For Benetech, knowledge is a fundamental human right.

Brad TurnerImagine a world without media – a place where written text, photographs, sound recordings, video and film all lie out of reach. You may think that, in 2017, there is no such vicinity. But think again.

The world of media and particularly digital media as omnipresent as air yet millions across the globe live shut out from it. Some cannot see. Many have learning and developmental challenges. Addressing these and other barriers to information access is often considered too costly or too difficult, either by governments or by technology companies.

Palo Alto-based Benetech is a nonprofit with a single focus on developing technology for social good. According to Brad Turner, Benetech Vice President, the company’s Global Literacy Program builds tools that make it possible for people with limited accessibility to reach the information they need to change and improve their lives.

“At Benetech, we believe that knowledge is a fundamental human right,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “So Bookshare is our way of trying to get information to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it, because these are the people who are really the most left out.”

The world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks, Benetech’s Bookshare means qualifying individuals with a print disability such a blindness, low vision, or dyslexia can read a book in the format that best suits them, using a device of their choosing—from traditional assistive devices such as braille readers to mainstream technologies like MP3 players, smart phones and digital tablets.

In addition to availability in the U.S., Bookshare International delivers relevant content, targeted toward the specific needs and interests of local users, in languages that include Afrikaans, Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Polish, Spanish and Tamil.

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