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Beneficent Technology Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Human Services, International, International Human Rights, Libraries

Mission: Benetech develops innovative and effective technology applications for unmet social needs.

Results: * Global Literacy: Bookshare.org is the world's largest accessible digital library of copyrighted materials for people with print disabilities. As of January 2015, Bookshare serves more than 330,000 members with a collection of over 320,000 accessible ebooks. See more at: http://benetech.org/our-programs/literacy/impact-case-studies/. * Human Rights: Our Martus software has been downloaded by thousands of users from 60+ countries. Collectively, the Martus user community has secured hundreds of thousands of narrative accounts of human rights violations (that we know of). Our Human Rights Field Team has trained hundreds of groups and individuals, in over 40 countries, on how to use Martus to help capture these stories and, more broadly, on information management, digital safety and documentation best practices. See more at: http://benetech.org/our-programs/human-rights/impact-case-studies/.

Target demographics: people with disabilities; human rights actors, journalists, and civil society organizations; environmental professionals; and social enterprises.

Direct beneficiaries per year: more than 330,000 members with print disabilities and learning differences (the majority of whom are U.S. students); human rights activists and groups around the world.

Geographic areas served: worldwide

Programs: • Benetech’s Global Literacy Program: extends technology tools and services that provide access to information for people who have disabilities that prevent them from using standard print, such as those with visual impairments, like blindness; learning differences, like dyslexia; or physical disabilities, like cerebral palsy. • Benetech’s Human Rights Program: provides secure, open information management and data collection technology for rights defenders, activists, journalists, and civil society practitioners. • Benetech’s Environment Program: explores technology solutions to help communities address sustainability challenges. • Benetech Labs: develops new product ideas for social enterprise technology applications .

Community Stories

13 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

John216

Client Served

Rating: 5

Bookshare has been invaluable in providing access for me to Braille books. My life has been made richer and more satisfying because of their work, and I will always be grateful for the good that they have accomplished.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For many years I have been a volunteer for Bookshare.org, a subsidiary of Benetech.org. Boookshare.org. provides access to books, newspapers and magazines to people who are unable to read print material due to blindess, dyslexia or physical problems that makes holding something to read impossible; volunteers scan books or proofread scans of books and then submit their work to bookshare, which converts the end product into accessible formats, e.g., Braille, Daisy, et al -- the formats made possible by benetech.org. I highly recommend bookshare.org as a fun and useful volunteer effort for any retiree (such as I) or any one with a little spare time who feels comfortable using a computer to read and proofread books; an advantage is that your volunteer work can be done from your home at anytime of day or night that is convenient for you. Go to bookshare.org to see how to become a volunteer
Also, I recommend that anyone who cannot read print go to the bookshare.org site and see how to become a member and benefit from the organization

Robbi C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This non profit exceeds our expectations. Benetech and staff work on issues from digital book access which allows our son to read into the night and at school, to human rights issues around the globe. The staff is dedicated to consistent improvement and does tremendous legislative work to better the lives of the individuals it serves. The deeper you dig into the workings of this non profit the more impressed you will be.

Lori86

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Bookshare has been instrumental in helping my son obtain books that he can read or have read to him. He is Dyslexic and reads slower, skips words, and changes words when reading. Bookshare has helped him enjoy many books that he would not have read. Thank you for all you do! You are a true blessing!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Benetech through their Bookshare program makes hundreds of thousands of books available in formats that blind, visually impaired and dyslexic students can access in order to read and learn. These books are also available to other blind people to read for pleasure. Having access to one's nation's literature opens you up to your own culture. People who can read the latest books, are connected to everyone else reading and enjoying that same book. This is so important for children so they do not become isolated from other children in school who have the latest blockbuster book (like the Harry Potter series) to read and they don't have an accessible version. Bookshare is free for those with disabilities, which is so immensely helpful, giving them a level playing field with those who get to go to the library or book store to buy regular books. Benetech will spread this technology and service all around the world so that other print-disabled people will have access to books as well. This will open up countless opportunities for millions of people globally; the ripple effect of this wonderful humanitarian gesture cannot be adequately measured.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Bookshare is an incredible organization that provides hundreds of thousands of accessible books to individuals with print disabilities. I have seen so many people benefit from the service this organization provides. My son is a high school senior with severe dyslexia. He receives all of his textbooks from Bookshare which gives him equal access and allows him to participate fully in classes along side his non-disabled peer. I also have relatives who are blind who benefit from Bookshare. Bookshare books have many features that are valuable to people with print disabilities. For sighted users, the text is highlighted while being read aloud, so the reader can follow along. This allows for greater retention for many users who benefit from seeing the text. The pace of the reading can also be increased or decreased to accommodate different readers and reading ability.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

Benetech's mission is "Technology Serving Humanity". This organization has several global outreach programs. The Bookshare online accessible library (eBooks and textbooks) supports tens of thousands of U.S. students with qualified print disabilities to get their books on time to study alongside their peers. Equal access to learning and opportunities to feel independent empower many children who, otherwise, would be lost. Good job!

Soliloquy

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I'm a quadriplegic due to neuromuscular disease, and a user of and volunteer for BookShare.

You can't imagine how happy I was to learn about Bookshare several years ago. I'd always been an avid reader, but the progression of my neuromuscular disease to my arms made reading difficult. A book stand helped for a while, but finally I had to ask others to turn pages for me. It became a burden to my family and caregivers to constantly drop what they were doing to turn a page, so I began seeking out ebooks. Few were available at that time, and I had trouble with the ones that were; they'd often be in a format that didn't work and play well with my voice recognition software.

Suddenly I had thousands upon thousands of books available to me, at a price I could afford, in a format I could read independently. And the best part? I could request books not already in the collection, and sometimes my wish would be granted. I began a reading binge that lasted a couple of years. Many were books I already had on my shelves, gathering dust because I couldn't pick them up.

Eventually I heard the call for volunteers, and decided to help BookShare clear out their queue of scanned books waiting to be proofread. Optical character recognition can only do so much; the software is thrown for a loop by everything from decorative fonts to images and completely flummoxed by columns, pull quotes, and tables. I vowed to bring each book that passed through my metaphorical hands up to the standard that a student writing a term paper would need, which is sometimes dry detailed work. (Oh, the war stories I could share of proofreading Mutual Funds for Dummies.) But I truly enjoy carefully reading a book, correcting any mistakes I see, as it gives me the opportunity to learn in depth about a subject I may never have given much thought to before.

The next step for Bookshare will be to expand their membership and volunteer pool, while developing their own ebook application so that all can enjoy a good book.

To paraphrase literary hero Miles Vorkosigan, access to books must never be abridged!

Valerie M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We are members and volunteers for Bookshare and laud Benetech for all they do on a grass roots effort to change the way we mobilize change. Bookshare allows my family to read digital books and add new titles to the ever growing collection. It is a privilege to be associated with such a wonderful organization that promotes accessible reading and literacy!

20

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I joined Bookshare in October, 2007, and have really enjoyed it. There are a number of books unavailable through the National Library Service, (NLS), and, even when they are available there, it is wonderful to be able to read books immediately, since they’re never out due to circulation to others, and there is no necessity to wait until they can be sent from a previously prepared list. The NLS reader advisors do a superb job, but since they are working with a limited number of physical books, there is often a waiting period before one can read a specific book. Especially in the case of previously read books that just seem to beckon to one for another look, the mood to read them has usually passed by the time they arrive. Since one can download books as they’re wanted, it is easier to read books in a series in sequence, too. The diversity of titles is also astounding. One can find several books on almost any subject. If a specific title in any of those subjects isn’t available, a wish list exists, and, chances are someone will find it and submit it. There is appropriate material for all ages. Furthermore, Bookshare’s policy of rating material protects children and young readers from gaining access to adult books. However, my favorite thing about this organization is the fact that I can contribute to it as well as take from it. To me, one of the greatest pleasures I can experience is to share books I really like with others. While there is already a large collection available on the site, I still have more books I want to contribute than there is time to do it in!

19

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I first visited Bookshare’s website (which makes digital books accessible to people with disabilities) in 2003 to locate a book which I was unable to find anywhere else. Since then, my husband Larry and I (who are both totally blind) have accumulated a large library which we either save to our computer or to a portable device, enabling us to read books not only at home but on the go as well. We both also enjoy adding books to Bookshare’s collection – Larry scans them with our Optibook 3600 scanner, while I correct scanning errors (to the best of my ability, sometimes a tedious task) before adding them to the library. Joining Bookshare has enabled us to read not only familiar authors but to acquaint ourselves with new authors whose works we have never experienced before. No matter how many books we submit, we both receive such pleasure when we receive the email notice that our book has joined the other books to explore. Though there are several sources from which we can obtain books, often Bookshare is the first organization to make them available. Over the last five years, we have also made several friends and assisted volunteers in learning the process required to submit their books to Bookshare. The collection is diverse and has provided us many hours of wonderful and informative reading!

20

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group is committed to the use of human rights statistics to fight impunity. I have known its director, Patrick Ball, since 1995, when we worked together in Haiti’s Truth Commission. He is a master at defying conventional wisdom with the power of numbers, dismissing claims often used for political purposes, and finding patterns when none is clear to the random eye. In Haiti, he demonstrated a pattern of increased violence during key political events faced by the military junta. Since then, he has worked in practically every truth commission created. In the case of former Yugoslavia, his work was groundbreaking: for the first time, a method used in natural sciences was applied to estimate the number of total human rights violations based on records from several databases. Ball’s book “Who did what to whom” is compulsory reading for all of us working in the human rights field. I am now supporting the Data Group’s in Colombia where it is working in helping improve the quality of governmental and non-governmental human rights databases. Jim Fruchterman, Benetech’s founder and winner of the MacArthur award, is a man dedicated to putting science to good use. His pet project is BookShare, a digital library for people with disabilities. In conclusion, two inspiring men have joined together to make of Benetech a stimulating institution, which has earned its motto of “science for humanity”.

19

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Benetech has greatly contributed to introduce scientific debate into the baseline discussions regarding human rights violations in Colombia. Through professional advisory services and long-term training programs Benetech has sought to ensure a sustainable intervention in the Colombian human rights community and has tried to guarantee installed capacity within local NGOs to conduct complex analysis. One direct benefit of Benetech’s intervention in Colombia has been the process of translation of sophisticated data programming and statistical analysis to a non-technical audience. This audience – mostly human rights workers – is now able to conduct an informed discussion regarding assertions that can and cannot be made with the type of data analysis that is being conducted. The “numbers debate” around human rights violations in Colombia is highly politicized and full of assertions that do not have technical backing. Benetech’s focus has facilitated the promotion of internal and public debate oriented at producing a better account of what is and what is not happening in terms of human rights violations. Moreover, partnerships established with NGOs and official entities have permitted a deeper analysis of the data that is produced, primarily through the conduction of comparative statistical exercises. The debates regarding the numbers has not ceased and is not likely to finish any time soon, but Benetech’s technical products have quietly become reference points for the international and academic communities in the country.