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2010 – A Tremendous Year

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2010 has been a tremendous year for the Literacy Program at Benetech.  We’ve enjoyed working with all of our members, sponsors, partners, volunteers and funders, and we have much to celebrate together.  Thank you for your support in achieving our mission!

Bookshare passed a number of major milestones this year:

  • We are now serving over 120,000 people with print disabilities;
  • Our US members now have access to over 95,000 books and periodicals;
  • Users downloaded over 800,000 books in 2010;
  • Under our Bookshare for Education (B4E) project, we passed our 5 year goal of adding 100,000 student members in under 3 years.

Books! Our library has expanded by 50% this year – we added a record number of books (over 30,000!) across all genres.  As always, our committed volunteers, partners and staff have made it possible to download a wealth of reading materials and textbooks in an increasingly timely fashion.  This year our meteoric growth has been propelled by our relationships with over 100 generous publishers, who have donated their titles to Bookshare, increasingly providing digital files that reduce our costs and speed availability.  This means more and more new titles, such as bestsellers Cleopatra and Mockingjay, are released to Bookshare at the exact same time as to commercial eBook readers and book stores.

Great partners! In addition to new publisher partners such as Simon & Schuster, Wiley & Sons, Cambridge University Press, Merriam-Webster and The World Bank, and our 26 college and university partners who provide scanned textbooks, we continue to work with a group of highly committed social enterprises.  Better World Books, Digital Divide Data, Worth Trust, TransAccess, Samasource and Daproim insured that throughout 2010 we were helping to change lives even while processing our books.  The dollars we spend with these organizations are also employing people with disabilities, providing computer-based job skills in developing countries and supporting other global literacy programs.

Global impact! It’s great to be able to touch so many lives in communities across the globe.  In 2010 Bookshare International added or expanded partnerships in Australia, Qatar, Ghana, Denmark, Canada and Norway.  Depending on the country, our members outside the US have access to as many as 25,000 books and growing.  We also significantly grew our impact in India, now serving over 1000 people, partnering with 10 colleges and universities, 21 publishers and offering books in Hindi and Tamil.

Back to school! Back in the US, B4E is helping students achieve their educational goals.  During the year we profiled many students, including Steffon Middleton and Jessica Pinto, who have experienced amazing transformations in their school work–some say they were finally able to keep up with their assignments and others reported dramatic improvement in their grades.   This year we asked teachers and schools to send in textbooks they needed (they sent stacks) and added full text search capabilities that improve research.  We also launched a Mentor teacher program to further harness the power of community that makes Bookshare a truly special place.

Seniors, Vets and more! In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act we offered a free trial membership to qualified individuals and over 220 people participated. We began to work with the Vets-to-Vets program within the CA Community Colleges and are thrilled to be able to assist any and all qualified veterans with access to reading materials.  We have also recruited volunteers to focus specifically on outreach to veterans, seniors and other individuals, to spread the word about Bookshare to even more people who could benefit from the service.

Volunteers! In addition to all of the above, our fabulous volunteers added image descriptions this year to approved Open Textbooks, performed financial analyses, wrote code, beta tested product and talked up what we do all over the place.  Their dedication is amazing.

DIAGRAM – In 2010, we kicked-off the DIAGRAM (Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials) Center. The goal of DIAGRAM is to dramatically impact the field of image and graphical materials for students with print disabilities. We’ll work to achieve more effective and lower cost production and reading solutions through the development and dissemination of tools, standards, and guidelines.  Benetech is working in partnership with NCAM and the US Fund for DAISY as well as strong, technology-focused advisors from across K-12, higher ed, service providers and technology companies.

Come visit! This year we launched the public website (www.diagramcenter.org).  The website includes the results of our ongoing analysis of the current state of DTB authoring and reading tools, under Research. In order to harness the best ideas and develop the most relevant tools to improve access to image descriptions, tactile graphics and other accessible graphical content, we will incorporate more community tools to reach out to the broader assistive technology and accessible materials communities.

In closing, thank you to all of our supporters – funders, partners and volunteers – for making our Literacy solutions what they are, were and will be!   Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a glimpse of what they will be in 2011, including a number of new things in response to your requests.

All of us involved with the Literacy Program here at Benetech wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year. May peace fill your heart, kindness fill your world, and joy fill your days.

Betsy Beaumon

 

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