Big Tech and Digital Inclusion: Bridging the Gap

By Benetech, posted on

Benetech hosts DAISY Consortium fall board meeting in Silicon Valley

The DAISY board sits in a conference room. A screen in the background shows google's hq,a street sign that says silicon valley, and the DAISY logo
Richard Orme, Chief Executive Officer of DAISY addresses the board as they prepare for meetings with big technology companies later in the week.

As a nonprofit technology company, Benetech serves as a bridge between Silicon Valley and the social sector. This week, we hosted the DAISY Consortium’s fall board meeting this year, seizing the opportunity to bring together representatives from some of the biggest tech companies and the DAISY Consortium’s board of international inclusion advocates. Working together, we can promote digital inclusion, and access to information for people of all abilities.

Who is DAISY?

DAISY is an international consortium comprised of members with reach into over 70 countries, dedicated to ensuring equal access to information. Founded in the late 1990s by libraries for people with disabilities that affect reading, the organization was created to lead the worldwide transition from analog to digital talking books.

Members today include major blindness organizations such as Vision Australia and the National Federation of the Blind, and major libraries of accessible books, such as Benetech’s Bookshare initiative and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. The group pools and coordinates resources to develop global solutions for accessible publishing and reading, working with governments, publishing and technology industry groups, standards bodies, and civil society.

Setting the Standard for Accessibility

DAISY leads the development of software used around the world in the creation, conversion, and validation of accessible publications. It develops and contributes to mainstream and specialist standards to improve accessibility for all readers. During the board meeting, the members reported on the progress of certain projects, such as a standard for braille music, and identified future areas of focus.

Establishing these accessibility standards ensure that people with reading barriers, such as blindness, dyslexia, or a physical disability that affects reading, all get the best possible reading experience. Bookshare users might recognize the name for the accessible DAISY file format that is an option for downloading Bookshare books. The organization established this file format in the late 1990s and continues to develop standards to share accessible materials today. For example, DAISY ACE, an accessibility checker developed in conjunction with Benetech, helps publishers know if the digital books that they’ve created are accessible for people with reading barriers.

Advocating for Innovations that Benefit All at Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft

Beyond reviewing the consortium’s current projects, the DAISY board met with representatives at Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Their technologies impact the daily lives of people across the globe, and that includes the one in seven people worldwide living with a disability. It is critical that their technologies be accessible for all users.

Technology companies are increasingly stepping up to the plate to make accessibility and inclusion a priority, and the technical expertise of the DAISY Consortium members can help them achieve these goals. The companies shared a preview of upcoming innovations, and the DAISY Consortium members presented on improving accessibility to ensure that the products can be used by all. Working together, we can advance technology that enables a more inclusive future.

Benetech would like to thank Google for hosting the DAISY Board meeting at their Sunnyvale campus, and commend all of the organizations that the DAISY board met with over the week for their commitment to working towards inclusive technology for all.

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