The Sigma Tau Delta Mission Statement focuses on fostering literacy. This mission is displayed regularly in our commitment to scholarship and service at the chapter level. With over 900 active chapters, the impact of Sigma Tau Delta and our members on this mission is near constant. Student Leadership focuses on that societal mission—promoting literacy to all—which is why we chose Benetech as the focus for this year’s service project. This year’s project goes beyond simply promoting and spreading literacy; it focuses on assisting in increasing accessibility to literacy for people with disabilities across the nation.
Who is Benetech?
Benetech is a corporation that has “a pure focus on developing software for social good.” They work in four areas: education, human rights, environment, and poverty. Student Leadership intends to focus on education and the accessibility Benetech brings to others in terms of literacy. The Bookshare program at Benetech provides accessible ebooks for people with disabilities. It is, as stated on Benetech’s site, “The world’s largest library of ebooks for people with disabilities, delivering over 550,000 titles to more than a half million people in over 70 countries around the world.” Impact like that is hard to ignore.
Though many of us participate in programs that promote literacy for the abled, “more than ninety percent of books and published materials cannot be read by people with disabilities.” That is a large gap with a need to be filled, and Benetech seeks to close the gap using universal, inclusive software.
Benetech provides Bookshare as a free program to qualifying applicants; the program boasts over 600,000 titles that can be read and accessed. The company works beyond an individual level—working with teachers and libraries so that their software is available to as many people as possible. Sigma Tau Delta is an international society, and Benetech works around the world, they work to ensure they not only improve literacy accessibility for people in North America, but overseas as well.
Check out Brian’s story to read about how Bookshare changes people with disabilities’ lives.
What can we do?
Due to Benetech providing their Bookshare services for free to participants, teachers, libraries, and international organizations, costs surrounding translation, labor, and technology are involved; which is where our donations come in. As a society, if we can commit to a goal of raising $3,000, we can help increase the amount of texts available to people with disabilities and improve the software that those with access currently have.
Our contributions can work to make our local communities, our states, our country, and the world a more connected and more literate place; a place where no one will be denied access to literature based on ability.
The Student Leadership challenge is for each chapter to raise $150, if you can go above and beyond, that is even better—that is one more person with vision impairments, dyslexia, macular degeneration, or another disability who is gaining access to literature through your efforts. There will be two checkpoints in the fundraising process: the first in December and the second in March at the Sigma Tau Delta 2019 International Convention in St. Louis, MO. All money raised will be recorded by Sigma Tau Delta, listed by chapter, and presented to Benetech in a single payment. Please do not send money directly to Benetech. Details for the donation process will be outlined at the beginning of the fall semester.
We look forward to seeing our chapters spreading the love of literacy and inclusion to all. Benetech shows us that nothing can stop us from learning, nothing will stop us from growing, and literacy and literature is meant for everyone—of all abilities.