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July 21, 2010

Benetech, with the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media and the U.S. Fund for DAISY, Receives $5 Million Award to Transform Production of Accessible Images

U.S. Department of Education Award Establishes Center for Research and Development of Methods and Tools to Make Non-Text Content Accessible


Valerie C. Chernek, Bookshare - 410-871-2670,
Ann Harrison, Benetech - 415-637-5262,

March 3rd, 2010, Palo Alto, CA – The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), awarded $5 million to Benetech, in collaboration with The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH and the U.S. Fund for DAISY (USFDAISY), to create a research and development center that will greatly improve the processes and availability of accessible images for students with disabilities.

The new Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials Center (DIAGRAM) will develop tools and best practices that will make it easier and more cost-effective to create and use accessible images across a range of educational content.

"Together, we are committed to creating tools and best practices that anyone can use to make graphical content more accessible and widely available," says Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare. "Educators and students with print disabilities will have unprecedented opportunities to use devices and software to make access to image and graphical content a reality in educational materials."

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) calls for timely access to educational materials; through projects such as Benetech’s Bookshare for Education, access to text has greatly increased. Yet, educational materials include a wide array of other types of content. The burden of accessible image preparation typically falls on educators, who have limited time and tools to create useful descriptions or accessible graphics for students. Too often, students using text-based accessible instructional materials (AIM) are presented with only the words "image" or "graphic" when the devices they use to read digital text encounter illustrations, equations, graphics, photos or diagrams in textbooks.

“With such a wide array of media becoming more popular, it’s more important than ever to foster collaboration and innovation by encouraging nonprofit and commercial enterprises to work together to solve this problem,” said George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and head of the U.S. Fund for DAISY.

Through rigorous research and testing, over the five year period of this award, the DIAGRAM center will help create a set of tools for producers of accessible instructional materials, such as publishers and state and local education agencies, to expand the field of image description and interactive exploration of graphical content.

“As an early pioneer with years of experience in the challenges of image and media accessibility, NCAM believes the collaboration of these three partners will have a profound impact on the education of students with print disabilities,” said Larry Goldberg, WGBH's Director of Media Access, who oversees NCAM. Learn more about NCAM's role in the DIAGRAM project.

Each of the DIAGRAM center partners has led technology initiatives that fundamentally changed how people with visual and other print disabilities experience and interact with all forms of media, from the DAISY standard to the Bookshare library to NCAM’s work on image descriptions. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.

About Benetech

Benetech is a nonprofit technology development organization based on Silicon Valley. Benetech specifically pursues endeavors with a strong social, rather than financial, rate of return on investment, bringing open source technology and private sector management techniques to bear in creating innovative, non-traditional solutions to challenging social issues. One of Benetech’s initiatives is Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million 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 70,000 books and serves more than 80,000 members.

About NCAM and WGBH

The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. NCAM is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH, which also includes The Caption Center (est. 1972), and Descriptive Video Service (est. 1990). For more information, visit the NCAM Web site.

About the U.S. Fund for DAISY

The US Fund for DAISY was established in 2005 to provide financial support and administer U.S. based projects and grants for the DAISY Consortium in accordance with the mission, vision and values of the DAISY Consortium. The DAISY Consortium was formed in May 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books. DAISY denotes the Digital Accessible Information System. Members of the Consortium actively promote the DAISY Standard for Digital Talking Books because it promises to revolutionize the reading experience for people who have print disabilities. The Consortium's vision is to ensure that all published information is available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format. The DAISY Consortium has established its mission and goals in order to make this vision a reality.