One-line solution summary:
A simple way to make reading on screen more inclusive and accessible
Pitch your solution.
Reading is a challenge for millions of people with dyslexia, ADHD, and vision impairments. More than ever before, the digital economy makes strong reading ability a prerequisite for success. People who struggle with reading face long odds when seeking jobs or promotions in this new economy.
Our technology helps level the playing field. We have developed a new way to display text on screen that uses a simple but powerful trick: instead of using plain black text, we use subtle color gradients that pull the reader's eyes through the text. This assists visual tracking, enabling many people with disabilities to read with unprecedented fluency.
Our approach is uniquely scalable because it works in every human language and can be easily integrated into existing education and reading platforms. Through these integrations, we are empowering people with disabilities and enabling them to reach their potential.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
Literacy experts estimate that 800 million people around the world are functionally illiterate. Many millions of these people are affected by disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or vision impairment, which together affect over 25% of the population.
Reading ability is critically important in the modern economy. In decades and centuries past, there were many jobs that didn't involve reading at all. As a result, it wasn't a problem that a significant portion of people were born with dyslexia, ADHD, or other neurodiversities that make reading challenging. These people simply worked in jobs where reading ability was not a factor.
But in the modern economy, many more jobs (including all of the highest-paid jobs) require the ability to read fluently. We need to ensure that all people are able to thrive in this environment—and that means that we need to ensure that neurodiversity and reading-related disabilities are not impediments to success
Importantly, our technology is also helpful (and widely used) among neurotypical skilled readers. We enable employees to work more efficiently and effectively, especially as they are spending more time on-screen during COVID-induced work-from-home.
What is your solution?
We have developed a new way to display text that makes reading on screen more efficient and more accessible. We sell this technology via our own tools, and we also license our patents to nonprofits and education platforms.
How It Works
Our technology is conceptually simple and intuitive, which makes it easy for anyone to use. Instead of displaying text in black, we use a subtle color gradient, which helps pull the reader's eyes through the text. The color gradient wraps from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, improving visual tracking and making the reading process easier for people of all reading abilities.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Although our technology is used by even highly skilled readers (we have a site license with Stanford, among other elite universities), the most important user base for BeeLine Reader is people with reading-related disabilities.
Even in the disability world, this group is often overlooked because of their "invisible disability." Most of these individuals have one or more of: dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and vision impairments (especially binocular vision problems, which are frequently misdiagnosed as dyslexia).
We correspond daily with people in these communities to ensure that we understand their challenges, listen to their feedback, and consider the ways that we can better serve them. We also work with parents of students with disabilities, special education teachers, medical doctors, optometrists, and other experts who can help us as we serve these communities.
Thanks to input from these communities we have introduced new features, simplified our onboarding process, and learned of new communities (e.g., survivors of traumatic brain injuries, who often have visual tracking issues when reading).
Our technology offers transformative benefits for people in these communities. Many of these people have struggled to read for years or even decades. Our simple tweak allows them to read like never before, and with zero learning curve.
The reason our approach is so effective is that visual tracking problems are one of the most common challenges for people with reading-related disabilities. Our approach provides an effective, elegant, and intuitive solution that eliminates this challenge and enables easier reading.
Which dimension of the Digital Workforce Challenge does your solution most closely address?Provide more equitable access to the digital workforce for all, including those lacking connectivity, those who are differently abled, and those with undervalued talents
Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.
We help people of all abilities succeed in the digital economy. Our technology directly empowers people with many common disabilities to read more easily. Our users include workers at Facebook, Intuit, and Google, who use our tools to help them overcome disabilities and perform critical job functions with ease.
We are able to help employees—and the companies they work for—through our easily-integrated technology that improves accessibility. And because our technology is also helpful for neurotypical employees, we can improve productivity across the board.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Menlo Park, CA, USA
Is your solution already being implemented in one or more of the following ServiceNow locations (Australia/New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, United States), or are you planning to expand your solution to one or more of these countries?
My solution is already being implemented in one or more of these ServiceNow locations
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.
We have two lines of business, both of which are currently in-market and growing.
Our consumer tools have been adopted by world-class universities like Stanford, as well as by individual readers around the world. These tools have been used to read hundreds of millions of pages in over 60 languages.
At the same time, our licensing business is also growing; BeeLine Reader has been adopted by leading accessibility and education platforms like Blackboard and Bookshare. These high-margin deals have allowed us to reach profitability and have also generated significant interest among our licensees' competitors, who are now looking to include our technology in their own platforms. Our technology licensing business is growing quickly, both in terms of revenue and impact.
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the ServiceNow US Racial Equity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.
No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if ServiceNow is specifically interested in my solution/I do not qualify for this prize
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new technology
What makes your solution innovative?
The process of reading has scarcely changed in the last 500 years. We re-imagine how the reading process could look, with an eye toward disability inclusion. Like many innovations, our idea seems almost obvious in hindsight. It is intuitive, and it helps people with little to no learning curve. There are many impactful ideas in the world, and many simple ideas; our idea lies at the intersection of incredible impact and supreme simplicity.
Our impact is multi-layered. We have direct impacts, such as enabling people with disabilities to study and work more effectively. At the same time, we also have indirect impacts. Our technology opens the door for people with many common learning disabilities to pursue careers in reading-intensive fields, such as medicine or law. These fields will benefit from having neurodiverse individuals, who can bring their unique perspectives and abilities.
We can also work with other innovators in disability inclusion. Our technology can interoperate with any software platform, which allows us to partner with others, instead of competing for attention or users. Our goal is to work collaboratively to enable and workers in any way we can.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Our technology is embodied by software that applies a line-wrapping color gradient to text. The key to this color gradient is that it creates color continuity across line transitions, which assist with visual tracking and make reading easier. The gradients are arranged so that every line begins with the color that ended the prior line, and so that no two consecutive lines begin with the same color. This ensures that when the reader moves her eyes from the right side of the page to the left, there is only one nearby line with the appropriately-colored text.
Provide evidence that this technology works. Please cite your sources.
Our technology has been adopted by leading accessibility nonprofits like Bookshare, which hosts the world's largest accessible ebook library. Bookshare does not regularly adopt technologies into their platform, but they have adopted our technology, which they found to be useful for a wide range of the individuals with disabilities who use their platform.
We have also been adopted by education platforms like Blackboard, which has adopted BeeLine as a new alternative download format in their accessibility suite. We are integrated into many other education platforms, including Reading Is Fundamental's digital literacy platform.
BeeLine Reader has also won awards for disability inclusion and social impact from the United Nations Foundation (at the UN Solutions Summit), Stanford University (Stanford BASES Social Impact Award), and The Tech Museum of Innovation (Education Laureate).
Lastly, BeeLine has been studied by educators and education non-profits, and these studies have found significant benefits for a wide range of readers—especially readers with reading-related disabilities. All of these studies were designed and carried out by independent third parties, and none of the studies was compensated by BeeLine. These studies found benefits for reading fluency, reading comprehension, and reading enjoyment.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Does this technology introduce any risks? How are you addressing or mitigating these risks in your solution?
We have been careful to implement our technology in a way that respects user privacy and does not create security risks. Although we are regularly approached by advertising networks or other shadier actors who are looking to leverage the reach of our tools, we steadfastly refuse to compromise on our ethics. We do not use or share user data in any way, and we have specifically designed our tools to not even gather many types of user data that other companies might monetize. We believe that user privacy is paramount, and it is an important part of our ethos to respect this.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
We currently serve around 150,000 people per year. Within one year, we expect to have launched several new partnerships, which will bring us to 250,000 people. Within five years, we expect to have launched dozens of large-scale partnerships, will will put our reach in the 5-10 million range. If it is financially feasible, we will also have lowered the cost (possibly to zero) of our consumer tools, which would allow us to reach millions more.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and -- importantly -- how will you achieve them?
We are focused on replicating our success in partnerships, which allows us rapidly scale our impact. Over the last four years, we have steadily grown our partnerships from smaller platforms to ones that serve over 10 million people. We are currently in talks with companies that are even larger—including Fortune 50 companies that we hope to launch with in the next 24 months. Partnerships like these will allow us to reach tens or hundreds of millions of people around the world. Critically, these partnerships would enable free access for end users, which will remove barriers and increase usage among lower-income populations.
Our growing success in partnerships gives us confidence that we will continue to grow by leaps and bounds in this area; we are now receiving more inbound inquiries than ever before, and every new partner serves to raise awareness about our technology even further.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
We look to the number of people served, the number of countries reached, and the number of people who receive free access to our technology via our partners. These indicators allow us to track impact in a directional way, without requiring invasive user tracking, which we do not employ.
What type of organization is your solution team?
For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people work on your solution team?
1 full-time founder, 3 additional part-time contractor
How long have you been working on your solution?
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
We are a scrappy team who understand our users and who are savvy about creating partnerships. Our combined skill set has allowed us to create software for iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and other platforms. In addition to our software skills, our CEO is able to drive our partnerships forward. He previously worked as a lawyer in an international law firm, based in Silicon Valley. This experience allows him to quickly and cost-effectively negotiate licensing agreements with partner companies, including very large organizations. Our technical and business backgrounds give us the ability to grow quickly and increase our impact, even with a surprisingly small team.
What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?
We are a diverse group, who have lived in the US, Africa, and Europe. We have diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, and we have had men and women on our team in various capacities. We are small and nimble, and we understand the value of having diverse perspectives. We have also hired users—including those with relevant disabilities—as interns.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Organizations (B2B)
Why are you applying to the 2021 Digital Workforce Challenge?
We think outside the box, and we want to join this community of like-minded individuals whom we can work with as we are all building toward a better tomorrow. We are specifically interested in working with ServiceNow, an organization that can help us grow as we make digital jobs more accessible to people with common disabilities (and make employees of all types more efficient in their digital work).
Prior to applying, we deeply researched ServiceNow and even spoke with a former colleague, who was selected for a ServiceNow award last year. She raved about how helpful the ServiceNow team was for her organization and indicated that there are many ways that BeeLine Reader's mission overlaps with the type of work that ServiceNow does.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please provide an overview of your current activities in those locations.
We have users in all of the ServiceNow regions, via our B2C tools. People use these tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently, and to break down accessibility barriers in the workforce and in education. Our tools work in any language, which is why we are able to serve so many different parts of the world.
Our technology is also available via our partners, who operate in many of these regions to improve education and digital accessibility.
Please explain in more detail here.
We have achieved success building partnerships in the education sector, and we are now expanding into the business sector. We know that employees use our B2C tools, and our next step is to create B2B partnerships so that our technology can be made available natively to employees within proprietary platforms.
In order to accelerate our growth in this area, we need assistance (1) understanding how accessibility/inclusion-related procurement processes play out within large organizations and (2) connecting with organizations with a demonstrated interest in accessibility/disability inclusion.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
First and foremost, we are interested in partnering with ServiceNow, to enhance their platforms that involve large amounts of textual material (training, document management, etc.).
Working directly with ServiceNow would both improve the accessibility of its own platforms, as well as provide an opportunity for us to reach ServiceNow's customers, who may be interested in integrating our technology into their proprietary platforms.
Because our technology can be applied to any text-heavy platform, we are interested in connecting with organizations across a wide range of industries, including consulting, medicine, and finance. Any job or platform that involves large amounts of on-screen reading is one that we can enhance!
By working with ServiceNow and its customers, we can grow our impact and make digital platforms more accessible for people with common disabilities (and more efficient for everyone, regardless of ability).
Nick Lum BeeLine Reader