The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - January 2009

From The Editor

A new year brings new plans for the future and restored energy to meet new and existing challenges, regardless of where we live and whether it brings sunshine and warmth, or cold and snow. The year is young, and already DAISY developments and activities are well underway. The DAISY Planet will provide you with up to date details on these as the year progresses. News on the DAISY homepage is another useful source for regular DAISY-related updates (there is also an RSS feed option for those who want the news sent to them).

The article Daisy 3: A Standard for Accessible Multimedia Books by Dennis Leas, Emilia Persoon, Neil Soiffer, and Michael Zacherle is featured in this issue of the Planet. When you have a bit of quiet time, this article is well worth reading - both for those who are new to DAISY and those who have a good understanding of what it is and what it does.

Earlier this month an article about Dr. T.V. Raman, who is the DAISY Consortium's technical contact with Google, was published in The New York Times. Raman is introduced as a pioneer in customizing technology for blind users. The article For the Blind, Technology Does What a Guide Dog Can't (online at illustrates Raman's commitment to information access and access technology.

HumanWare has published a list of DAISY and other accessible content resources. Many of the inquiries we receive ask specifically about what content sources are available. Please see the article Resource List for Online Content in this issue of the DAISY Planet.

The place to be this September will be Leipzig Germany. Information and links are provided in the article DAISY 2009 Technical Conference.

Many people are awaiting news about the next release of Save As DAISY from Microsoft. Please see Tech Tips in this issue of the DAISY Planet.

Your Story this month is a little different from our previous Stories. I think those who were not involved with DAISY in the very early days will find it both interesting and informative. Thanks to Mr. Moto Kaneko, President and CEO of Shinano Kenshi for sharing this with us.

2009 is already shaping up to be an exciting and challenging year for those of us in the DAISY community. Are we up to the challenges? Yes, I'm sure we are!

DAISY Marketplace

The following links are to new or recently updated DAISY Products and Services from our Members and Friends. Marketplace entries also appear on our home page.

The following links are to new or recently updated DAISY Products and Services from our Members and Friends. Marketplace entries also appear on our home page.

The DAISY Marketplace

Guidelines for Describing STEM Images

A How To Guide

Example of science textbook diagram that would require description; it is an image of the main features of the plasmasphere An image is not worth a thousand words if you cannot see it to extract the information. Image description has been one of the greatest challenges for organizations and individuals committed to providing all of the information published in textbooks. Guidelines for Describing STEM Images is the result of a collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The focus of the project has been to develop comprehensive guidelines for the description of non-textual science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) content for post-secondary students and individuals in science-related careers who have vision loss.

The collaborative WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) project brought together researchers and experts from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), scientist and former NSF program officer Lawrence Scadden and George Kerscher, Secretary General for the DAISY Consortium, to develop research-based guidelines that will provide direction for the effective transcription of descriptions for non-textual science content in future digital talking books (DTBs).

The project conducted two rounds of a Web-based Delphi survey with 30 participants who were describers or students/scientists with vision loss, in order to find consensus among experts on approaches to the description of STEM charts, graphics, tables, and other non-textual content. The final phase of the project was a 60 person end-user survey which evaluated the practices suggested by the two rounds of the Delphi survey. There was a great deal of agreement regarding the clarity and efficiency of the descriptions corroborating the results of the Delphi surveys.

The nine keys to effective description as defined and explained in the Guidelines for Describing STEM Images are:

  1. Brevity
  2. Data (description should focus on the data and not extraneous visual elements)
  3. Clarity (if the reader needs to listen to a description several times because it is poorly written or is presented in a confusing manner, then the overall goal has not been achieved)
  4. Drill-Down Organization (also known as overview followed by detail)
  5. Tables (tables, pie charts and bar charts should be presented as tables, not as narrative description)
  6. Processes (as presented in flow charts, for example, converted into nested lists)
  7. Mathematics (should be marked up with MathML; the Web site will include an extended discussion about providing access to math in DTBs)
  8. Narrative Description
  9. Navigation Control (description presented as text provides speedy and independent access to data that is unavailable through traditional linear, narrative description)

The Guidelines are in the final editing stage and will be available online from WGBH's main Project page the first week of February. As soon as they are posted the link to the guidelines will be included on the project page. As an added feature many examples of how to implement the Guidelines for specific types of images will be provided.

Editor's Note: The image used in this article is courtesy of Windows to the Universe, Information about the Guidelines and the collaborative efforts of those involved in their development has been provided by Bryan Gould of the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media. It is important to note that the approaches used in image descriptions should always be geared to the learning level of the target audience. The Guidelines for Describing STEM Images have been developed specifically with the reading and information needs of post-secondary students and professionals in science and science-related fields.

Resource List for Online Content

HumanWare Shares Compiled Links

HumanWare logoThe January 28 issue of Stream Newswire from HumanWare includes a link to their new Download Resource Page. Although the list of content resource links was developed specifically with Victor Stream users in mind, there are sources for DAISY books and other accessible content that will be of interest to everyone who reads DAISY books. The list of links includes sources for DAISY, MP3 and e-book formatted books, music, radio program archives, podcasts and other online content. Information is divided into sections for English, French, and German download sources and links to DAISY Full Member Libraries and the DAISY homepage are also included.

Daisy 3: A Standard for Accessible Multimedia Books

In the last quarter of 2008, four members of the MathML in DAISY working group wrote a most informative article which was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Daisy 3: A Standard for Accessible Multimedia Books by Dennis Leas, Emilia Persoon, Neil Soiffer, and Michael Zacherle is comprehensive and provides an excellent overview of DAISY, as described in the authors' abstract:
The DAISY format is a widely adopted format for representing accessible content. This paper gives an overview of DAISY. It describes the history of DAISY books, what a DAISY book looks like on the inside and on the outside, and how DAISY books are created. The paper is a general overview, but there is an emphasis on how math relates to each of the topics. The paper concludes with reports about what readers think about using DAISY books.

Daisy 3: A Standard for Accessible Multimedia Books has now been posted on the Design Science website.

DAISY 2009 Technical Conference

The Place to be in September

DAISY conference logoThe German Central Library for the Blind will host DAISY2009 an event week in the book and media city of Leipzig, from September 21 to 27. The week will begin with a German-language Conference Barrier-free Preparation of Documents. A DAISY User Forum and Presentation of Adaptive Technology is scheduled for September 23, and as user forums are not often included in DAISY conferences, this session is sure to draw a large audience. The 2009 DAISY Technical Conference will be held September 24 and 25. This is expected to be the largest DAISY Conference of the year. The Call for Papers will be posted today (January 30) on the Conference website.

Dolphin Computer Access Seeking Beta Testers

Dolphin logo Dolphin Computer Access Ltd., long-time Friend of the DAISY Consortium, is actively recruiting new beta testers for its complete range of independence-delivering accessible format software solutions. In particular, they are looking to recruit testers for EasyReader - Dolphin's DAISY digital talking book software player, and EasyConverter - Dolphin's complete toolkit for producing a wide variety of accessible formats including DAISY, large print and braille.

If you are interested in applying to become a Beta tester for Dolphin's accessible format software solutions please send an email to

Letters to the Editor

The article DAISY SA Launched in Johannesburg in the December issue of the DAISY Planet reminds people of the cultural diversity in South Africa, and the role that DAISY-SA can play with regards to language preservation of ethnic minorities, thanks to multimedia (text, audio, image and later video).

However one thing I noticed in the article was The text source of this manual has been translated from English into the ten South African official languages. Xhosa is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa.

The click sounds of the Xhosa language may sound very different to those of us who do not speak the language. I've found two You Tube videos that demonstrate these sounds (I'm sure there are many more). The first is a quick summary and the second is nice step-by-step lesson. Information about the languages of South Africa is available on the Web site. DAISY has potential for uniting people.

Editor's Note: You are indeed correct Daniel, there are 11 official languages, and that is actually what was intended by the sentence you quoted. The word other has been added to the article so that it now reads from English into the other ten South African official languages. English is one of the eleven official languages. Thank you for pointing this out, and for sending the links. Fascinating!

Daniel Weck, Software Architect



I am looking at options for my father to get audio books. Do you have a list of items that can be downloaded onto a DAISY player or is it any mp3 file from any website? What about books from Bookshare?


Many Thanks,   
L.S. (USA)

Dear L.S.

Audio books in MP3 format are available from many online sources as well as from many bookstores and libraries. for example, has an entire section on audio books. Most, if not all, DAISY players will play MP3 audio books. However, although they will play MP3 books, the navigation features provided by DAISY books are not present in MP3 books even when they are played on a DAISY player.

The Library of Congress National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the U.S. offers library services to U.S. citizens who have a print or other physical disability which prevents them from reading standard print publications. They have begun distribution of DAISY books to their library members. (Please note that they do not refer to their digital talking books as DAISY books.) NLS provides a player which plays DAISY books and other audio formats to their members at no cost. Information about this service and a link to their Web site are on the DAISY site on the NLS DAISY Member page.

Services similar to this are provided by organizations in many countries around the world (most provide services to residents in their respective countries only). A complete list of these organizations which are Members of the DAISY Consortium is provided in the DAISY membership area of the DAISY Web site. books are not audio books; they are text only DAISY books that can be read with DAISY players that have built in text-to-speech capability.