Benetech's Top Stories of 2019

By Julianna Wright, posted on
Haben Girma receives a diploma. Junia Howell sits on a desk. A man walks between bunk beds in a shelter.

2019 was a year of many milestones for Benetech. We surpassed 15 million books delivered through Bookshare, piloted Benetech Service Net to increase access to social services in the Bay Area, named the first Global Certified Accessible publisher, and continued to advance the ethical use of software and artificial intelligence to promote human rights. In our work across education, poverty alleviation, and human rights, our community of users, partners, employees, and supporters have shared their perspectives on the power of software for social good. Below are our top five blogs of 2019 that highlight these impactful stories.

1. Expert Insights: Spotlight on Haben Girma

Haben Girma, the deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law, uses her personal journey and expertise to advocate for equal opportunities and inclusion for people with disabilities. We had the opportunity to interview Haben about her best-selling memoir, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Haben shares her insights with us on being deafblind, employment discrimination, the power of disability pride, and technological innovations that foster inclusion. Read Haben’s full interview.

2. Benetech Service Net Leverages Community Expertise to Tackle Sacramento Homelessness

Benetech user researcher, Alex Cabral, describes our work implementing a Benetech Service Net pilot in Sacramento. The blog reveals why a community-based approach is essential to developing software for social good: “Problems faced by the community as a whole require whole community collaboration to solve them.” Read Alex’s Blog.

3. I Haven’t Overcome My Dyslexia. I’m Harnessing It.

For Junia Howell, PhD, dyslexia is not something to overcome, but something to embrace, harness, and celebrate. In this guest post for the Benetech and Bookshare blogs, Howell shares how she uses technology and leverages her capabilities to achieve and lead as a sociologist and professor. Read Professor Junia Howell’s story.

4. The Complicated Intersection of Tech and Human Rights

Shabnam Mojtahedi is a lawyer focused on rule of law and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa region. At Benetech, she is leading efforts to apply artificial intelligence to help civil society organizations pursue justice and accountability in Syria and beyond. In this blog, Shabnam shares her perspective on the complicated intersection of technology and human rights. Read “The Complicated Intersection of Tech and Human Rights.”

5. Empowering People with Visual Impairments in Every Corner of the Philippines

Aggie Angeles is the Bookshare country manager in the Philippines, where she is leading a charge to create more learning opportunities for Filipinos who are blind or have other disabilities that affect reading. In this enlightening Q&A, she describes her work with community partners to increase access to books for Filipinos with reading barriers and her vision for expanding Bookshare to every corner of the Philippines. Read the Q&A about Bookshare in the Philippines.

What If?

Thank you for supporting Benetech in 2019. As we enter 2020, we invite you to contemplate the impact that technology has had on the world and ask “what if?”

What if all people could have information about human services in their region? What if all students could access the books that they need to learn and succeed in school? What if we could make it easier for human rights defenders to use digital evidence to pursue justice? Together we can make “what if?” happen.