Make Images Accessible - Make Them Speak: Tobi Version 1.7 Has Been Released

Technology for accessible publishing has gone through several phases of evolution since the birth of DAISY Consortium in 1996 enabling the print-disabled to achieve educational and professional goals that were considered nearly impossible for decades. The burden of accessible image preparation typically falls on educators who have limited time and tools for creating meaningful descriptions or accessible graphics. Students using text-based digital instructional materials are often presented with only the words "image" or "graphic" when the devices they use encounter illustrations, equations, graphics, photos or diagrams in textbooks.

In order to tackle one of the biggest obstacles for the visually challenged students pursuing studies in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), DIAGRAM Center was established by the U.S. Department of Education (Office of Special Education Programs).

The research conducted by DIAGRAM Center resulted in the development of a rich content model. In collaboration with the DIAGRAM Center, the DAISY Consortium developed image description workflow for Tobi, an open source multimedia production tool for creating accessible e-books. Tobi is the first production tool to support the full DIAGRAM content model. Image description workflow enables authors and publishers to describe diagrams in various ways. Descriptions can be long, succinct, simplified or alternative graphics. Besides the textual content describing the image, descriptions can be equipped with audio to make the images actually speak using either human voice recording or synthetic voice generated by text to speech engines.

Tobi also supports the insertion of alternative representations of images, including tactile graphics and/or simplified or high contrast versions, substituting the original image to accommodate readers with special needs. Users can embed image descriptions in new and existing DAISY books using the latest new feature and play them with their DAISY 3 supported player.

Tobi is designed to ease the process of synchronizing a text document with audio narration. "The greatest potential of Tobi is its simplicity – to be able to create synchronized content quickly and easily from a Word document and some handy tools for recording voice or importing audio files", says Craig Mill, Assistive Technology Advisor at CALL Scotland (Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning).

Please visit the Tobi project site (http://www.daisy.org/tobi) to download Tobi 1.7.2.0 with image description workflow. Existing users will receive the update automatically. Here you will also find the image description reference manual (http://www.daisy.org/tobi/image-description-manual) and quick start instructions (http://www.daisy.org/tobi/ImageDescriptionWorkflow) to get acquainted with the image description feature and watch the video tutorial.

Tobi development will now be focused on providing support for EPUB 3 specification in the release scheduled later this year.