I am sure that all of you have been reading, listening to and watch the news about the disasters that have befallen Japan. The country was prepared for the worst earthquakes and tsunamis that might occur over the next 250 years but no country could be prepared for an earthquake or tsunami that would be the worst that might happen in a 1000 years. And now these remarkably resilient and calm people are fighting off a possible nuclear disaster. Our thoughts and hearts are with the people of Japan.
If you are considering making a donation to help them through the long recovery they face but have not yet done so, please consider these options. The Red Cross in many countries is taking donations for Japan. The Nippon Foundation is at the forefront of assistance activities in support of those affected by the earthquake/tsunami and they are now accepting donations to establish a fund for emergency relief and reconstruction projects. Donations can be made online on the Nippon Foundation/CANPAN website which also includes a link for people residing in the USA for tax deductable donations. In addition the DAISY website has provided information for making donations to support the creation and dissemination of accessible potentially life saving information. Please see the DAISY news entry Japan Disaster: Urgent Financial Appeal for Provision of Lifesaving Accessible Information.
I had intended to tell you about the World Blind Union's announcement that it had suspended its participation in the WIPO Stakeholders' Platform, the EU Stakeholder dialogue project and the TIGAR Project in my letter this month. However there was far too much to include here. Please read the article WIPO Binding Legal Framework Needed: Speak Out for information about the announcement and the statement by the DAISY Consortium in support of that announcement. Information about how you can contact the WIPO representative in your country are provided in the article.
Many, many tens of thousands of people worldwide know about Bookshare, the Benetech initiative, but it is quite probable that far fewer are aware of Benetech's human rights/humanitarian work. Earlier this week Benetech was featured on PBS NewsHour: To Combat Human Rights Abuses, California Company Looks to Computer. This is an in-depth feature about Benetech highlighting both BookShare and Martus. It is well worth watching. Martus is a Benetech initiative.
Still on the Benetech/Bookshare track, the article: Technology his launchpad for literacy, human rights is about Jim Fruchterman, but it far from cut and dried, it is humorous and honest. Even those who have had a chance to hear Jim speak will find this interesting reading.
T-Base Communications Inc. became a Friend the DAISY Consortium last week. They already have a page devoted to DAISY on their website – thank you T-Base for your enthusiasm and for spreading the word about the DAISY Standard and accessible information.
A new page and a new area have been added to the DAISY website. A Learning Difficulties page has been added to the DAISY in Education section of our website. It is still under development but the beginnings are there. There is also a new Text to Speech section to the Tools & Services area.
The DAISY staff team would like to thank gh, LLC, a long time Friend of the DAISY Consortium, for providing free copies of their ReadHear MAC software.
The Story published with this issue of the DAISY Planet is rather unusual and very special. Some of you will have met Nesbit and if you are one of the fortune folks who did, you will find the tribute to Nesbit both moving and very, very true. Thanks to George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium for providing me with Nesbit's tribute for the DAISY Planet.
Thanks to everyone who has provided input, comment, information and/or a suggestion for this issue of the Planet. 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.
Almost two million of the 62 million people in the UK are living with sight loss. That means about one person in thirty has a sight problem which has a serious impact on their daily lives. The practicalities of sight loss vary for each individual, but problems with reading always feature high in the frustrations people report. The number of people in the UK with sight loss will increase dramatically over the next 10 years due to the aging population. The challenge for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is to work to prevent unnecessary sight loss through the provision of information, advice and services, support people who do lose their sight, and to positively change society to be more inclusive. Since our beginning, this has meant an ongoing search for a better way to read and publish.
In 1868 the "provision of embossed literature" (braille) was the primary reason why Thomas Armitage created the organisation which has now grown into the Royal National Institute of Blind People – RNIB, the UK's leading charity supporting blind and partially sighted people. RNIB continues to push the boundaries of reading by touch.
But for many people, braille is not an option, and so in 1935 RNIB established its talking book service, first distributing books on gramophone records and eventually moving to the Clarke and Smith format, a closed system using specially designed, multi-track tapes and players. In the late 1970s, RNIB pioneered the use of computers to produce braille, but the dawn of the digital age brought the realisation that talking book tape technology which had provided reading material to thousands of people would soon no longer be available.
By the late 1980's RNIB had created a paper model of how a digital talking book system might work and commissioned a number of prototype players. But the huge cost of developing something new was daunting.
In 1990 Stephen King, RNIB's current Director of International Development came to RNIB from the publishing industry. Through the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Libraries for the Blind Section he soon met representatives from other organisations around the world who were similarly frustrated by what to do next; the idea of international collaboration to solve the problem emerged. RNIB's first contribution was to help find out what users wanted. Stephen chaired a European Blind Union work group which developed "User requirements for the next generation of Talking books". That Requirements document was then adopted by the World Blind Union with support from William Rowland who was later to become president of WBU.
In 1996 the DAISY Consortium was born, bringing many countries together with a goal to meet these user requirements, with the idea of sharing the costs, of creating the necessary technologies and international standards, and stimulating a world market for technology vendors. For RNIB this meant that at last there was potential for an affordable way of delivering a much better way to read to our users. It also meant that in the long term, the goal of integrating our braille, large print, eBook and talking book publishing was possible.
Like many organisations in the DAISY Consortium, RNIB implemented DAISY publishing in stages. First we tackled the concerns of our users, retaining the familiar approach to distribution, but replacing tapes with CD's. Many users enthusiastically embraced the better way to read requesting more books faster than we could possibly manage. But many were fearful of the new technology. It took three years of hard work before we could finally say 'goodbye' to tape.
With our readers now enthusiastic about the DAISY book service, we moved to an "on demand" publishing process, offering people the books they wanted without delay. This significant change in process allowed us to close our huge separate library building and apply the savings into providing a better service.
Another RNIB innovation was to arrange for the banks to buy DAISY Talking Book players in bulk (which was much more economic for everyone). The DAISY players are then rented to our members. This allowed RNIB to be able to make the complete conversion to DAISY more quickly.
The final transition to DAISY publishing for RNIB's talking book service was completed in 2007 and the UK's largest collection of unabridged audio books on CD is now provided to approximately 40,000 people who are blind or partially sighted. Each day readers enjoy 80,000 hours of reading pleasure, listening to the books they've borrowed or purchased from RNIB.
Readers like Janet from Carlisle who recently told us "I am enjoying my Talking Books immensely. I am housebound and it's really given me a different outlook on life. I've always been a book worm, so I'm really, really loving it. It's a fantastic service." And Richard from London, who writes: "Thank you for the wonderful entertainment provided by the Talking Book Service. I had no reason to suppose that having a book read to me, as opposed to reading it off the page myself, could be so enthralling. I had no idea that hearing tales read out loud, especially when different voices are used for various characters, could be so addictive. I'm hooked!"
RNIB provides DAISY audio books for loan and for sale either on CD or via an online streaming service. RNIB publishes to the DAISY 2.02 Standard using a variety of software tools including LpStudio/Pro and Dolphin Publisher. The vast majority of books produced are with human voice and structure.
Most of RNIB's DAISY authoring is done in Camden, London where many famous authors such as Michael Palin and Julian Fellowes read for us. However there are now RNIB Talking Book studios in Scotland, Peterborough and, very soon also at Cardiff. The Cardiff studio will concentrate on human voice Talking Books in the Welsh language.
The use of synthetic speech is now also gaining ground, leveraging RNIB's recent investment in developing the world-class IVONA synthetic speech software for English and Welsh, to enable the rapid and efficient production of synthetic speech audio/full text DAISY publications, primarily for business or study use.
The unique benefits of DAISY publications were highlighted in research carried out for RNIB by i2 Media in July 2009. The research showed that students and nonfiction readers found the high degree of navigation particularly useful, enabling them to browse information quickly. It was also found that older readers like the accessible design of the DAISY players provided by RNIB, citing ease of use and simple button layout. The research shows that DAISY is making a real difference to people's lives.
We can tackle the book, magazine and newspaper famine faced by blind and partially sighted people through a better way to publish enabled by the DAISY Consortium. We are increasing the level of automation in the production of all types of information so that we can produce more even under considerable resource constraints. RNIB is engaged in the development of the DAISY 4 Standard and looks forward to its release, as it will create an even better authoring environment for all formats including braille.
We are also working with publishers and partners to ensure an inclusive reading experience, paying particular attention to the expanding eBook market so that blind and partially sighted people can read the same book at the same time, place and price as everyone else. This is proving very fruitful. For large print users we are already seeing the very enthusiastic uptake of eBooks, and as we solve problems we are also finding that people who are comfortable with synthetic speech are really starting to benefit.
Our services need to be continually developed in order to take advantage of new technologies and new ways of reading. A three-month trial found that 61% of participants would choose to receive Talking Books on memory stick if we are able to offer it as a full service. We know that many readers are keen to receive Talking Books by download and we are currently developing a business case to enable us to implement this. We know that many people wish to buy books, magazines and newspapers and we will increase our range, using mainstream distribution channels in addition to our own book shop.
Thanks to the combined effort of the DAISY Consortium and its partners, we are changing the world together so that more people can read what they want to read, when they want to read it.
RNIB has spent 140 years committed to a better way to read and publish. The last 15 years with our worldwide partners in the DAISY Consortium has delivered a revolution in reading for our beneficiaries. But we think the best is still to come!
In November 2008 work began in earnest to develop the revision of the DAISY Standard. The Draft Standard for Trial Use, which is the release for the formal NISO public review process, has been completed as set out in the timeline for the development of the specification.
Previous DAISY Standards combined the roles of DAISY Digital Talking Book authoring (content creation) and distribution formats. However –
"it has become increasingly clear that combining the roles of authoring and distribution formats into one and the same XML grammar does not work well. The functional requirements of an XML authoring format and an XML distribution format are not always in harmony...There will be one specification focused entirely on an authoring format and another specification focused entirely on distribution formats. This approach will allow us to strengthen the effectiveness and expressive power of the DAISY format both in terms of authoring and distribution, since we will no longer have to make technical compromises when trying to cram functionally disparate requirements into the same standard." [ZedAI Introduction: Why focus on Authoring in DAISY?]
The new DAISY Standard, Z39.86 Authoring and Interchange Framework (ZedAI or DAISY AI for short) "defines an XML-based framework with which content producers can represent various types of information in an extensible, standards-compliant way, suitable for the transformation into multiple output formats." [ZedAI Introduction: What is the Z39.86 Authoring and Interchange Framework?] In other words, the new Standard provides a framework for the creation of a wide variety of content types, beyond books to newspapers, magazines, audio tour guides and almost any other format information may take. The key word here is "framework". It is extensible and adaptable for different purposes.
The new specification defines the rules for crafting a markup grammar like DTBook (DAISY XML), but does not itself define a markup model as was the case with DTBook. The specification does not define a markup language; it is not DTBook reformulated, rather, it defines the rules for how to craft a "profile" to mark up content, so that all profiles have a predictable core and use predictable technologies. A set of profiles (usable, sample markup models) that comply with the specification for people to use has been created, but the profiles themselves are not the specification and are not what NISO will be certifying.
With this revolutionary approach to accessible content creation and distribution, content producers will not be limited to a single markup model that may or may not be a good 'fit' for some content. Organizations, publishers and others will have the choice of using the predefined profiles or creating their own profiles to address their individual content requirements. It is expected that most will be largely interested in the existing profiles and the related DAISY Pipeline transformers. A catalogue of profiles that are conformant to the specification is available. Profiles will be developed and extended separately from the specification. The Profile Catalogue, available from the Z39.86-201x Specification Document Working area contains three profiles:
Sample documents and templates are available for each profile. Links to these are available on the resource directory page for each profile (in the informative resources section). Book samples are also available.
The new specification will ensure predictability; there will still be a DAISY core and rules that can be anticipated regardless of the profile used. It will enable the kind of parallel publishing models used to streamline production in traditional publishing environments by providing structurally and semantically-rich source content. Together with the DAISY Pipeline, this will allow documents to be easily transformed into various universally accessible formats for distribution, including DAISY Digital Talking Books, e-text, braille and large print.
The Working Group, lead by Markus Gylling, DAISY Consortium Chief Technology Officer, believes that the Draft Standard for Trial Use is ready for test use as the final step before presentation to NISO for certification. The review period extends from March 28, 2011 to September 28, 2011. In order to reach the final release of the Standard and supporting deliverables, assistance in evaluating the specification for its completeness and usability is required. Complete details, including links to the documents, reporting information and evaluation criteria are provided in the Request for Reviewers. The leap from the DAISY 3 Standard to the new DAISY Standard is even greater than the leap from DAISY 1 (for those who remember it) to DAISY 2.02. Technology changes and evolves, and the DAISY Standards continue to remain abreast of those changes, but input from the DAISY community and others is needed to successfully reach the final release this September.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to interview Andrew Friedman who is the President and CEO of RFB&D. Prior to our phone call I'd done some research on his background. One of the things I noticed in several photographs is Andrew's warm and welcoming smile, and during the interview it was clear that his smile reflects his personality. Andrew Friedman is candid, straight forward, personable and obviously very intelligent. He has a vision for RFB&D that is already changing things for the better.
Q: Andrew, I've read a bit about you and your appointment as RFB&D President and CEO, and I was rather surprised to find that you had only been with RFB&D for two years at that point. You have held senior positions with companies and not-for-profits and have been involved with publishing, but what brought you to RFB&D initially? What interested you in the organization's work, and is there a connection between the services it provides and your background or interests?
A: There are two things that interested me in RFB&D. The first is the mission, the ability to help people, primarily kids in education, and getting them access to the content and tools they need to be successful. It also comes back to my dad who is a doctor who specializes in kids with learning disabilities. One of his departments specialized in vision training. These issues have been in my family for a long time. I used to go to his office once a week prior to basketball games and learned about what went on. I bring my business background in this connection to RFB&D – helping kids who are not reaching their potential. It is hugely appealing to me. The second thing that really interested me in RFB&D is the ability to reach more people. There is a huge opportunity, given technology, to reach kids (in the broader sense) in a wider ranging way because of technology – things like Text-To-Speech and delivery of content by the mainstream. My work with RFB&D gives me the ability to make bigger impact.
Q: How would you describe your management style and how will it benefit RFB&D in the short and long term?
A: It is a combination of things. Once you are at the CEO level it has to be about leadership, and if an organization is to be successful it will be about motivation, understanding what folks do, and how to get the job done. It is 'how do you motivate people', it is not about me. It's about creating the right environment, about making sure the vision and mission are right, and empowering people to do their job.
Q: When I read the transcript of the recent RFB&D Roundtable, one of the things that I understood from it is that RFB&D is looking at possible ways to reach more people, and for solutions to some of the roadblocks that may now exist. How will you achieve this?
A: We are shifting focus to be on the users, the parents, the tools and the members. There is a shift in culture from being inwardly focused to being outwardly focus. It's not about us, it's about the people we serve. Changing culture takes a while. We have to make sure we are delivering the right solutions.
Q: RFB&D has been a member of the DAISY Consortium for many years and has worked with the Consortium on development efforts including the DAISY 3 Standard. However, when RFB&D introduced their digital talking book service it was called (and still is called) "Audio Plus". Similarly NLS/BPH calls its DAISY 3 content "NISO" (which it is). So, in the USA, DAISY books are called different things, when in fact they are really the same thing. Some folks think that this resulted in the uptake of DAISY to have been slowed in the US. Do you think this has a positive or negative impact on people's understanding of what is out there and what is available?
A: I'm not sure I have an answer to this, but the problem we see is not so much that DAISY (which is an underlying technology, and which is not used commercially), doesn't impact the reach to the right people, but the problem is that there is a lack of ability for people to get to accessible content easily, folks don't know what's out there. For us DAISY is the agreed upon standard of how we produce. We need to have better ways to help people search and find content. NLS, Bookshare and RFB&D are in preliminary conversation to try to resolve this.
Q: RFB&D books are largely DAISY with audio and structure. Do you foresee moving towards full text DAISY with human narration and/or full text DAISY with synthetic speech?
A: Yes, we have a major project underway to move to text as our input. Any book we produce has the underlying text structure. It doesn't mean we won't produce books with human narration, but we will have multiple options for production. Narrators will read from the text file not the print book. We will be able to produce text with TTS; volunteers will proofread and add image description. The other product is synchronized text with human voice. Yes, we are absolutely looking at text as the core structure and we are looking at various products to accommodate this.
Q: The benefits of human narration were mentioned a couple of times at the recent Roundtable in Washington. Has RFB&D done any studies on the effects of TTS versus human narration on one's ability to understand the meaning of the content and perhaps also on retention? If so, what has been found?
A: We have not done an official study nor have we found research to address it. There is a lot of empirical information. We also get a lot of input from users indicating that it is easier to listen to human speech, but we've done no official studies.
Q: When RFB&D's books were on cassette tape, qualifying people in other countries were able to get an RFB&D membership and receive RFB&D audio books. However, when the service went completely digital, that was stopped. The primary reason for this change, which negatively impacted many thousands of people outside the USA, was concern about copyright. Have there been any discussions about extending your services to qualifying individuals outside the US? Is this something that is on your agenda as CEO?
A: Right now our focus is on the USA, there is enough to do there, but it is something we will look at. One of my jobs is to prioritize. It is a future consideration.
Q: I'm not sure when the Department of Education grant that allows qualifying people to join RFB&D for free was received. Can you tell me when and what impact that has had on your membership numbers? Have they increased noticeably since then?
A: Free membership came into play in July 2009. It has not had a huge impact on our membership numbers probably because the price was low to start with, and most memberships come in through schools, not individuals.
Q: From one or two of your comments at the Roundtable it looks to me like you see technology playing a major role in the future of accessible information and in RFB&D's future. For example, ReadHear software by gh, LLC was introduced not long ago and it is free for your members.
A: This is certainly a boon for RFB&D users. It was a collaborative effort, with gh doing the majority of programming, but from a spec standpoint the development was done in conjunction with us. It was funded primarily by the Department of Education. Feedback is very positive. One of the good pieces of news is that we have had very few calls to customer service, which means people are not having problems with it. We have received positive feedback from our users about the software.
Q: RFB&D has recently released an Audio App for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This is a bit of a coup for RFB&D. What kind of response have you received about this new App? Was it membership/customer demand that drove this or was this something that you/RFB&D determined would benefit your users? What plans do you have to use technology and offer technological solutions in the future?
A: There is a fundamental shift in how people, our users, are accessing content – we are listening to users and making it happen. We are looking at what they may need next and will continue to release tools with the right content solutions. Next we're looking at how our services and our users fit into cloud technology.
Q: In your opening statement at the Roundtable you said: "We want a conversation about how to actually make our community better for people with learning differences. 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?" Do you think that there will come a time when all published material will be accessible? How do you think we will get there?
A: I hope it does, but we don't know the timing of it, which is the biggest issue. How fast does an EPUB-type standard get adopted and implemented? It may possibly take 5+ years to get there.
Q: What affect do you think the new EPUB standard will have on the commercial publishing world and on the availability of accessible publications?
A: We have to make sure that the final product helps people to read. It will be interesting over next 5 years to watch how this unfolds. We are very involved with the EPUB initiative with George Kerscher. It is an incredibly exciting time. Technological developments from a publishing and device standpoint give us a huge opportunity to solve some of the problems that currently exist. People need to understand that learning differently really matters.
Some of the benefits of free membership with RFB&D are:
Certification is required for membership in RFB&D.
I'd like express my sincere thanks to Andrew Friedman for working our interview into his schedule and for being so straight forward with his responses to the questions posed. It certainly does look like the future of RFB&D is in good hands. Additional information about Andrew is available on the RFB&D website. RFB&D is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.
On March 17 following months of cooperation and collaborative open source, standards-based development, a new beta release of Save As DAISY for Microsoft was announced and made available for download. Save As DAISY for Office 2010 allows Microsoft Word users to convert Word Open XML files to DAISY format. The resulting DAISY content can be read with compatible software and hardware DAISY reading systems, and can also be read with a refreshable braille display.
This version of the Microsoft Save As DAISY add-in supports Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, however at present the add-in is not recommended for Word 2003.
The very first release of the add-in was announced in 2008: Microsoft "Save As DAISY XML" and DAISY Pipeline Released May 7. Since that time development has improved the add-in – the output is multimedia DAISY Digital Talking Books (DTBs) with synchronized full text and audio and the resulting DAISY navigation that is known worldwide. A lite version of the Pipeline which is incorporated into the add-in supports the generation of the DAISY DTB with synthetic speech. A new DAISY Pipeline Release Candidate was also announced on the same day.
The Microsoft Save As DAISY add-in beta is available at no cost and can be downloaded from the Save as DAISY - Microsoft Word Add-In page on the DAISY website as well as from SourceForge. The software will automatically detect the version of Microsoft Office Word that is present and will install the appropriate add-in for the following versions of Microsoft Office Word: Word 2003, 2007, and 2010. The Instruction Manual is included in the download which is available for both 64-bit Windows and 32-bit Windows. If you experience accessibility issues on SourceForge, please download the Version 2.5 Beta from the DAISY website - Save as DAISY - Microsoft Word Add-In page.
Additional information and some of the project history are provided on the Microsoft Case Studies page. Questions and comments can be posted to the Save as DAISY - Microsoft Forum on the DAISY website. Problem reports can be submitted using the DAISY Contact form; select the "Save as DAISY" from the category drop down list.
The DAISY Consortium, Microsoft and Intergen extend thanks to the many contributors, testers and bug reporters who have helped in the development of the Version 2.5 Beta.
The source files are published on SourceForge in the Source Code folder.
On February 26 the World Blind Union announced that it had suspended its participation in the WIPO Stakeholders' Platform, the EU Stakeholder dialogue project and the TIGAR Project: "Unfortunately, the WIPO TIGAR project is being erroneously portrayed by some organisations as an alternative to the underpinning legal framework needed to guarantee equal access to information promised under the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities." [Maryanne Diamond, President of World Blind Union, WBU Statement, February 26, 2011].
WBU suspended its participation pending agreement at WIPO on a binding legal framework. The DAISY Consortium Board of Directors has made it clear that it fully supports a binding legal framework to address the issue of cross border exchange of accessible versions of copyrighted materials:
"We urge governments to instruct their delegations at WIPO to reach rapid agreement on the binding legal framework needed to meet their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Some governments are of the belief that licensing or advisory frameworks will adequately address the issue. However, licensing arrangements do not cover many vital publications, and may also result in unacceptable delivery delays and additional costs. 'Equal access' means access to published works at the same time and at no additional cost. After two years of negotiations we are no closer to a binding legal framework." [DAISY Consortium Press Release, March 10, 2011]
Only through a binding legal framework can the book famine which affects people with print disabilities worldwide be resolved in a sustainable and cost effective way. Your support for a binding legal framework is needed. Please make your voice heard by contacting the WIPO representatives for participating countries. The list of WIPO representatives is given in the Annex of the SCCR/21 Draft Report. This is to the complete report which is 55 pages long and includes 17 pages of Annex. The names of all of the participants (both Members and Non-members) are in the Annex which is at the end of the report. Each participating country has one or more attendees. If you have difficultly locating the name of your IP delegate in order to lobby for a binding agreement, please contact Chris Friend (Strategic Objective Leader Accessibility, World Blind Union (WBU); Chair, Global Right to Read Campaign; Programme Development Advisor, Sightsavers International) by email at CFriend(at)sightsavers(dot)org.
Thousands of people, from entrepreneurs and tech industry executives to academics and people with disabilities gathered in San Diego for the 2011 CSUN Conference to share ideas and explore ways in which new technologies can improve lives. Approximately 150 exhibitors showcased their products and services in the Douglas Pavilion and Manchester Ballroom. The featured speaker at the conference was Kareem A. Dale, who is the Special Assistant to President Obama for Disability Policy. Mr. Dale who holds three university degrees and is a successful lawyer, presented on the administration's work on Technology and Disability.
The 2011 Conference Chair, Dr. Arthur I. Karshmer opened CSUN with a moment of silence in memory of the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. The special keynote panel discussion was moderated by Mike Paciello; the panelists were Axel Leblois (Executive Director, G3ict – The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs), Mohammed Al-Tarawneh (UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and Paul Schafer (U.S. Department of State). They provided an international perspective on the global assistive technology divide and closing the gap between assistive technologies and information and communication technologies (ICT).
Paul Schafer stated that assistive technologies in third world countries are still too expensive, but expressed hope that assistive technologies would become more affordable as mainstream products such as Android devices become more accessible and available. Paul also stressed the importance of sharing best practices and suggested that open source products could potentially replace expensive, proprietary solutions.
To date ninety-nine countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Mohammed Al-Tarawneh stated that he is hopeful that the United States will become the 100th to ratify the convention.
Many sessions featured mobile (both iOS and Android) applications that enhance the quality of life, education, and employability of individuals with disabilities. There were several presentations that mentioned or covered the production and/or distribution of learning materials in DAISY format. This article mentions only some of them. A heart felt thanks to all Members and Friends of the DAISY Consortium who did an outstanding job promoting the DAISY Standard.
Gaeir Dietrich, a dedicated supporter of DAISY, provided an update an update on the work of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Material in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities. To fulfill its legislative charge, the Commission will present a report to Congress that outlines specific recommendations for increasing the amount of accessible, cost-effective instructional materials that are available to students with disabilities who attend postsecondary institutions. Gaeir mentioned that although DAISY is gaining in popularity, many students are still requesting Word or MP3 files in postsecondary settings because these are the formats that they are accustomed to using. The commission is planning on having a rough draft of their report for the AHEAD Conference in July this year. The Commission's "Task Force 3", led by George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and President of the IDPF, is focusing on market model solutions, EPUB and DAISY formats, Web solutions, Open Educational Resources (OER), Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). One of the goals is to identify where the mainstream market and special needs overlap.
Several sessions were dedicated to research and technologies which assist students with learning difficulties. During her session Cloud Computing and Learning Disabilities, accessibility advocate Shilpi Kapoor (BarrierBreak Technologies, N-Syst) described numerous reasons why children with learning disabilities find it difficult to learn. These students often have to adjust to different tools and user interfaces including word prediction tools, proofreading programs, symbol learning tools and speech synthesizers. Cloud Computing may be a solution, as tools and settings can be saved in the cloud. Students can have one login and with that single login, access to multiple tools. Customization settings are stored in the cloud and can be extended to address specific user requirements.
Werner Haan, CEO of Solutions Radio presented the session "Access to Internet Content and DAISY Books without a PC" and shared how DAISY books, newspapers, radio stations and podcasts can be accessed via IRIS webradio and ORIONWebbox (which is an acronym for Online Reading and Information ON demand). Stationlist.net portal provides users with access to more than 5,000 radio stations, 200 newspapers and 250,000 sermons in the U.S. and Canada. He also informed the audience that the new, even more flexible version of their online reading and information sharing service will be launched in July 2011 as the company implements the DAISY Online Standard.
The Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials (DIAGRAM) Center team encouraged participation and answered questions from session participants during their informative session. Panelists shared their research and methods of making images and other non-textual content including visual displays, magnification, tactile graphics and multimedia, accessible. The three DIAGRAM partner organizations which established the DIAGRAM Center are: Benetech, the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH and the U.S. Fund for DAISY (the U.S. Fund for DAISY provides financial support and administers U.S. based projects and grants for the DAISY Consortium). Additional information about the DIAGRAM Project is provided in the article in the March 2010 issue of the DAISY Planet. The DIAGRAM Center website provides detailed information about the Project activities. The paper for the presentation, given by Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager, Benetech Literacy Program, and Geoff Freed, Project Director WGBH National Center for Accessible Media, can be downloaded from the CSUN website.
Jim Durkin of Microsoft and George Kerscher co-presented a session about the two new Microsoft accessibility add-ins: STAMP and Save As DAISY add-in Version 2.5 beta for Office 2010. The Save As DAISY add-in for Office 2010 Version 2.5 Beta is available for download from the DAISY Consortium website.
Dominique Burger and Alex Bernier's session "Hélène, an Open-Source and DAISY Compliant Digital Library Management System" was thought provoking and attracted several library management specialists. In France, all publishers are required to provide their source files in an open format to a National Repository. Hélène is both a digital library for individual users and a repository for sharing adapted books. The digital library has 400 users and approximately 6,500 titles. DAISY 3 text-only books are protected using the DAISY PDTB2 specification and can be read on the HumanWare Victor Reader Stream, PLEXTALK Pocket, BookSense and other DAISY reading systems. DAISY 3 audio-only books with structure are also available. Individual users can suggest new acquisitions and create virtual bookshelves. Both Dominique Burger and Alex Bernier are with BrailleNet which is a member of DAISY France.
The Hélène server allows uploading/downloading of files for conversion into various accessible formats. The file server and DTBprotect tool which have been developed by BrailleNet are available at no cost. The file server is able to transfer big files efficiently and handles the automatic production of accessible formats and secure distribution. DAISY Online Protocol will be implemented in the near future.
Again this year each part of the CSUN conference program was available in advance for download in HTML or as a separate DAISY book from the DAISY Consortium website (CDs were also still provided at the venue). Many thanks to IVONA Software for providing their TTS voice for the CSUN 2011 Conference program DAISY DTB audio.
This report on CSUN 2011 was provided by Varju Luceno, Director of Communications for the DAISY Consortium.
To the Editor of DAISY Planet Newsletter,
I work as Project Manager for a joint project between the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired and the Celia Library, in close cooperation with Shinano Kenshi/Plextalk (vendor of players) and PratSam (vendor of server solution). The project is called "Moving DAISY online" and the aim is online delivery of talking books and newspapers with simple DAISY players, supporting the DAISY Online Protocol. It is the first service of its kind in the world.
The project will be presented at the DAISY Helsinki 2011 Conference in May.
I would like to propose an article for the DAISY Planet. Do you think it would be suitable?
Dear Maria, Yes, I am very interested in including an article about the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired and Celia Library project "Moving DAISY online" in the April DAISY Planet. Thank you for suggesting the article. Those who will be attending the conference "DAISY Today: Mainstreaming DAISY" in Helsinki will have an opportunity to learn about this project first hand.
Please can you let me know what help can you offer for adult dyslexia, in the way of equipment, software, training.
Intel Reader from HumanWare is a great device which is easy to use. Simply point, shoot and listen to printed text such as printed work documents, magazines, mail, cookbooks and more. Easy-to-locate buttons, audio and visual navigation, and straight forward menus make it easy to locate the functions users need.
You should also check out EasyTutor – computer users can write, read, view and check text alongside a human sounding voice. This software program has an intuitive toolbar which works seamlessly with Microsoft Word, Excel and Internet Explorer. University students, and adults at work or on work training programs can develop their reading and writing skills with EasyTutor from Dolphin Computer Access
As you are located in the UK you may find helpful resources and information on the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) website. Similar resources are also available in other countries.
We hope this helps.
• The Ministry of Education of Brazil buys textbooks for the entire network of public schools in Brazil. This year, for the first time, publishers are required to deliver the books in DAISY format as well. The Dorina Nowill Foundation is producing the DAISY version of the textbooks. The Foundation is currently the administrator for the DAISY Latino Group, a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.
• The Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) is offering a
Master of Design (MDes) in Inclusive Design as part of their graduate programs. This is a two-year program with an executive style delivery format to accommodate the needs of working professionals and international students. The program is open to applicants with academic background and/or expertise in digital media or ICT.
The focus will be on building expertise in inclusive digital media and information and communication technologies and practices. They looking for people think outside the box, beyond the norm, people who are open to the unfamiliar and who are willing and ready to stretch their mind and attitudes. The program begins in August & the deadline for application is May 2. Details are available on the OCAD website.
• Frank Kurt Cylke, longtime director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the USA retired at the end of February. Mr. Cylke had held the position since he was appointed to it in 1973. Ms. Scovill, the director of Technology Policy in Library Services at the Library of Congress will serve in this role for an interim period until the position is filled.
• The Accessing Higher Ground call for papers for its 14th annual Accessible Media, Web & Technology Conference is open. This conference focuses on the implementation and benefits of Assistive Technology and Accessible Media in the university, business and public setting. Other topics include legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance. The creation of accessible media and information resources, including Web pages and library resources are a particular focus of the event.
Completed proposals are due April 8. A second call for papers will have a deadline of May 6. Details and the proposal form are on the Accessing Higher Ground Conference website. Inquiries may also be made by phone at 303-492-8672.
• Registration for World Congress Braille21 participants begins on April 1. The Braille21 keynote speaker will be Judith Dixon. The early bird discount continues until 31 May. Information and the online registration form are available on the World Congress Braille21 website.
• John Gardner, Dr. Norman Coombs, Dr. Cary Supalo, and Dr. Katsuhito Yamaguchi have joined together in sponsoring a new web site devoted to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) access. Access2Science website is intended to provide a wealth of articles and links to practical information useful to people who are blind or have dyslexia, and to their peers, parents, teachers, and various providers. The site is very recently launched and the sponsors are seeking contributions of articles relevant to STEM. Examples are also welcome. People are encouraged to write and send articles, links to useful information, etc.
• The Bookshare Blog The Power and Role of Technology in the Field of Learning Disabilities posted by Betsy Burgess, Director of Outreach, Benetech/Bookshare, discusses incorporating technology into teaching students with learning disabilities.
A new release candidate of the DAISY Pipeline V20110317-RC was made available for download from the DAISY website on March 17. The release includes:
• Improvements and bug fixes to several Pipeline scripts including the TTS Narrator, the DAISY 2.02 to DAISY 3 forward migrator, DTBook to DAISY 3 Text-Only, DTbook to LaTeX, and PEF scripts
• Alignment of the TTS Narrator with the version embedded in the new release of the "Save as DAISY" add-in for Office 2010 (2.5 Beta)
• A new "DTBook to Translated Braille DTBook" script, which provides a basic integration of liblouis in the Pipeline, contributed by Christian Egli and Bernhard Wagner of SBS (liblouis is an open-source braille translator and back-translator from Abilitiessoft, Inc. which develops software for people with disabilities). This is a beta version and has only been tested on Linux.
• updated PEF-related scripts based on the Braille Utils library by Joel Håkansson (TPB)
Additional information and further details about the improvements and bug fixes are provided in the Pipeline detailed release notes.
Romain Deltour, the Pipeline Project Lead, extends thanks to all of the contributors, testers and bug reporters, and asks that the DAISY Pipeline forum be used to provide feedback or request support.