This issue of the DAISY Planet opens with the second article in our special 15th anniversary series, Dedicon: Reading for All . Dedicon (originally SVB, as explained in the article) has contributed to the work of the DAISY Consortium since the late 1990's. The Consortium is indebted to Dedicon and every Member organization and for-profit Friend that has collaborated with us to make information accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Varju Luceno, the Consortium's Director of Communications, provided an interesting and informational article on the recent O'Reilly TOC Conference : "Invigorating conversations and excellent presentations at the TOC 2011 Conference demonstrated that today's publishing world is a diverse and constantly changing, content-sharing world…Readers, regardless of ability must be able to choose what, how, when, and where they read." Thank you Varju for giving those of us who were not there some insight into the proceedings and presentations.
This is the first time that an article on the RFB&D National Achievement Awards (NAA) has been published in the DAISY Planet. Early last week I had an opportunity to read short biographies about each of the NAA winners and on Friday I received the transcript of the Roundtable which was also held in Washington D.C. These young people are inspiring and quite remarkable. I'd like to thank Doug Sprei, Director, Media Relations at RFB&D for providing the transcript and photos for the article.
In February a devastating earthquake rocked Christchurch New Zealand. HumanWare, one of the original two Friends of the Consortium has two main facilities, one in Canada, the other in Christchurch. I am extremely glad to let you know that all of the HumanWare employees in Christchurch are safe.
Olympus, a company which has become a DAISY Friend in more recent years, has added the page
Where print and audio meet, you can hear the light to their website. John Russo who is a musician and sound engineer and who is blind, tells his story. John is a braille reader, but this is what he has to say about DAISY:
"DAISY is a very important technology to blind and dyslexic people because it allows us to navigate books by page, heading, or chapter, and place bookmarks anywhere in the recording to enable immediate recall of the marked passages.
"The DAISY format also lets us enjoy and learn from books that are not available in Braille, and the navigation features make it possible to read and skim through books almost as fast as a person with sight." John's story is well worth the minute or two it takes to read it. DAISY Members and Friends which promote DAISY help to bring information about DAISY and information access to more and more people around the world.
The Publisher Accessibility Newsletter January 2011, issue 11 is now online. This newsletter provides an overview of current activities to help publishers meet the needs of people with print disabilities. Highlights from the UK, international activities and the USA are covered. I learned that "The Right to Read Alliance" announced the appointment of Pete Osborne as their new Chair. He is currently chair of the UK Association of Alternative Formats (UKAAF) and Head of International Partnerships and Development at RNIB. Pete's involvement with the DAISY Consortium goes back many years. Congrats Pete!
In the January Letter from the Editor I brought to your attention an update on DAISY activities in Mongolia. There is also an enlightening article The Unseen of Mongolia in the UB Post (Mongolia's Independent English Newspaper) about the DAISY project in Mongolia. It also provides us with some insight into the challenges someone who is blind faces living in Ulaanbaatar (the capital city): "If any astronaut wishes to experience moon walking, a cheap alternative would be a stroll into, or for that matter a giant leap over the prolific amount of potholes and craters littering the city."
Several months ago we added an online donation link to the DAISY homepage: Support DAISY - Donate Now. The link takes you to a page which provides information about your donation options. "Every donor who makes a gift to the DAISY Consortium, makes a difference." If you haven't yet done so, please consider making a donation to further our work in the development standards and tools for accessible content. The international work done by the Consortium to promote and advocate for information access as a "fundamental human right" is also very worthy of your support. On behalf of the DAISY Consortium I would like to thank those who have already donated.
A new public beta of Save As DAISY from Microsoft is due to be released in the near future. Please watch for information in News on our homepage and in the DAISY Planet.
Lars Ballieu Christensen is a computer scientist who has made information access his career and his passion. His story published with this issue of the DAISY Planet is a story of success, accomplishment and commitment.
I would like to thank each of you who sent ideas for articles for the DAISY Planet. Your suggestions are vital to keeping our newsletter interesting and informative, so please continue to submit your ideas. Some of you may notice that there is no "Letter to the Editor" column in this issue, and that is simply because although I did receive several emails with compliments about the January issue, "Another great issue of the Planet" is really only of interest to me. Not that I don't appreciate your support, I do, so thanks to those who have sent such positive input. If there is a topic, article or column that you feel strongly about (positive or negative) please let me know. Also, if you, your organization or company have news to share, please get in touch with me directly by email or by using the Contact Us form (Newsletter category). Articles and suggestions for articles are always welcome, as are Letters to the Editor and Stories.
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.
Commissioned by the Dutch government as well as non-profit organizations, Dedicon makes general literature, newspapers and magazines accessible for approximately 30,000 people who have a reading disability. The materials are accessed through a special national library portal.
Dedicon is also the leading organization in the Netherlands which provides accessible educational materials for students in primary, secondary and advanced education. Over the years there has been an important change in the range and number of customers served. Although Dedicon is still producing and providing accessible reading materials for customers who have a visual disability, the group of users with dyslexia is growing rapidly. This group of more than 6,000 customers also benefits from the developments in digital media, including DAISY.
In 2000 SVB which was located in Amsterdam and CGL in Grave, merged to form FNB, the Federation of Dutch Libraries for the Blind. SVB produced educational materials and CGL produced audio newspapers and magazines. In 2006 the name FNB was changed to Dedicon. The word "Dedicon" is derived from the Latin word 'dedicare' or the English verb 'to dedicate'. It personified the essence of the newly named organisation which would serve people who were blind or visually impaired and also serve people with a reading disability such as dyslexia.
It was SVB which had the initial contact with DAISY. The first time SVB was introduced to DAISY was 1995, when a delegation from TPB (the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille) gave a demonstration of a very, very early version of DAISY. SVB saw the immediate potential of this new accessible, digital reading system. Customers were young students who were already asking for digital files of their textbooks. In addition to customer demand there were other important reasons for becoming involved in the DAISY project. Analogue cassette technology was disappearing, making it necessary to develop new production and playback systems. As this was a concern for all libraries for the blind, there was the potential danger for fragmentation in developing a solution. For SVB, DAISY presented a possible solution for the development one leading standard for libraries for the blind that would be independent of commercial partners. The goal would be to make it into a worldwide standard from which all libraries for the blind and their library customers would benefit.
SVB was actively involved in DAISY activities in the late 1990's. The DAISY Standard was being developed by a group of international experts, a DAISY production tool was being designed, tested and implemented, and training materials were being prepared. One of the SVB team members, Edmar Schut, participated in the development of the DAISY 2.0 and DAISY 2.1 Standards (1998 & 1999 respectively). He was the second person to work on a contractual basis for the DAISY Consortium, devoting 50% of his time to SVB and 50% to DAISY. In his role with the DAISY Consortium he worked on the development and testing of the first DAISY full-text, full-audio production tool and was part of the team that wrote the DAISY Basic Training Manual. SVB and subsequently FNB made a significant contribution to the early work of the DAISY Consortium in part through the efforts of Edmar Schut.
The actual transition from analogue production and distribution to DAISY started for Dedicon in 2002. The production studios for educational materials were digitalized. In October 2002 the first DAISY study book on CD-ROM was produced. In early 2003 the customers for educational materials were the first people to receive DAISY books on CD-ROMs. The largest conversion operation took place in 2003 when all Dedicon recording studios were revamped for digital production and a large part of the general literature collection was digitized. A national promotion campaign aimed at all customers, informing them about the changes, was begun.
The biggest Dutch DAISY success came in January 2004 with a complete break from distributing analogue books, newspapers and magazines on cassettes – everything was replaced by DAISY CD-ROMs. All 30,000 audio users of the Dutch libraries for the blind switched to DAISY CD-ROMs at once. There were no cassettes distributed as from January 1, 2004. In 2005 the distribution of all digital audio materials became fully automated and this system still meets the demands to this day.
This transition could not have happened without participation from the Dutch government which stated that DAISY players were to be provided free of charge to people with a visual impairment by the health insurance companies. The government's acknowledgement that DAISY was the future for the customers of libraries for the blind was essential for the successful transition to DAISY.
In 2010 a new phase in the distribution of DAISY audio started in the Netherlands – Dedicon developed an embedded DAISY player which made it possible for customers of the special library portal to read the 12,000 full DAISY audio general literature books and 100 newspapers and magazines on the Internet. This has met the needs of people who do not use a hardware DAISY player.
At the end of 2010 Dedicon had set up its entire online distribution platform in conformity with the new DAISY Online Delivery protocol. Dedicon is therefore now ready for the introduction of the new generation DAISY players which support this protocol.
Dedicon is currently participating in the development of the DAISY Pipeline 2 project. This is an important project as the new DAISY Pipeline will make the production process more efficient and the product even more suited to the customers' needs.
In 2011 Dedicon will also begin a pilot project for delivering a daily newspaper to customers. From a single source a text file, a text-to-speech version and a hybrid version will be produced. This will provide customers with various reading disabilities with the format that best suits their needs: braille display, magnification software, DAISY with synthetic speech or a combination of these options.
In addition to content distribution via computer and the new generation of hardware DAISY players, some customers need to access information in a flexible way, at different locations. The distribution of books, newspapers, magazines and other information through mobile platforms will make this possible. In 2011 and 2012 Dedicon will be developing these new distribution options.
Newspapers and magazines
Newspapers and magazines
As the DAISY Community is well aware, accessible publishing has existed for many years in the form of narrated audio, large print and braille. However, only recently have mainstream reading technologies begun to make it possible to achieve equal access to published content for people of all ages and disabilities. Mainstream digital content producers are beginning to recognize and embrace new opportunities and extend the potential audience and market for their publications – but there is still a very long way to go. Accessible publishing makes business sense, and it was wonderful to witness content accessibility being acknowledged as an important consideration by several speakers at the TOC in Publishing Conference in New York this month.
In his presentation "Can You Afford Not to Consider Accessible Publishing Practices?", Dave Gunn from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) covered a lot of ground. He provided information on how people who can't read printed text (for any number of reasons) currently gain access to digital content and introduced the audience to different technologies that can be used, including a demonstration of Dolphin's EasyReader.
Dave pointed out that life expectancy is increasing, with current projections suggesting the number of people over 80 years of age will more than double within the next 10 years. Currently 21% of people over 50 experience severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems, and that likelihood only increases with age. Publishers need to be ready to meet the needs of this growing group of readers.
Mr. Gunn offered practical advice to people involved in e-book creation by covering the simple steps they can take to make their digital publications more accessible. He touched on the legal responsibilities and the associated business risks and incentives. RNIB has published guidelines for creating accessible e-books. The WIPO-sponsored accessibility guidance developed by EDItEUR and the DAISY Consortium will be launched at the London Book Fair in April.
There was a small accessibility roundtable discussion on February 15th, moderated by Birkir Gunnarsson of Design Science. Participants agreed that very specific authoring guidelines are needed to enable mainstream publishers who are interested in producing accessible content in EPUB 3 and other accessible formats such as DAISY. Textbook publishers and assistive technology specialists require more assistance and better guidelines for creating publications that include mathematical equations and expressions in accessible electronic formats.
In his keynote presentation "Making the Book Truly Accessible", Jim Fruchterman, President and CEO of Benetech (Bookshare) emphasized the need for "taking care of the most disadvantaged people in our communities" and give them equal access to information. Bookshare is the largest online library for people with print disabilities. Bookshare's 130,000 users download over 1 million books a year, but at present it is simply not possible for Bookshare to reach all print disabled readers everywhere – people who are blind, those with low vision or dyslexia, or individuals who have a physical disability such as quadriplegia.
Bookshare creates and distributes books under a copyright exemption but it would be greatly preferred if publishers would become the primary source for Bookshare accessible e-books. Currently Bookshare finds it necessary to turn down many people who have a disability but who do not fit into the copyright exception definition, making that group of people a significant untapped market for publishers. Readers who don't meet the requirements defined in the copyright exception become collateral damage in the fight against piracy.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is designed to prevent people from copying content, but it also prevents a book from being converted into accessible formats. When Bookshare first started up textbook publishers and vendors were very nervous. They can be at ease now, as Bookshare electronic books (in DAISY text-only and BRF – electronic braille) are rarely pirated. Bookshare uses social DRM and they have had great success with it.
Just as we are solving text accessibility problem, books are becoming more multi-media and the graphics need to be made accessible as well. The DIAGRAM project team is tackling this problem. Accessibility for books is being re-invented with the advances in technology and standards such as DAISY and EPUB 3. Jim demonstrated the new Bookshare iPad application that will be released in the near future. Features for the "app" were voted on by Bookshare users. He told the TOC 2011 Conference audience that the advocacy community wants to move from a charity model to a "buying publishers' products" model. The keynote was ended with a call to action – Jim encouraged publishers to help unlock the potential of people with disabilities by giving them equal access to books and education. Jim Fruchterman's keynote presentation is available on YouTube.
The workshop "Standards in Flux" , moderated by Bill Kasdorf (Apex Content Solutions), featuring panelists Mark Bide (EDItEUR), George Kerscher (DAISY Consortium) and Norman Walsh (MarkLogic Corporation ), confirmed that the standards landscape is more complex than ever. Many key standards – such as EPUB for e-books, PRISM/nextPub for publications, ONIX for metadata, DAISY for accessibility, MathML for math – have had, or will very soon have, significant updates. Archival models are evolving too, for example the Publishers Schema will adapt DocBook for non-technical publishing. In addition, there are important advances in standards for imaging, multimedia, and semantics, and in the use of identifiers such as ISBN.
Workshop participants received a well-informed overview of the various interlocking standards that collectively enable content formats, discovery, dissemination, distribution and selling. George Kerscher spoke about issues related to accessibility, stating that publishers must become experts at standards, metadata standards particularly – that expertise is vital to consumers. Collaboration and shared knowledge about global technology standards will help both commercial and non-profit groups avoid duplication and wasted resources. Kerscher also noted that EPUB 3 and HTML5 developments will be game changing.
The first Public Draft of the EPUB 3 specifications was announced by the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) during the "TOC in Publishing 2011 Conference" on February 15th. The final draft of the EPUB 3 standard is being readied for release at the BookExpo America (BEA) 2011 Conference at the end of May. The IDPF is looking for feedback on the Public Draft from the international community. All comments on EPUB 3 specifications should be submitted via the EPUB 3 Working Group Issue Tracker, hosted on Google Code.
The EPUB 3 update panel included Robert Kasher (Book Masters), Keith Fahlgren (Threepress Consulting Inc.), George Kerscher (DAISY Consortium) and Bill Kasdorf (Apex Content Solutions). Panelists confirmed that in addition to integrating the DAISY accessibility features, EPUB 3 will be much more adept at supporting multimedia functionality for both HTML5-based devices and the future generation of tablets which support both Flash and HTML5. Other developments include international language support, enhanced metadata support for discoverability, better facilitation support for touch screen devices, and support for MathML, which will open up greater opportunities for textbook publishers. EPUB 3 will be backward compatible with current devices on the market.
Invigorating conversations and excellent presentations at the TOC 2011 Conference demonstrated that today's publishing world is a diverse and constantly changing, content-sharing world. Digital, print and everything in between co-exist. Readers, regardless of ability must be able to choose what, how, when, and where they read. Accessible publishing is here to stay.
Thanks go to Varju Luceno, Director of Communications for the DAISY Consortium, for writing this article for publication in the DAISY Planet.
RFB&D's National Achievement Awards (NAA) are given to young people who are blind or visually impaired or who have a learning disability. Winners are selected and awarded in recognition of academic excellence, outstanding leadership, and service to others. The top winners receive $6,000.00 and a trip to the venue for the awards presentation. There are two categories in the NAA's, the Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) and Learning Through Listening® (LTL) Awards, with three top winners and special honors winners in each.
The 51st Annual NAA's were presented this year on Capital Hill in Washington D.C. In conjunction with the awards, RFB&D hosted Avenues to Access, a Roundtable discussion for both winners and parents which provided an opportunity for all to present their views, suggest ways to reach young students at an early age. The NAA winners also spoke about their achievements and the challenges they have faced. Input from parents and the parental community was welcome and forthcoming. Public policy, the impact of technology and how it can be used to close the information access gap were also discussed.
The Avenues to Access Roundtable was held on February 7. The awards ceremony was held that same night, with visits to Congress taking place over the next few days. Andrew Friedman, CEO of RFB&D, opened the Roundtable and welcomed participants saying "How do we make it so that what we do is part of the mainstream so that it's not an effort for people to get an education? But that day in and day out they're getting the services that they deserve, that they need and that they are due." Mr. Friedman encouraged parents and all audience members to interact actively with the panel…and they did.
Scott McIntyre was an NAA award recipient in 2005. He and his mother were invited to participate in the 51st award presentation and Roundtable as special guests. He and his brother and sister (who is also visually impaired) were homeschooled by their mother. A local high school counselor advised his parents to look into admission to university for Scott when was 14. He attended Arizona State University and completed is degree when he was 19. He has a natural gift for music and was an "American Idol" finalist. Scott has also established himself as an inspirational keynote speaker:
"I've always looked at my blindness as another characteristic of my being...I say to them my hair is dark, my eyes are blue and I happen to be visually impaired. Just like in any other combination of traits that another person would have. Mine just happens to be that I don't see...when people spend time with me, when they get to know me, any preconceived notions that might be there instantly go away...It's just getting past that initial barrier. A big part of that was my ability to compete academically, compete in life and to acquire knowledge in general. That is what we're talking about here, to get unprecedented access to that information. I never looked at it as a disadvantage or as a stumbling block but as an opportunity to learn more...I'll do what I want to do, accomplish my dreams, accomplish my goals no matter what the obstacles are." [Scott McIntyre at the RFB&D Avenues to Access Roundtable]
The importance of the role of parents was repeatedly described, both by panelist, award winners and the parents themselves. There was consensus from the parents that more needs to be done in the elementary schools; teachers and specialists in the school system need to be aware of options such as RFB&D so that they can provide this information to the parents of children with learning problems. Some parents at the round table suggested that the medical community should have the resources to make a diagnosis very early on, even before a child enters the school system. Others stated that school systems did not have the resources or expertise to be able to do this. There is a major initiative underway within RFB&D, to provide support for parents.
Ashley Bramlett, a young RFB&D member taking notes on a BrailleSense of the Roundtable stated near the close of the discussion:
"So once I have used RFB&D, it has revolutionized my access to material. Reading gives you knowledge and knowledge is power. So, am so glad that RFB&D is there for me..."
In closing Andrew Friedman stated:
"...things are changing in ways that will allow us to actually make a bigger difference. I think the way technology is moving forward will give us a lot more opportunity to produce better solutions much quicker, in mainstream environments that are much cheaper, and allow people to use things that they use day-in-and-day-out to get the access to what they actually need."
Throughout the Roundtable a great deal was said about spreading the word, about getting the information about RFB&D and other resources to those who need information about services and tools that will enable them to study and work on a level playing field with their peers.
The Finnish DAISY Consortium will host the 2011 DAISY Board and General Meetings as well as a one day conference, "DAISY Today: Mainstreaming DAISY". This is the first time that the DAISY General meeting will be held in Finland and is also the first time that an international DAISY technical conference will be hosted there.
The Board meeting will be held May 3 – 4 and the General Meeting will follow on May 5. The conference "DAISY Today: Mainstreaming DAISY" is scheduled for May 6. DAISY Conferences provide participants and presenters alike with an opportunity to stay up to date on the most recent DAISY developments. The DAISY Standard is currently undergoing a revision, and the latest news about the progress of these activities as well as information about the revision of the EPUB standard will be of interest to all. Presentations on eReading and the emerging role of the EPUB standard to the DAISY Community will be high on everyone's 'must attend' list. One of the presentations will deal with the implementation of the DAISY Online Delivery service in Finland. The draft program is now available on the "DAISY Today" Conference Website.
DAISY Conferences offer opportunities to meet and talk with DAISY experts and users, DAISY Members and Friends, as well as vendors and exhibitors.
The Helsinki City reception which will take place at the Old City Hall on the evening of Thursday May 5, is open to all "DAISY Today" Conference participants.
The online registration form for the meetings and the "DAISY Today" Conference is now available. Additional information about ground transportation, etc. will be posted on the Conference website in the near future. The deadline for submission of the registration form is March 31.
Information about Helsinki Finland can be found on Wikipedia and many other websites. Early predictions for May indicate that daytime temperatures should reach around 20° Celsius.
Here at the Center for Advanced Technology in Education we are developing an online database of research related to all aspects of digital or electronic texts. At the moment we're looking for research related to Human Generated and Computer Generated Speech. We're interested in research that compares the comprehension of students listening to human narration as compared to those using text-to-Speech. We're also interested in studies looking into aspects of either system alone.
Our goal in the end is to summarize what is currently known about Spoken Text and Text-to-Speech, and what remains to be learned about using these technologies with students.
Center for Advanced Technology in Education,
National Center for Supported eText,
University of Oregon,
We have received a few inquiries related to Human Generated and Computer Generated Speech in the past and have compiled some links. Hopefully some of these materials will be helpful in your research:
• The Persuasiveness of Synthetic Speech versus Human Speech, Journal article by Steven E. Stern, John W. Mullennix, Corrie-Lynn Dyson, Stephen J. Wilson; Human Factors, Vol. 41, 1999
• Text to Speech vs Human Narration, eLearning Tech Blog - Case studies
• Web-Based Comparison of Two Styles of Auditory Presentation: All TTS versus Rapidly Mixed TTS and Recordings, James R. Lewis Patrick M. Commarford Cheryl A. Kotan
Please note that text-to-speech technologies have improved considerably during the last 2 years. Please also take a look at the websites of our Friends who are directly involved with text-to-speech:
• CSUN 2011 page on the DAISY website has been updated and now includes important links plus a list of DAISY related sessions and sessions which may be of interest to the DAISY community. This year, each part of the program will be available for download in HTML or as a separate DAISY book in addition to being available on CDs. A link to the downloadable program will be added to this page as soon as the program is available.
• The CNIB has received interim funding for Library operations: a one-time grant of just over $7 million from the Federal Government has been received to support the CNIB Library, Canada's largest producer of accessible content. The CNIB Library is the founding member of the Canadian DAISY Consortium, which is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.
"For quite some time now, we've been working towards the goal of helping develop a sustainable, equitable, nationwide library service for all Canadians with print disabilities...This grant is an important milestone in our journey, as it will ensure our library collection and infrastructure will be maintained while we continue to focus on finding a long-term solution." [John Rafferty, President and CEO, CNIB]
• The 2011 European eAccessibility Forum program has been finalized and is available online. This event which is organised by Association BrailleNet, will be the 5th European eAccessibility Forum.
• Two interviews with Jim Fruchterman this month provide insight into the organization he leads (Benetech/Bookshare), activity updates including Bookshare international activities, advocacy, DAISY, EPUB, and much more:
"The best outcomes for people with disabilities result when their needs are aligned with the needs of the rest of society." [Jim Fruchterman, Wordpress interview, February 2011]. Jim was also the keynote speaker at TOC 2011. Benetech is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium
• The UK Associate for Accessible Formats (UKAAF) website includes an extensive list of "Related Resources" which provides a brief description of each resource and links.
• Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) has been nominated for the National Digital Innovation Award for its DAISY For All Focal Point. The YPSA DAISY Library has approximately 500 members in Bangladesh and twenty organisations have also registered to use the library. YPSA is an Associate Member of the DAISY Consortium.
Obi and Tobi DAISY content authoring software users should ensure that the computer onto which the software will be installed has at a minimum 2 gigabytes of RAM (4 GB will perform at an even better level). On a computer with 1 GB RAM users may encounter slow editing response times and problems when importing large audio files. Improvements are being made to Obi resource utilization which will improve performance, however 2 GB of RAM should still be considered a minimum requirement for a production computer being used with Obi and Tobi.