Far Reaching Award Makes Equal Access to Educational Materials for the Disabled a Reality
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Benetech’s® Bookshare® project $32 million over five years to significantly expand the availability of accessible electronic books and the software for reading those books.
Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible library of scanned books and periodicals. Working with state and local education agencies, schools, teachers and students, Bookshare will give all K-12, postsecondary and graduate students in the United States with qualifying print disabilities access to this library without charge.
The funding for this project was authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and was awarded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. According to OSEP, the purpose of the award is to provide free educational materials, including textbooks, in accessible media for use by students with visual impairments and other print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools and in postsecondary and graduate schools.
The award will allow Benetech to add more than 100,000 new educational books to the existing Bookshare collection of over 34,000 titles. Bookshare will coordinate with state education agencies, schools and publishers to deliver the best quality content possible and lower costs to help meet their shared obligation to serve every qualified disabled student in the nation. The project expects to make extensive use of textbook files provided by publishers in the recently mandated National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), to create high quality student-ready materials in digital audio, large print or Braille.
“We are going to reach out to every student, every family with a disabled student, and every school in the U.S. to offer them a chance to join the Bookshare community for free and transform the practice of making books accessible,” said Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. “We expect to deliver millions of books to students through this new program over the next five years, using our very cost-effective online production and delivery systems.”
Bookshare is an online community that allows people with print disabilities to legally download books and periodicals to be read as Braille, large print or synthetic speech. Those with print disabilities include people who are blind, those with low vision, severe dyslexia or a mobility impairment that prevents them from reading a traditional printed book.
Benetech is a Palo Alto, California-based nonprofit organization that builds software and provides technology for people with disabilities and for human rights and environmental groups. Benetech combines social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise to develop technology that has a lasting impact on critical needs around the world.