In 2006, experts estimated that merely 5% of print materials worldwide were produced in formats accessible to those with print disabilities—people with visual impairments, physical disabilities and/or learning disabilities that prevent them from reading a printed book. Bookshare, in collaboration with education, technology, publishing, student, parent and volunteer communities, changed that reality by becoming the world’s largest online library of accessible books.
Today, when a person with a print disability requires a specific book for school or work, or they simply want to read a bestseller, they are likely to find it in Bookshare. Moreover, they can read that book in the format that best suits them, using a device of their choosing—from traditional assistive devices such as braille readers to mainstream technologies like MP3 players, smart phones and digital tablets. They can also use any of the tools built by Benetech, such as accessible readers for the iPhone and Android operating systems.
Within the U.S., Bookshare operates under an exception in copyright law that allows us to make accessible digital books legally available to any person with a qualifying disability. Current funding from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, enables us to provide Bookshare for free to all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities. We now serve over a quarter million members with a collection of over 200,000 titles (and growing). These titles are delivered as digital files and are available for download any time, day or night, in a variety of accessible formats.
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We believe that access to information is a universal human right—one critical to educational, economic and social development. That’s why Benetech is on a mission to bring the proven Bookshare model to people in need all around the world.
In 2008, we launched the Bookshare International initiative to begin accomplishing this big goal. Since then, it has grown to serve members in more than 40 countries, including many in the developing world. Bookshare International delivers relevant content, targeted toward the specific needs and interests of local users, in languages that include: Afrikaans, Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Polish, Spanish and Tamil.
Thanks to the cooperation and support of many leading publishers, Bookshare has been granted the rights to deliver close to 100,000 titles to people with print disabilities around the world. And with the recent adoption of an international treaty aimed at expanding access to books for people with print disabilities, especially across borders, we look forward to being able to provide all of our available titles.
Today, millions across the world living with print disabilities—potential engineers, scientists and teachers—are left behind because they don’t have access to the books they need. With Bookshare International, we can address this need and change the outcomes for these millions of people.
- Information about Bookshare International membership.
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