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AMIS 3.1, the DAISY Consortium open source software program for reading DAISY books, was released December 19, 2009. AMIS is an acronym for Adaptive Multimedia Information System. The changes in this release are:
AMIS is available at no charge and can be downloaded from the AMIS Project page on the DAISY website. It is available in English, and language packs are available for Chinese, Tamil, Australian English, French, Afrikaans, Norwegian (Bokmål), Norwegian (Nynorsk) and Icelandic. As additional language packs are developed they will be added to the list provided on the page AMIS in Different Languages.
My name is Ilana and I'm from Israel. I'm a student [with vision disability] studying for my M.A. at the Open University of Israel. I'm using AMIS software to read DAISY books, but there is a problem with the display of Hebrew. The Hebrew language is written from right to left. In the AMIS software the display of Hebrew is shown from left to right so that the text does not display correctly. Are you aware of this problem? Do you have a solution to this problem at this point? If not, please take this issue into consideration, and please notify me when this problem is solved or let me know what I should do to solve it.
Lack of right-to-left script support in AMIS is a known issue. The same issue is true for Arabic, Urdu, and any other right-to-left script. It's been very difficult to find good examples of how to do what needs to be done in order to support these languages. At the moment there are no immediate plans for inclusion of this feature in AMIS, but it could be something we solve in the long term. The more information we gather, the better.
There were Arabic and Urdu language packs for AMIS 2.x but the display wasn't as it should have been because the justification was wrong and the controls weren't "mirrored" (the toolbar and menus should also go right-to-left). If you would like to submit a sample book, it may help us in reviewing the problems we face. Unfortunately a Hebrew language pack for AMIS isn't possible at this time.
- DAISY Editorial Team -
There is an expression in English used to describe an extremely suspenseful movie or book - "nail biter" - and the WIPO SCCR 19 meeting held in Geneva, December 14 to 18, could very well have been described as exactly that, a nail biter. For those who attended, it was an exhausting week, filled with surprises and challenges. The meeting went well into overtime, finishing after 22:00, after four full days of presentations, discussion and debate. Updates were provided, almost minute by minute, on the SCCR 19 Twitter page throughout the meeting.
Perhaps the biggest 'surprise' was the change in the USA's position. Prior to the SCCR 19 meeting the "Group B" block of industrialized countries opposed the proposed WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons. Previously this group had spoken with a united voice in opposition to the treaty; because of the revised position of the USA it could not do so at the meeting last week. This 180 degree change in direction on the part of the USA also put pressure on the other members of the "Group B" block. Justin Hughes, head of the US delegation, presented the USA Statement on Copyright Exceptions and Limitations for Persons with Print Disabilities which demonstrate strong support: "Therefore, the United States believes that our first goal should be to reach international consensus on the free exportation and importation of special format materials for persons with print disabilities in all countries." Other highlights include:
We believe that a solution to the problem of cross-border distribution of special format materials, properly delineated to prevent abuses, would solve the foremost problems identified by the print disability and visually-impaired communities...
The United States is also prepared to participate in a WIPO work program to establish further international consensus on specific exceptions and limitations for persons with print disabilities that should be part of national copyright laws...
We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view. The United States is committed to both better exceptions in copyright law and better enforcement of copyright law.
The European Commission statement on exceptions and limitations presented at WIPO SCCR 19 provided an overview of related activities over the past year and a half, as well as information about preparations for the future. Although the focus was on the European Union rather than being more global in scope (as in the proposed WIPO Treaty) it was positive regarding the cross border exchange of materials within the EU. One of the highlights describes the potential for this:
It was agreed that tangible added value at the EU level could be found in identifying measures to improve the online and offline distribution of works in accessible formats. These measures will be set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (which we hope will be agreed to by the Summer of 2010) and should include steps towards establishing trusted intermediaries in every EU Member State with guidelines on their functioning, the setting up of an electronic inventory of available works within the EU and the free circulation among EU Member States of a product that has been legally produced under a copyright exception in another EU Member State.
As the last day of the meeting went into overtime, resolution to two controversial paragraphs in the draft Conclusions was yet to be reached: paragraph 7 (dealing with disabilities) and paragraph 10 (dealing with Limitations & Exceptions). No translation was available in overtime, making it difficult or impossible for many to follow the discussion. Approximately an hour into overtime a solution for one of the two controversial paragraphs was proposed, and the USA provided in-house interpretation in three languages.
The conclusions of the meeting were reached as a result of 'give and take', that is, as a result of compromise and much hard work both prior to and during the meeting. The highlights from the official, published WIPO SCCR 19 Conclusions were statements of WIPO's commitment to finding a solution and continuing with its efforts to do so:
The Committee reaffirmed its commitment to continue without delay its work in a global and inclusive approach, including the multifaceted issues affecting access of persons with print disabilities to protected works...
All aspects concerning limitations and exceptions will be maintained on the Agenda of the twentieth session of the SCCR with the aim of establishing a work program concerning those limitations and exceptions, following a global and inclusive approach...
The WIPO news release, headed SCCR Commits to Improving Access by Visually Impaired to Copyright-Protected Works is very positive in tone, and begins:
WIPO's top copyright negotiating forum has agreed to move forward with discussions that could lead to better access to copyright-protected works by the blind, visually impaired (VIP) and other reading-disabled persons. The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), meeting from December 14 to 18, 2009, decided to accelerate the work on copyright exceptions and limitations for the benefit of persons with reading disabilities.
It continues with equally positive summarizing points:
In concluding remarks, the Chairman of the SCCR, Mr. Jukka Liedes, noted that the Committee accepted the initiation of focused, open-ended consultations in Geneva "aimed at an international consensus regarding exceptions and limitations for print-disabled persons."
A proposal for a treaty (based on text prepared by the World Blind Union) was submitted in May 2009 by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. A number of delegations supported working towards an appropriate international instrument and agreed to continue discussions at the next session of the SCCR in 2010.
Delegates welcomed progress in implementing a series of practical measures to facilitate access to copyright-protected materials by reading impaired persons. These include the continuing work of a stakeholders' platform which aims to identify and develop solutions that improve the availability of copyright-protected published works in formats accessible to reading-disabled persons and in a reasonable time frame.
Developments and activities relating to the proposed WIPO Treaty and its potential adoption will be reported in future issues of the DAISY Planet.
On December 18 the Executive Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum announced that George Kerscher had been elected to the position of IDPF President. Kerscher, who is also the DAISY Consortium's Secretary General, is one of the founding members of the IDPF and has served on the IDPF Board for a total of eight years. He is also the Chair of the EPUB standards maintenance Working Group which began its work in August this year.
In his nomination statement Kerscher said: "If elected President, I would faithfully represent the views of all stakeholders in the evolving digital publishing ecosystem." About the actual EPUB standards he said that they "must continue to evolve to meet the growing demand for digital content by a broad range of user groups."
With Kerscher's involvement in both the maintenance of the EPUB standards and the revision of the DAISY Standard, continued alignment of these digital publishing standards is very promising. About the future of the EPUB standards, the IDPF and publishing, Kerscher stated:
We also need to innovate, bringing more features, functions, and presentation options to the public. I believe that we must go beyond print books in functionality, using rich media, interactivity, and annotation capabilities in the products...I want to see the IDPF through to a place where rich XML content can be used by everybody in the global society through powerful, highly-functional reading systems. I want to see the publishing industry thrive in a global marketplace where hungry readers enjoy the new digital reading experience.
Support for Kerscher prior to the completion of the voting process was evident, from both inside and outside the DAISY community. David Rothman, author and founder and Editor/Publisher of TeleRead posted a brief analysis of the platforms of the two candidates, Nick Bogaty of Adobe Systems and George Kerscher of the DAISY Consortium:
I see virtues in both position statements...but I myself would tilt toward George. As I see it, ePub would move ahead more rapidly under him, to the benefit of many... Notice how specific George's idea[s] are?
Both Nick and George are exceedingly well qualified for the job, Nick even having been the past executive director of the IDPF and George having been in standards setting for eons. In addition, George is blind and is very aware of accessibility matters, which can affect people both with and without disabilities - for example, the details of e-book navigation and coordinating speech and text. I speak, then, out of practicality. With millions of baby boomers suffering sight impairments, George is the perfect man to make certain that the industry addresses their needs.
The response to the IDPF announcement that George Kerscher was elected IDPF President has been overwhelmingly positive with comments such as "The world of electronic publishing is in good hands" and "This is great news for DAISY and the eText world in general" coming in from around the globe. Kerscher's response to this support reinforces the strength of his commitment:
"This role in the IDPF presents many strategically important opportunities. Couple this with the developments at WIPO about the international exchange of copyrighted materials, the development of the Stakeholders Platform, the emergence of many new reading systems, and of course the revision of the DAISY Standard, and we have unlimited opportunities.
The 'connection' between the EPUB standards (there are three) and the DAISY Standard, and the DAISY Consortium's involvement in the maintenance of the EPUB standards are explained in the article EPUB Standards: Maintenance Begins.
Earlier this month problems surrounding the accessibility of mathematics and science were addressed by experts from around the globe at the Workshop on E-Inclusion in Mathematics and Science 2009 (WEIMS'09) held in Fukuoka, Japan. The Workshop "Overview" clearly describes the issues which need to be addressed and resolved:
Full and effective participation and inclusion in society is recognized as a general principle, general obligation and a right, as indicated in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ... it is clear that we have still many problems unsolved for making mathematical or scientific information more accessible ... most of digitized scientific contents such as online journals, e-learning math contents are not necessarily accessible for visually disabled people ... [This] Workshop ... intends to bring together experts from around the world to present and discuss the state of the art, the actual research and development activities and the future perspectives in this field.
Keynote speakers included Robert Kelly, Director, Journal Information Systems, The American Physical Society (APS), John Gardner, Chief Technical Officer and President, ViewPlus Technologies, Inc., and Hiroshi Kawamura, President of the DAISY Consortium. Robert Kelly is a leader of the project which aims to make the content of "Physical Review Letters," one of the most prestigious academic journals in physics, accessible in DAISY format. The project is a collaborative effort with ViewPlus Technologies, Inc. Both APS and ViewPlus are Friends of the DAISY Consortium.
Although George Kerscher, DAISY Consortium Secretary General, was not present at WEIMS'09, he sent the following message in support of accessible mathematics and science:
In the current DAISY Standard we have the fundamentals for access to mathematics and science. In the revision of the DAISY Standard, currently underway, we expect to add more sophisticated features and functions. In addition to MathML, the graphical representation of information is expected to be addressed. I believe that much work will need to take place in the preparation of documents intended for students who are blind or print disabled. Finally, we are ready to see advancement in user interface design for accessing complex math and science. Every student and professional will benefit by the advances in high quality content and powerful user interface design.
In the conclusion of his keynote presentation, Kelly addressed some of the issues surrounding the production/publication of APS files in DAISY format. Two of the problems identified were: 1/ the figures in print publications have very little textual content and the creation of textual content to make the figures meaningful in DAISY format adds to the production costs, and 2/ cross platform reader(s) with a math reader and SVG capability are needed. Kelly indicated that a delivery system for the articles in DAISY format is in place. He concluded that although the challenges are not insurmountable, they are real.
Information about APS and APS Journals, and the joint APS/ViewPlus Technologies project is provide in the article APS - First Mainstream Publisher to Join DAISY published in the December 2008 issue of the DAISY Planet.
For the first time, an "International" award was added to the group of Jodi Awards. Museums, galleries, libraries, archives, and arts and heritage organizations using digital technology to enhance access to archives for disabled viewers are eligible for nomination. The joint winners of the new Digital Access Online International award were Dedicon in the Netherlands and the Regional Library of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. Dedicon is a long-time Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.
The Jodi Awards were presented on December 2 by Martha Lane Fox, the UK government's Digital Inclusion Champion the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Dedicon received the "Digital Access Online, International Award" for its production and distribution of books, newspapers and information in accessible formats to 30,000 print disabled people in the Netherlands. Ms. Fox spoke eloquently about the work done by the nominees and about accessibility in general: "All of the work that many of you here are doing is absolutely fundamental in inspiring and motivating groups to think about technology in a different way ... It's not just about how you use the internet, it's about interacting with different kinds of technologies to enhance the opportunities you have in your life ... I think that digital technologies and the skills to use them should be accessible to as many people as possible."
The Local Authority public library service in South Dublin serves a population of nearly 250,000 through a network of branch and mobile libraries. For the first time, a public library service in Ireland has produced DAISY titles for the benefit of its visually impaired customers.
The library has recently launched a series of locally produced books in audio format. The series includes short stories, poetry and histories relevant to the South Dublin area. As well as CD audio and downloadable MP3 format, staff at the County Library converted the books to DAISY format using the Plextalk recording software which comes with the PTR2 player/recorder. The final DAISY books were sent to a recording studio to be copied and professionally presented with attractive CD and cover art. In November a special presentation of their DAISY book collection was made to the National Council for the Blind of Ireland at an event hosted by the Mayor of South Dublin County, Cllr. Mick Duff. These books will go into the library collection of the National Council for the Blind as well as the collection of South Dublin Libraries.
• The 4th European eAccessibility Forum will be held April 12th, 2010, at Cité des sciences et de l'industrie in Paris France. The conference theme will be "eAccessibility in Public Services in Europe". It will coincide with the end of the European Commission i2010 initiative, providing a platform for discussing the progress since the initiative was launched, and the work still ahead. A preliminary conference announcement, including topics and general information, is available on the 4th European eAccessibility Forum website.
• The Special Thematic Session "Digital access to books for people with print disabilities" will be presented at icchp 2010, the 12th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, July 14-16, 2010 at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. This session, presented by Prof. Jan Engelen of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and Dominique Burger, President of Association BrailleNet, will discuss how the different players involved in the publishing chain, from the authors to organizations producing adapted versions of books, can cooperate to provide accessible contents supported by different platforms. Additional information is provided on the iccph 2010 website.
• Techshare India Early Bird registration ends December 25. Details are available on the Techshare India website.
• The IDPF October 2009 eBook Sales Statistics show growth of 254% over October 2008. October 2009 wholesale trade sales were $18,500,000 which is highest single month thus far. Calendar 'Year to Date' sales as of October are up 180.7%. The following points regarding these figures should be noted: this data represents United States revenues only; it represents trade eBook sales via wholesale channels (it is estimated that retail numbers may be as much as double these figures); it represents data submitted from approximately 12 to 15 trade publishers and does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales. The numbers reflect the wholesale revenues of publishers.
Word about the "book famine" (the lack of published material in accessible format) is spreading. On December 17 the UK Financial Times, FT.com, posted the article Global pact on Braille books nears. It begins "An international accord that would vastly expand the range of books and other copyright materials accessible to millions of blind people around the world came a step closer this week after a surprise shift in approach by Washington." The article is of course about the WIPO SCCR 19 meeting held last week in Geneva.
In the white paper "Copyright Exception and Trusted Intermediaries: Two Concepts that work together", George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium, explains that the copyright exception as outlined in the proposed WIPO Treaty and a system of Trusted Intermediaries are "in perfect harmony". The Stakeholders' Platform was established by WIPO to look at both the concept of "Trusted Intermediaries" and the role of technology. The Stakeholders' Platform: Second Interim Report is available on the WIPO website. This two-level approach has become known as the "Twin Track" approach to eliminating the "book famine".
Authors who support these efforts to improve access to published works for people who are unable to read standard print because of a disability are asked to sign the Open Letter from Writers in support of WIPO treaty for people who are Blind, Visually Impaired or have other Disabilities. This is your opportunity to ensure that everyone is able to read your books. The Open Letter is provided in both English and Spanish.
The work of the many organizations and individuals who have committed time, resources and energy to making the proposed WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons a reality is not yet finished. 2010 will bring continued efforts, and it is hoped that when the proposed treaty is discussed at the WIPO SCCR 20 meeting more delegates will support it so that the international exchange of published materials in accessible format can become a reality.
This issue of the DAISY Planet calls for congratulations to be given to many: to George Kerscher for his election to the position of President of the IDPF and for his incredible and ongoing commitment to making information accessible to everyone in a format they can use; to Dedicon for their receipt of the first International Jodi Award; and to the South Dublin Local Authority public library service for taking the first step into DAISY book production.
What a wonderful way to finish a year that has been both positive and inspiring for many of us in the DAISY community. We are not only staying up with rapidly changing developments and the technologies, we are taking a lead role. This is perhaps one of the reasons that DAISY had been adopted globally and why it continues to be accepted and implemented as the 'way of the future' for accessible reading materials, and for published information generally.
I would like to close the year with a poem by Oren Arnold who was a novelist, journalist, and humorist. Holiday gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
Wishing you all a joyful, restful and rejuvenating holiday season!
As usual, I read the Planet. Once more, a very good issue. The WIPO/Copyright article is helpful (points to the most important documents).
I enjoyed the story in the November issue.
Editor's Note: Your comments or criticisms about any of the articles or column in the DAISY Planet are most welcome. Please use the DAISY Contact Us form (Newsletter category) send your "Letter to the Editor" or email me directly.