The 2020 Ideas That Motivate Our Work in The New Year

By Julianna Wright, posted on

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges with both new and heightened obstacles facing our communities on a global and local level. In the face of these challenges, we redoubled our commitment to empowering these communities through software for social good: helping people access information to read, learn and find employment, protecting the rights of themselves and others, and connecting people to critical human services. With hope for a brighter future, we reflect on the ideas from 2020 that we want to celebrate and carry with us as we enter 2021.  

Social Impact Requires Thoughtful Design 

“Good design starts with understanding people and their needs and then using creative exploration to identify different ways of solving the problem.” – Katie Dill, Benetech Board Member

Last March, we welcomed widely recognized design leader, Katie Dill, to the Benetech Board, achieving 50/50 gender parity and benefitting from her wealth of expertise in technology and design. Here, she shares her perspective on the power of thoughtfully designed software for social impact.  

Read Design Thinking for All: Interview with Benetech Board Member Katie Dill 

We Each Play a Role in Advancing Inclusion, Equity, and Justice 

“Inclusion benefits me and it benefits everybody else. A lot of what I’ve been fortunately able to do is work with people that are not just like me, but have different ways of doing things and thinking about things; we each play a role, and we each respect each other.” – Judy HeumannDisability Rights Activist

The high-profile launch of Netflix’s Crip Camp, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) brought increased public recognition of the disability rights movement. We revisited some of these moments and evaluated the urgent needs of the present with renowned disability rights leader and activist, Judy Heumann. 

Read An Interview with Disability Rights Activist Judy Heumann 

Disability Rights: We’ve Come a Long Way, But We’re Not There Yet 

We need to continue to push for increased employment protections under the ADA. It is not enough for people to be able to have a job. We should ensure people are able to get the accommodations they need to thrive in all sectors where their talents and work are needed and will edify the broader community. – Junia Howell, Ph.D. 

In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, Benetech invited members of the community to share their perspectives on the landmark legislation. Their comments celebrate the progress that has been made while recognizing the long journey ahead in the fight for equal rights for people with disabilities.   

Read Together We’ll Rise: Perspectives from the Benetech Community on the ADA 30th Anniversary 

The Social Safety Net is an Essential Service 

“The safety net was originally designed to be an insurance policy to help vulnerable citizens when they stumble occasionally and need help getting back on their feet. Over the decades it has become an essential service relied on by the nearly 42% of Americans who earn less than a living wage” – KP Naidu, VP Benetech Labs 

The health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to elevated demand for social and human services through government agencies, community-based organizations, and mutual aid groups. The strain on existing systems is accelerating demand for a better way to connect people to the essential services that they need to support themselves and their families. 

Read The Social Safety Net is an Essential Service 

From Classrooms to Couches, Learning Doesn’t Stop 

Bookshare has made my goals attainable and made it easier to pursue my education.” – Giridhar, an engineering student 

With school closures worldwide, many students have experienced interruptions in their education, and students with disabilities were even more at risk of being left behind. Despite these challenges, Bookshare users are reading and learning in ways that work for them through accessible software for social good. Read how Giridhar, a blind engineering student in Bangalore, India, leveraged Bookshare’s ebook library and Thorium screen reader to earn a bachelor of science degree with distinction during the global pandemic. 

Read Technology Puts Career Within Reach for Blind Engineering Student 

Software Can Be a Powerful Force for Good 

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