A note from Jim Fruchterman, CEO and Founder of Benetech, the parent nonprofit of Bookshare. This post originally appeared on the Benetech site on October 27, 2014.
Zach Bryant loves reading non-fiction. This wasn’t always the case, though. Zach has Cerebral Palsy, which causes movement and coordination problems, and which keeps him from speaking and walking. To communicate his thoughts, he uses an alternative augmentative communication device. Tasks like turning a printed page are difficult for him, which makes reading standard print discouraging. According to his mom, this experience is common to children with Cerebral Palsy. “They get frustrated and don’t want to read,” she says, “but access to digital books and reading technologies changed all that for Zach.”
The change happened when Zach was in high school and his Assistive Technology teacher introduced him to Benetech’s Bookshare library. With Bookshare’s accessible ebooks and reading tools, Zach made a successful transition to college. When our team last caught up with him, he was a busy student at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, rejoicing in his ability to read independently and reach his full potential. “Without Bookshare, my academic life would have been much harder for me and my caregivers,” he said. “It’s amazing that I can find most books I want in the Bookshare collection, even post-secondary textbooks, and no one has to scan them for me. I don’t wait for my books for new classes; I search the library and find them myself.”
Zach’s encounter with accessible ebooks is but one example of how Benetech empowers people who often face difficult challenges and whose needs are neglected. Our software tools change the ways in which individuals with disabilities can effectively read; enable frontline human rights defenders to safely document abuse; and support environmental practitioners in their efforts to protect species and ecosystems.
Our work is made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. To continue to provide our services, and to explore new ways in which targeted technological applications could address unmet needs of disadvantaged communities, we definitely need your help.
Please join us in the Skoll Foundation’ssecond annual Skoll Social Entrepreneurs Challenge —a fundraising campaign committed to strengthening the capacity of organizations like ours to accelerate impact on some of the most critical issues of our time.
Hosted on the Crowdrise platform, the Challenge launched on October 27 and runs through December 5th. We are competing against other participating organizations—and racing against the clock—to raise funds and secure matching funding from the Skoll Foundation. We build our tech-for-good products and reach dollar-by-dollar, and therefore every gift makes a difference for the people we serve. Now, with the Skoll Foundation’s matching support, your gift will have far more impact!
You can help now! Please visit Benetech’s Challenge campaign and give whatever you can. Here are some examples of what we can accomplish with your contribution:
- Empower more individuals with disabilities to have equal opportunity to succeed in school, employment, and society;
- Embolden defenders of human rights in their fight against injustice and abuse;
- Match highly skilled tech volunteers with humanitarian organizations to deliver better services around the world;
- Strengthen Latin American clean water organizations to more effectively deliver clean drinking water to communities in need.
Join us, and together we can realize the potential of technology to make the world a better place for everyone. Thank you for your support!