Benetech continues to provide critical support to students who benefit from accessible educational materials for learning
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Oct. 11, 2022 — Benetech, a global nonprofit focused on education equity, eliminating barriers to knowledge and providing opportunity for all learners, today announced a five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to expand and improve access to books for students who read and learn differently due to dyslexia, blindness, low vision, or a physical disability. This five-year award was granted for Benetech’s DREAM (Delivering Revolutionary Equitable and Accessible Materials) Center program which will focus on accessible educational materials including STEM content, as well as professional development opportunities for educators and community outreach to underserved groups.
“We must ensure all of our students have the tools and resources necessary to support a lifelong love of learning and academic fulfilment,” said Valerie C. Williams, Director, Office of Special Education Programs, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. “The absence of, or hard to obtain accessible content, can often limit success and impact social emotional learning for students who otherwise have a strong desire to learn and grow. Benetech’s DREAM Center aims to improve disparate educational experiences and outcomes while also supporting inclusion and equity to help all students shine and succeed.”
The continued support from the Department of Education to enable more equity in education through the DREAM Center is the exciting evolution of Benetech’s successful OSEP-funded Centers over the past 15 years. It includes Benetech’s Bookshare platform, the world’s leading online service for accessible ebooks and materials, along with outreach, training, and support. These services will remain free for all U.S. school districts, schools, educators, and their qualified students.
“Access to equitable education is a human right and a critical step on the path to economic, educational, and social fulfillment,” said Ayan Kishore, CEO, Benetech. “Today’s solutions must meet students where they are regardless of ability and support the hard work our teachers are doing to help level the playing field. Our initiatives help break down the systemic barriers in traditionally underserved communities that prevent students from reading, learning, and pursuing their dreams. Benetech’s ability to deliver impact at scale is made possible by philanthropy, government and corporate funding. We are grateful for the support from the US Department of Education to continue delivering and expanding personalized reading and learning experiences to all students.”
Bookshare has delivered over 20 million books to learners and is used in schools and districts across the United States, ranging from the largest urban districts such as Los Angeles Unified School District and New York Public Schools, to small, rural districts in all 50 states. Students can access the collection which contains over 1 million titles, and their classroom reading assignments through tablets, laptops, mobile devices and other assistive technology, supporting lifelong learning. Teachers can utilize these resources to create instantly inclusive classrooms with equitable access to academic and non-academic content.
“The accessibility of Bookshare has enabled students with varying disabilities, including visual and hearing impaired, to access modified materials and participate in the learning environment at the same rate as their unimpaired peers,” said Marcie Davis, Teacher of the Visually Impaired in Memphis Tennessee. “The students have also been able to access books for pleasure reading and we all know that a love of reading renews your energy and elevates your mood. I have worked closely with Benetech’s Bookshare initiative and share the commitment to creating and supporting accessible content for people with disabilities. Benetech’s leadership in building a broad community of technologists, educators, researchers, policy makers, students, parents, publishers, and other stakeholders has been vital to advancing the field of accessibility.”
Benetech also recently announced the Bookshare Reader Suite, a set of free tools aimed at increasing equity in access to reading and learning for people with reading barriers, especially those who do not have regular access to the internet, or time and resources to invest in supplemental assistive technology. The suite includes applications for Smart Speaker, Web and Mobile.
Benetech believes that equitable access to education is a human right. Our technology and services break down systemic barriers and empower all learners regardless of ability. Around the world, we partner with local communities to expand inclusive and equitable education opportunities. To date we have delivered more than 20 million accessible books helping over 1.5 million students, jobseekers, and adults to read, learn, and pursue their dreams. Visit www.benetech.org.