Benetech Launches “Accessible Books for Texas” with Funding from the Texas Education Agency

Project to Help Educators Use Accessible Instructional Materials with Students with Disabilities


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Valerie Chernek


March 14, 2011, Palo Alto, CA - Benetech today announced that it was recently awarded a contract with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct training and outreach on the benefits of accessible instructional materials (AIM) for K-12 students with disabilities in Texas and to ensure availability of AIM through a dedicated conversion effort on a specific set of adopted materials. Under the terms of the contract, Benetech will help K-12 educators in Texas gain a broader understanding of what digital accessible books are, how they can help students to succeed and how to obtain and use the accessible materials. Benetech has named this project Accessible Books for Texas (ABT).

For students with print disabilities, such as blindness/low vision or specific physical or learning disabilities, Texas educators will be guided to obtain digital accessible books from Bookshare, Benetech’s established online accessible library. Benetech will launch a completely separate service to provide digital books to students who qualify in Texas to receive accessible instructional materials but who do not qualify under the Chafee Amendment for membership in Bookshare.

“We’re thrilled that we can help more students in Texas benefit from accessible instructional materials and, as a result, help improve student outcomes,” said Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager of Benetech’s Literacy Program. “While our funding from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education allows us to support educators around the country, this contract with the TEA makes it possible for us to have dedicated personnel residing in Texas for intensive regional and district-level support.”

To carry out the work of this important new project, Benetech will contract with three Outreach Coordinators in Texas, each of whom will be assigned to a particular geographic region. These Outreach Coordinators will conduct trainings for educators at multiple Education Service Centers (ESCs) in their assigned geographic regions and will provide limited support directly to individual schools and districts.

In recognition of the need for local, “on the ground” guidance and support, Benetech will convene three advisory panels in Texas, one in each Outreach Coordinator’s geographic region.

About Benetech

Benetech is a nonprofit technology company based in Palo Alto, California. Benetech pursues projects with a strong social rather than financial rate of return on investment, harnessing open source technology to create innovative solutions to challenging social issues.

About Bookshare

Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, 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. In 2007, Bookshare received five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 97,000 books and serves more than 130,000 members.

About the Texas Education Agency

The mission of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is to provide leadership, guidance and resources to help schools meet the educational needs of all students. The TEA comprises the commissioner of education and agency staff. The TEA and the State Board of Education (SBOE) guide and monitor activities and programs related to public education in Texas. The SBOE consists of 15 elected members representing different regions of the state. One member is appointed chair by the governor.