Co-authored by Ray Myers, Ed.D., Office of Educational Technology and
Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager, Benetech Literacy Program
The Office of Educational Technology (OET) in the U.S. Department of Education has been an integral part of the International Education Week (IEW) sponsored by the Departments of Education and State beginning in November 2000, www.iew.state.gov. Now with expanded access to web-based social media resources, there are many more ways for individuals and organizations to participate in IEW activities across the globe during this week. In this year’s celebration over the week of November 12 – 16, 2012, we are joining with Bookshare, an accessible online library funded by the Department’s Office of Special Education Programs, in an effort to reach out to all parties involved in empowering learners of all ages who have print disabilities.
In most of the world, fewer than five percent of the books needed by people with print disabilities are available in accessible formats such as digital text or digital Braille, and in developing countries that total is far lower. Leveraging the investment from the Department of Education, Bookshare not only serves over 200,000 qualified students in the US, but its innovative technology and significant library of accessible content also benefit students with print disabilities worldwide. Bookshare members can read books on tools that work for them—from smart phone apps to standard mobile phones to computers to electronic braille devices. These innovations and advances can bring possibilities to people who have previously been denied opportunities for education, employment, and social inclusion. Working with diverse international partners, including libraries, schools, and NGOs, Bookshare now serves people in more than 40 countries. Bookshare strives to end the “book famine” faced by people with print disabilities around the world.
Through the use of social media identified on the IEW website (#IEW2012, Facebook-InternationalEdWeek) as well as other available collaborative tools, we would like to engage in, and encourage the sharing of knowledge around the power of technology to transform the lives of individuals with print disabilities.