Benetech is pleased to announce that it has been selected by Google.org as one of twenty-nine nonprofits to receive funding to increase access to opportunity and independence for hundreds of millions living with disabilities around the world. Launched in May of 2015, the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities put $20 million in Google.org grants behind nonprofits using emerging technologies to increase independence for people living with disabilities. This program aims to scale impact through technology and extends funding to “entrepreneurial nonprofits to bring innovative tech ideas to life and test their potential for scale.”
“The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities set out to accelerate the use of technology to create meaningful change in the lives of the one billion people in the world with a disability,” says Brigitte Gosselink, Head of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. “We’re eager to watch as today’s winners, selected from over 1,000 submissions from around the world, build new solutions that will transform lives and make the world more accessible for all.”
Benetech is on a mission to make literacy accessible to all. The World Blind Union estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by individuals who are blind or have low vision. This lack of access to traditional printed materials also affects people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities like dyslexia. This situation worsens for people in the developing world and for non-English speakers with disabilities. To date, a patchwork approach has been taken to increase the amount of books that are accessible to people with disabilities; however, a huge gap in access to timely and high quality books persists.
With the Google.org funding, Benetech will expand Bookshare’s collection of 400,000 digital, accessible books internationally to include local language books in target countries, making them available through schools, public libraries, local governments, and disability service providers. Benetech is working with the DAISY Consortium, a global partnership of organizations committed to creating and promoting reading systems that ensure the best possible reading experience for everyone, on the “born accessible” initiative that helps publishers and content creators build accessibility into books when they are first created.
“We are thrilled to have Google’s support in this project that will help make books accessible to all, regardless of disability,” says Brad Turner, Vice President of Global Literacy at Benetech. “This grant allows us to expand Bookshare’s reach to underserved communities around the world and remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from reading and learning.”
The thirty-month project aims to implement Bookshare and conduct teacher training in target expansion regions: sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East, North America, Europe, and Oceania. In addition, the project team will expand the availability of quality content to 27,000 schools and libraries globally. Another goal is to add 80,000 books to the existing 400,000 book collection, including local language books, such as Hindi or Marathi, in accessible formats.
Additional project phases include the enhancement of Bookshare’s functionality to improve content distribution – “white label” Bookshare – to meet the language and cultural needs of local communities. The project team plans to establish a network of public and private partnerships to expand educational opportunities for individuals living with disabilities in local communities.