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Showing posts from November, 2009

Bookshare to Convert Open Content Textbooks to Accessible Formats

Just spent a week in Washington DC doing all kinds of things, including actual lobbying (it's fun!) as well as meeting with our Bookshare funders at the Department of Education. One of the coolest meetings was with Under Secretary of Education, Martha Kanter, who headed our local community college here in California before getting the appointment. She and her senior policy adviser, Hal Plotkin, are huge fans of Open Educational Resources (OERs), having been involved in starting that movement in community colleges.

Our new announcement about the Department granting Bookshare supplemental funding to convert open content textbooks to accessible formats went over very well. We're promising to do highly accessible versions of 80 open content textbooks. There's even a quote from Governor Schwarzenegger in the press release!

Accessibility is a huge asset of open content materials, which are frequently released under the Creative Commons licenses and are freely distributable…

Accessibility and ACTA

Brief Comments on Accessibility Concerns on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

The disability community should be concerned about ACTA for two reasons:

1. At its core it’s an anti-piracy agreement. The digital measures designed to defeat piracy usually end up equating accessibility with piracy.

2. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated in secret. We don’t know if it’s benign or hostile to accessibility.Accessibility of digital media has been repeatedly and systematically denied because of digital measures to “protect” content. People with disabilities are repeatedly left out in the cold because accessibility concerns don’t rank high on tech company priority lists. A great (bad) example is Adobe, one of the leading ebook technology vendors, who just introduced their Digital Editions. Unfortunately, although accessibility was in the prior Adobe product, the Digital Rights Management (DRM) of Digital Editions locks out print disabled people.

The in…

Eulogy for my father

Three weeks ago was my Dad's memorial service. A few times a year, I share something outside of the tech enterprise field on the Beneblog.

The Definition of a GentlemanEulogy for James R. Fruchterman, Sr. When my brother Bill was leaving to join the Army, our father took him aside and asked him to write down a quotation. Ever resourceful, Bill grabbed one of dad’s business cards and wrote out the following quotation:
It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. Cardinal Newman.Bill still has that business card.

Newman’s message, and Dad’s, was that a gentleman was always aware of his impact on others. Our Dad was always aware of his impact on others. That was my dad!

He inspired us, he inspired each one of his children, by his example, by the people and pursuits he loved, to keep our impact on other people in mind. Of all the many ways he inspired us, six really stood out for Dad’s six children when we talked about it.

First, he inspired us wi…

Disabled Students Need Accessible Books: On Huffpo!

The Huffington Post recently invited me to become a guest blogger, based on a connection to Arianna Huffington from the Craigslist Nonprofit Boot Camp. HuffPo recently published my first post, Disabled Students Need Accessible Books. It's great to be able to bring this kind of attention to our work at Bookshare helping students with print disabilities.

Training Human Rights Defenders in the DRC

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A Guest Beneblog by Vijaya Tripathi, Vijaya.T at Benetech.org

In my job as outreach coordinator for Martus, Benetech’s free and open source information management technology, I teach human rights workers in many countries how to secure their data.

I have just completed two 2-day trainings of human rights NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During my visit, I also had an opportunity to meet staff members at the United Nations Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC).

The Benetech Human Rights Program was invited to conduct these trainings by the International Center for Transitional Justice which assists countries pursuing accountability for mass atrocities or human rights abuses.

Martus is a secure software application designed to gather, organize and back up human rights information. It allows human rights defenders to create a searchable and encrypted database of sensitive information from witnesses and victims - and back this data up remotely to their choice of publi…

BYU ESR conference on Social Entrepreneurship

I just got back from the Economic Self-Reliance Conference at Brigham Young University in Utah. When I attend conferences to give a keynote, I usually try to stick around for more of the conference and listen in to the other presenters. This practice was especially awarded at the ESR conference.

David Wiley's keynote was on the social returns from a new venture he helped create, Flat World Knowledge. His projection was that students were going to save more money on textbooks after three semesters of Flat World operations than investors had put into it. Not the typical SROI calculation, but the dramatic point was that Flat World is making impact the center piece of their foray into Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs are the open source equivalent of open source software. My biggest concern about OERs has been that few people developing them have been measuring the impact: they celebrate the creation of the open content textbook or coursework, but don't collect the inf…

My Latest President's Update

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Two or three times a year, I publish a president's update for Benetech. This latest one spotlights the many great interns, associates and fellows that are or were working for Benetech over this summer and into this year.

Summer 2009Our growth over the last year has been so phenomenal that I wanted to use this summer update to highlight some of the great people working for Benetech: our interns, summer associates and fellows. Each one of these terrific people has committed to spending anywhere from a month to a year helping Benetech with his or her skills and passion. Here are some of their stories:

Aleda SchafferA student at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, Aleda Schaffer has worked as an American Sign Language Interpreter in Washington, DC, Alaska and Boston. She joined Benetech so she could learn more about Bookshare and how it is making books and periodicals more accessible to people with print disabilities. She also loves the fact that Benetech is ba…

National Family Literacy Day

This Sunday while you're finishing off the Halloween candy, think about doing something for National Family Literacy Day. For Bookshare members, that can be as simple as downloading a new book from Bookshare, or sharing one you already have. The idea behind the day, sponsored by the National Center for Family Literacy is to promote family literacy. Sunday, really, is just another reminder that every day can be literacy day. And, we want to make sure every kid has equal access to the joys of reading!

It's a well established fact that reading with your kids helps give them a lifelong love of books, for instance. So, put down the remote control -- and shut down the game consoles and set aside a few moments to read with a family member, a friend, a student -- or just by yourself. Then please share your experience on Bookshare's Facebook page. We're also sharing some of our favorite reads on Bookshare. So please come and join all the discussions. Happy reading!