Do you like to read?
The World Health Organization estimates that there are thirty-nine million people in the world who are blind, and two hundred forty six million who have low vision. That is a lot of people who must rely on other gifts as they explore and interact with the world.
Just imagine, for a moment, that you are one of that two hundred forty-six million people for whom accessing the information and ideas that can be found in books often requires extra effort. SIL LEAD is thrilled to have been announced as one of two winners of a challenge designed to give people who are blind or have low vision the tools they need.
Launched in October 2017, the Book Boost: Access for All Challenge was a direct response to the shortage of quality books in accessible formats for children who are blind, have low vision, or experience other disabilities that impact their use of printed materials. One of the major barriers to increasing access to accessible reading materials is the cost and complexity associated with creating new materials that are “born accessible,” as well as retrofitting existing books into accessible formats, a standard practice in the current production process.
“Access to quality reading materials is a prerequisite to achieving literacy early in life, but the current process to develop accessible reading materials is costly and inefficient, both of which discourage publishers from producing such materials,” said Deborah Backus, World Vision’s Senior Program Manager for All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD). “SIL LEAD has identified a promising solution to this challenge, and we are excited about the potential their innovation has to increase the global supply of books for children who need them.”
As one of two finalists, SIL LEAD’s winning solution will further enhance Bloom software which streamlines the process for speakers of underserved languages to create new books or translate existing books into their language. Bloom, developed by SIL International, was also enhanced as a part of the process of ACR GCD’s Enabling Writers competition in 2016. New enhancements will include the addition of accessibility features and system support services, creating an online dashboard system to track title use, training materials, and a Bloom library website that meets accessibility standards.
“The enhanced Bloom software, known as Bloom Enterprise, will be the tool of choice for creating quality accessible titles for local communities and large international corporations alike,” said Henk Prenger, business development consultant for SIL LEAD. “It will be by far the most cost-effective and easy to use solution available. We’re excited to offer this new capability and reach even more readers in underserved language communities.”
One great aspect of this opportunity for us here at SIL LEAD is that it has allowed us to once again reflect on the gifts that we have. For many of us, yes, this includes a full complement of physical senses. But for all of us there is the love of books, and our work in expanding literacy. It’s not just about books, though; it’s what books can bring to the hearts and minds of people in communities all over the world—people who might not otherwise get the chance.
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