Bookshare, the world’s largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for individuals with print disabilities, has reached two major milestones in its work to bring reading equality to disadvantaged populations.
First, Bookshare’s collection now surpasses a quarter of a million titles, thanks to the sheer dedication of volunteers around the world and partnerships with more than 500 publishers who donate their digital files. Titles range from vocational to research to teacher-recommended reading. Popular titles are available from publishers like Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Wiley, and others, as well as more than 14,000 textbooks.
Second, the library now serves well over 300,000 members with qualified print disabilities; the majority are U.S. students with visual impairments, physical disabilities, and severe learning disabilities like dyslexia. U.S. K–12 and postsecondary Student Memberships are no cost, thanks to awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. These awards also helped Bookshare provide free reading technologies and apps for members to read digital accessible eBooks in a variety of formats, including DAISY Text, DAISY Audio, Braille Ready Format, and MP3. Additionally, Bookshare has formed partnerships with Wounded Warriors and VetSuccess.org to provide library memberships for qualified Veterans.
Jim Fruchterman, a MacArthur Fellow, technology entrepreneur, and former rocket scientist, founded Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit organization. His goal in creating Bookshare was a digital library that would give blind users the freedom to read independently, be more easily included in society, and to strengthen educational and employment opportunities. “These milestones represent a giant leap forward in the number of students and individuals we serve,” said Mr. Fruchterman. “And, with the collection expanding daily, we can ensure equal access to the books our users need for education, employment, and social inclusion.”
Bookshare is led by Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program. Ms. Beaumon has vast experience as a senior technology executive and social entrepreneur. “It’s a privilege to know that we’re making a major, positive impact toward reading equality with titles that touch so many people, interests, and needs,” she said. “We celebrate these milestones with members, students, and their teachers, as well as partners and publishers, universities and schools, our staff, advocates, and volunteers who all work together to make this mission possible.”
Bookshare (www.bookshare.org) is the world’s largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility issues so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. The library is a global literacy initiative of Benetech, a Silicon Valley nonprofit technology company that develops software tools and services to address pressing social needs.
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The content of this press release was developed under a cooperative agreement, H327D110004, with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.