Inclusive Access to Information: More Important Now Than Ever Before

By Benetech, posted on

We believe in the power of technology to connect communities and empower people with access to information. As many communities around the world are taking steps to address the COVID-19 crisis, everyday life has been disrupted. The challenge of these disruptions is significant for many, impacting education, employment, health, and social connection. As we navigate these challenges, inclusive access to information is even more important. Here’s how Benetech is supporting our users and communities with software for social good in this uncertain time.

Supporting Remote Learning During COVID-19 School Disruptions

As learning shifts from classroom to home, Benetech supports educators, students, and parents as they adapt to this new situation. Access to books can help ensure that students continue learning even though they may not get the same level of in-classroom support that they are accustomed to receiving. Our Learning At Home guide has resources for teachers and parents to support their students, and get them the books they need.

For Students with Reading Barriers

For students who may need more direct support because of learning differences, this disruption can be even more problematic. How do teachers support students they cannot interact with in person? How does a parent who may not support a child’s learning on a regular basis now act as a special education teacher, assistive technology specialist, or teacher for the visually impaired? Accessing books through Bookshare allows students with reading barriers to read on their own and learn independently.

In the United States, Benetech’s Bookshare initiative offers free access to over 800,000 ebooks for students with reading barriers, such as dyslexia, blindness, and cerebral palsy in accessible formats including audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, and large font. Using virtually any device, students can read textbooks, educational materials, bestsellers, young adult, and children’s titles online, or download the books for offline reading. For students with reading barriers in other countries, Bookshare also has hundreds of thousands of books in many languages.

For All Learners

Bookshare has nearly ten thousand ebooks in English and Spanish that are freely available for anyone to read. The Bookshare team has curated collections of high-quality chapter books, children’s books, and books to learn a new skill or hobby. Many online libraries, publishers, and tech companies are making their resources available during school closures, and we are continually updating this list of other ebook sources to help all students access the books they need to learn.

Towards a More Equitable Future

We believe in a future where all people are empowered through software for social good. Benetech staff is continuing to work safely and remotely on software innovations that advance inclusion, equity, and justice across the globe. We are fortunate that our organization has been able to use technology to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 related disruptions for our team and our work; however, the benefits of this technology do not reach everyone, and crises such as the current situation exacerbate the existing inequities that we are working to address. In this unprecedented time, it is even more crucial that we continue to push forward developing software solutions that enable inclusive access to information for all.