a book. Many have learning disabilities, like dyslexia, and don’t perceive printed information the way it’s presented. Many people, such as those with developmental disabilities, have not been taught to read into adulthood because the expertise and cost required are seen as too high. This lack of access can have a profound effect on an individual’s education, employment, health and even their basic inclusion in society.

With so much at stake, it might be surprising that big advances in making information more accessible remained elusive over the years. While a number of respected non-profit and government organizations have been serving these needs for some time, it has often been without the use of the technology advances taking shape in the broader commercial market. Since the market of users in need wasn’t seen as big enough, with a big enough profit to be made, the private sector wasn’t actively working to understand their needs or pursue a solution.

Benetech’s Global Literacy Program was founded to address and change this. We address it by developing the technology that people with disabilities need today, while also catalyzing the systemic change necessary so that those special tools and services are no longer needed, by most users, tomorrow. We believe that addressing the barriers to accessibility on these two fronts can lead to the comprehensive change necessary in consumer technology, education, publishing and beyond. And we believe this benefit will accrue to all people—not just the richest or best represented.

We live in a world dominated by the printed word, images and video—and we believe it’s a world everyone should be part of. Together, we can open up new horizons for people with limited accessibility to literacy and, eventually, make these barriers to accessibility a thing of the past.

What We Do

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Interested in Learning More about Our Global Literacy Program?