Benetech Partners with United Arab Emirates to Bring Accessible Ebooks to Emiratis with Disabilities

By Laura Deck, posted on

UAE launches significant effort to provide educational opportunities and create a more inclusive society

Benetech, the leading software for social good nonprofit, has launched a partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai to provide the technology to help the UAE build a digital library for people with reading barriers like dyslexia, blindness, and physical disabilities. In addition to a growing collection of Arabic books, the new Dubai Audiobook Library will include the extensive Bookshare collection. Bookshare is the world’s largest digital library that makes reading easier with ebook formats in audio, audio + highlighted text, large text, and braille.

3 Emirati men and 2 women watch one man scan a book in the Dubai Audiobook Library

In 2016, the UAE established its first digital library, and this new initiative is part of a larger effort by the government to increase services to people with disabilities, thereby creating a more inclusive society. “Everyone deserves the right to access information, literature, vocational training and other educational materials in order to pursue job opportunities and fully integrate into society,” says Brad Turner, VP Global Education at Benetech. “This partnership with the UAE will establish a library of accessible ebooks in Arabic and English so that individuals with reading barriers can read in ways that work for them.”

The library initiative has three main goals. First, provide access to Bookshare’s entire collection of 450,000 ebooks available worldwide through a website in Arabic and English where qualified Emiratis can sign up for membership, search for and download books, and volunteer. Second, establish a program for volunteers who will scan and proof Arabic books to convert them into a format that people with reading barriers can use. Third, create a digital library containing the scanned books for qualified residents of the UAE that can be shared with other Marrakesh Treaty-ratifying countries.

While the UAE has many Arabic books, only a small fraction are accessible and available to individuals with visual impairments, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. Fortunately, the UAE is one of the growing list of countries that has ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, a global initiative to implement copyright exceptions for persons with disabilities and allow the import and export of titles to other ratifying countries. Bookshare is a steadily growing, global accessible library that offers direct-to-consumer books to members around the world, and will soon enable the sharing of books among Marrakesh-ratifying countries.

The Dubai Audiobook Library, powered by Bookshare, will manage its own collection of local language books submitted by volunteers as well as publisher-granted titles using Bookshare technology, storage, and engineering resources. As a Marrakesh-ratifying country, the UAE will have access to accessible ebooks in Bookshare contributed by other Marrakesh-ratifying countries, immediately increasing the UAE’s entire collection.

This initiative is part of Benetech’s larger mission to collaborate with other national libraries around the world to create a global accessible library, making even more books available – eventually over 1 million – expanding access to education and literacy to all individuals who read differently.

Learn more about Benetech’s innovative solution, in tandem with the Marrakesh Treaty, to bring accessible ebooks to people with disabilities around the world.