Make Bookshare Better
On October 11th, 2022, Benetech announced a new award for an estimated $45 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education to provide accessible educational materials to students with disabilities.
We the undersigned, based on our expertise and experience, believe Benetech needs to make immediate and substantial improvements in the quality of accessibility of the books they provide to students with disabilities through Bookshare.org. These books are often missing (or have incorrectly placed) page numbers, have incomplete or missing charts, graphs, and tables, and exhibit other accessibility flaws (such as poorly formatted braille output), which must be corrected before they can be used by students. Remediating poor quality books into student-ready ones is time-consuming work that should be done by Bookshare using grant funding, not by service providers or students.
We respectfully request the Department of Education direct Benetech to take the following steps as soon as possible to address these problems:
- Bookshare's website should show the complete accessibility metadata for every book in their catalog, including all accessibility issues and problems, such as missing page numbers, incomplete graphs and tables, inaccessible STEM content, and any other issues that would prevent the book from being ready to be used by students.
- Bookshare should provide a system for users to request books with accessibility flaws to be remediated by Bookshare as rapidly as possible, with full progress tracking, estimated times for completion, and notifications.
- Books that are in high-demand by students, or anticipated to be so, should be proactively identified and remediated by Bookshare so that they are ready for immediate student use.
The Department of Education and Benetech know Bookshare should represent the 'gold standard' for accessible educational materials, but too often it falls well short of that goal. We hope they will take this opportunity to reflect on how they can improve this valuable program to better serve all students, including those with disabilities.