This has been an extremely busy month for some of the DAISY team members. Varju Luceno (our Director of Communications) attended the CSUN Conference and the 6th European eAccessibility Forum, providing an information-filled article on each for this issue of the DAISY Planet (thank you Varju!). I'm sure you'll find both of them interesting and informative: Reflections on the 6th European eAccessibility Forum and CSUN 2012: Technology and Relationships Broaden Horizons.
The highlight of the month for me personally was talking with Hoby (Henry) Wedler and his mother Terry. What a remarkable young man! Hoby was one of the six exceptional students who received Learning Ally's National Achievement Awards earlier this year. The article Learning Ally - the Impact of Access provides an insider's view into the organization's annual National Round Table and each of the award winners.
If your time is extremely limited and you must choose only two or three articles in this issue to read, make sure that Hoby's story is one them: Just Call Me Hoby is as inspirational as the man himself. After having spoken with Hoby and Terry and working with them on Hoby's story, I wondered 'Does he realize that from the day he was born he had already started to help young people who were blind or partially sighted?' When you read Part 1 of Hoby's story you may understand why I asked myself this question. (Part 2 of Hoby's story will be published in April.)
I received an email from one of the regular DAISY Planet readers (he never misses an issue). One point that he made was that he finds the Planet articles increasingly technical – too technical. After considering this comment I thought that there must be a way to alert people to articles that are directed more to people with a technical background. The article on the DAISY Pipeline 2 V1.2 in this issue is therefore prefaced with "Intended Audience: Developers and Techies" immediately below the article title – a little 'heads-up' for those of you who would rather skip over articles that are technical in nature. If you have other ideas as to how I can alert our readers to the more technical nature of some of the articles, please let me know via our Contact Us form (newsletter category) or directly by email.
Pedro Milliet, the DAISY Board representative for the DAISY Latino Group recently announced that the DDReader (Dorina DAISY Reader) license has been changed to an open source license. The source code is now on GitHub and is available to all developers and users. The complete documentation will also be uploaded. Work has begun to make DDReader a standalone application available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android platforms, along with many new features. Thanks go to Pedro and the DDReader development team.
On June 8 and 9, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will host Inclusive Publishing and eBook Distribution: Access for People with Print Disabilities. This conference, organized in cooperation with the DAISY Consortium, will feature speakers from organizations and companies directly or indirectly involved with accessible publishing and content distribution. The agenda will be posted next week (first week of April). Additional details are available on the NFB conference webpage.
This month I came across a recently published resource that I think will be of use to a great many people. The report SOCIABILITY: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY can be downloaded from this link. Scott Hollier, the author of the report, is with Media Access Australia. His work focuses on making computers and Internet related technologies accessible to people with disabilities. Hollier is a Ph.D., has a background in computer science and is legally blind. "Sociability" covers social media accessibility issues, how to overcome those issues, and how to use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, blogging, and SKYPE. Everything from using these social media tools for the first time, downloading & uploading, to tips & tricks and keyboard shortcuts is covered.
On the lighter side (much lighter) George Kerscher, the DAISY Consortium Secretary General, is featured in the documentary Sniff the Dog Movie – actually, it is Mikey, George's guide dog who is featured. Mikey even gets an actor's credit in the movie trailer (note: this short trailer is neither captioned nor described).
The DAISY Planet is read by people around the world – please remember that you can share news about activities, services and products with our readers by simply getting in touch with me directly by email or by using our Contact Us form.
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.
On February 27, 2012, Learning Ally put its mission on center stage with an awareness-generating event in Washington, DC. Within the distinguished atmosphere of the U.S. Capitol, the organization conducted its third annual National Roundtable. The theme this year was "The Impact of Access".
The event featured a rich discussion spotlighting six remarkable individuals and the transformative impact that accessible educational content and assistive technology has made in their lives. These six talented young people (three of whom are blind or visually impaired, and three who have dyslexia or another learning disability) are the top winners of Learning Ally's National Achievement Awards.
"Our intent with these Roundtable events is to bring the media and community face-to-face with individuals who have transcended obstacles posed by blindness, dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Students like these demonstrate that people who learn differently can read and succeed in K-12 and in higher education, move toward success in the workplace, and become assets to society." [Doug Sprei, Learning Ally's Director of Communications]
Key voices at the Roundtable discussions which were lead by Andrew Friedman, President and CEO of Learning Ally, were:
• Ashley Brow, a 22-year old from Massachusetts, in graduate school at Emerson College pursuing a career as a speech-language pathologist. After losing her vision in eighth grade, Brow summoned up unwavering determination to succeed in school. She completed her undergraduate work at Emerson with a 3.99 grade point average – and became the first person in her family to get a college education.
• Carson Wigley, an 18-year old student with dyslexia from Maryland, now a freshman at Wake Forest University. In addition to taking advanced placement courses and graduating from high school with a 97.0/100 grade point average, Wigley was a Maryland state winner of "Letters About Literature", a national competition of the "Center for the Book" in the Library of Congress. At the Roundtable, she described what led her to found her own community service organization, Shine NOW, which has collected nearly 4,000 books for children in Title I schools and homeless shelters.
• Gregory "Grey" Pilant, a 19-year old student from Florida who has severe dyslexia and a reading/processing disability. A high achiever during his early school years, Pilant harbored a lifelong goal to become a physician. However during middle school he underwent a crisis of confidence as his undiagnosed learning disability met with the demands of honors algebra and other challenging classes. After what he describes as "a two-year tailspin", Pilant was diagnosed with dyslexia and was eventually guided by a school learning specialist to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Now a freshman at the University of Miami, he is flourishing as a pre-med student while also working in hospital emergency rooms as a volunteer.
• Henry "Hoby" Wedler, a 24-year old graduate student from Davis, California is pursuing a career in science (he was born blind). Wedler completed his undergraduate work at UC Davis (double major in Chemistry and History and minor in Mathematics, achieving a 3.83 grade point average) and is now in graduate school. He has established himself as a role model and mentor for younger students. (Part 1 of Hoby Wedler's Story is published in this issue of the DAISY Planet. Part 2 will be published in April.)
• Margaret Perry, an 18-year old student from Maryland who has dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Before starting her freshman year at Duke University, Perry spent the summer working at SuperKids Camp in Baltimore, a nonprofit summer camp for inner city elementary students to help them improve their literacy and math skills. Now studying public policy and art at Duke University, Margaret intends to use her creativity and knowledge about learning differences to be an advocate for those facing struggles similar to her own.
• Stephanie Fernandes, a 22-year old graduate student from Ohio, is pursuing a law degree at Ohio State University. Undeterred by total blindness resulting from Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, Fernandes graduated with honors from Boston College with a 3.93 grade point average. She will pursue a career in public interest law with a focus on education, disabilities and child advocacy: "Ultimately my education comes with a responsibility to use my talents to serve other people whose rights have been wrongly denied or ignored."
In addition to providing the award winners with an opportunity to share their personal accounts, the Roundtable also provided a forum for parents of children with learning differences to share intensely personal testimony. Ten parents participated in person at the Roundtable, plus several dozen mothers and fathers from around the U.S. contributed statements through Learning Ally's social media channels on Facebook and Twitter – adding a truly national community dimension to the event. The parents made a compelling case for public policy and institutional reforms that can empower families to obtain necessary accommodations, and pave the way for educators to gain access to critical assistive technology.
BrailleNet, one of the long time supporters of the DAISY Consortium, organized the 6th European eAccessibility Forum which was held in Paris, France, on March 26. The topic this year was "Putting e-accessibility at the heart of information systems". Smaller conferences such as this – there were 210 participants – have a different appeal as compared to larger events. It is easier to catch up with colleagues and have engaging conversations with other attendees – key people in the industry. Participants also get a glimpse of new accessibility initiatives and future developments.
The welcome address was delivered by Francoise Bretonneau, Universcience, and Dominique Burger, a wonderful host, DAISY supporter and energetic IAN President. This article will shed light on some panel discussions to give a feel for this year's conference. The full program is available on the conference website.
Robert Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft was one of the panelists on the "Industrial Opportunities of e-Accessibility" panel, led by Axel Leblois, the Executive Director of G3ict (Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs):
"Today, people are required to adapt to every piece of technology they encounter. It is becoming a significant challenge," Sinclair said. "The future lies in a new generation of technology that automatically adapts to a person's individual needs, preferences, and immediate surroundings, to create an optimal user experience."
He pointed out that unfortunately, misunderstanding about accessibility and inclusion still exists. Some people believe that accessibility hinders innovation. Sinclair stated that this kind of thinking needs to change. He also explained that accessibility is not a part of curriculum for designers and developers or business leaders.
“The time has come for accessibility to transcend its origin and become an internationally recognized profession", said Rob Sinclair. An 'International Society of Accessibility Professionals' should be established to create and maintain globally recognized educational resources. It is necessary to integrate accessibility into curricula, because right now it is still possible to get a university degree in a respected college without learning the main principles of inclusive design or accessibility. Some standards groups are struggling to address accessibility.
For all reasons mentioned above, it is important to train and certify international accessibility professionals who could mentor professionals in other industries and help them maintain their expertise. In addition, people receiving training can drive accessibility literacy across job functions in public and private sectors. Robert Sinclair emphasized the importance of collaboration in order to build and nurture a global community of experts and recognize organizations which implement accessibility well. With a strong global community, we can support the unique requirements of individual countries and share best practices.
Since it was founded, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has devoted its efforts to ensuring that the Web is accessible for everyone. The W3C/WAI Standards have been adopted by numerous countries worldwide. Persons with disabilities often require non-standard devices and browsers. Making websites compliant to W3C/WAI recommendations benefits users with a wide range of applications and devices - including mobile devices.
Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C/WAI) talked about Managing Website Accessibility Conformance including current developments in creating an internationally harmonized website accessibility evaluation methodology.
Markus Gylling, CTO for both the DAISY Consortium and the IDPF provided a brief overview of the potential of EPUB 3 format as a foundation for Inclusive Publishing. Some of the points made by Gylling were:
Publishers should follow the main principle – design for usability to satisfy all users. Sound authoring practices and basic HTML5 / WCAG 2.0 techniques may often be sufficient to create accessible digital content. Bitmap images should not be used to convey information. XHTML 5 elements should be used properly, and publishers need to pay attention to both structure and semantics. As a guideline, EPUB 3 semantic inflection should be utilized, where necessary. Scripted content needs extra attention, ARIA techniques should not be ignored. For academic textbooks especially, text-to-speech features should be included and Media Overlays added for a rich multimodal reading experience. In addition, EPUB 3 simplifies navigation.
"EPUB 3 Best Practices" is still a work in progress, with two installments published to date:
A condensed online checklist, accessible EPUB 3 reading system guidelines and an accessibility evaluation tool will be available in the future. New inclusive EPUB 3 authoring solutions are being created, including adding accessibility features to mainstream authoring tools. Interactive widgets and reusable libraries are also in the works. The main goal is to provide digital content creators with tools that enable inclusive publishing practices.
Gerald Schmidt from Pearson Education pointed out that educational publishers can adopt EPUB 3 or develop their own solutions – reinventions at significant cost. With EPUB 3 implementation accessibility features will significantly improve educational publications.
Christina Mussinelli from the Italian Publishers Association shared the findings of the LIA (Libri Italiani Accessibili) Project. Libri Italiani Accessibili is a biennial project which started in 2011, coordinated by Ediser, a service company owned by Associazione Italiana Editori (Italian Publishers Association), and funded by the Italian Ministry for Culture. Its aim is to provide a service capable of increasing the availability of digital publications which are accessible for people who are blind and visually impaired, in full respect of both authors' and publishers' rights, through the creation of an online catalogue of 3,000 titles. The guiding concept of the project is to make accessibility part of mainstream production and distribution workflows in the publishing industry. At the end of the first year of work, focused on several introductory studies, the format identified as the most suitable to achieve this objective is EPUB 3, in line with overall technological evolution, allowing publishers to adjust the way they produce their e-books, without radically changing processes.
In the testing phase, six Italian publishers provided LIA with EPUB files of the already available titles. Italian accessibility experts analyzed the files and tested them with different reading systems. The usability and the accessibility of common mainstream readers were also tested. It was once again confirmed that the whole publishing / distribution and reading ecosystem needs to be accessible to deliver a fully accessible reading experience. Christina Mussinelli can be contacted at c.mussinelli[at]360publishing[dot]it for additional information about the LIA project.
The proceedings of this Forum will be posted online in late April. For the Forum G3ict and BrailleNet published the White Paper "Benefits and Costs of e-Accessibility" which is based on the previous Forum which was held March 28, 2011. A copy can be requested on the G3ict website.
Thanks go to conference organizers who worked hard to provide a wonderful day of learning and networking in beautiful Paris!
This article was submitted by Varju Luceno, the Director of Communications for the DAISY Consortium.
Ten years ago the concept of ebooks was in place but there weren't many electronic books around, and very few people had ever read one – unless of course you were blind or had a visual disability. In 2000 Jim Fruchterman founded Benetech with the aim to use technology to serve humanity. And then Fruchterman's teenage son introduced him to Napster. Jim took that concept to the next logical step: an Internet-based service for sharing scanned books - ebooks for people with a print disability. They adopted DAISY text-only ebooks as the core format for Bookshare which was launched in 2002 and is now known around the world.
"For a decade, we've been bringing reading to life for people with print disabilities, and we’ve been bringing reading to the lives of many who were hungry for access to content, be it for school or reading pleasure. We've accomplished this by knocking down barriers to access, collaborating with great partners, and inventing new, easy-to-use technologies. We pioneered a new approach to libraries for individuals with print disabilities and we let Members decide what they wanted to add to the collection." [Join Bookshare's Worldwide 10th Anniversary Celebration! Betsy Burgess, Bookshare Blog March 11, 2012]
The Bookshare Team has also produced an interesting and rather humorous video in celebration of their milestone anniversary, featuring Jim Fruchterman (Founder & CEO), Betsy Beaumon (Vice President & General Manager), as well as early and current Bookshare users. (There are also numerous other videos about Bookshare and its services on the same page.)
Perhaps two of the most significant changes Bookshare has made are:
The Bookshare collection which has now reached about 140,000 titles grows by approximately 2,000 new titles per month. The number of titles available through Bookshare's International Service is affected by copyright and varies.
Additional information about Bookshare's 10th Anniversary and its services is available on these and other websites:
Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary Bookshare!
CSUN 2012 in San Diego ignited many inspiring discussions, tweets, articles, podcasts and blog posts, and provided numerous opportuntities to reconnect with colleagues and friends.
The Great Big List from the 2012 CSUN International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference contains links to Conference presentations, wrap-ups, podcasts, blog and news coverage, photos, and more. Notes from DAISY-related sessions and our photos of Member Exhibits were shared via the DAISY Twitter feed and Twitpic page on accessibledaisy.
Participants could choose from numerous sessions that focused on new assistive technologies, accessibility initiatives, inclusive design, standards development, accessible mobile applications and proven approaches to making websites accessible for all.
This article will feature CSUN 2012 presentations of solutions that affect many people in everyday life, but are not widely discussed in digital media.
In his presentation, Stephan Knecht from Bones Inc. introduced PAVIP®, a public transportation accessibility solution for the blind. It is based on wireless connectivity and officially implemented in Switzerland.
PAVIP is supported by the Swiss Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (SFB), Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB), Swiss Library for the Blind (SBS), Federal Office of Transport (FOT), Public Transportation Authorities of the City of St. Gallen (VBSG) and the Engineering Office of Bones Inc.
How does this work? When service users reach a bus stop, they take their Milestone 312 DAISY player with the PAVIP module and scan over the front of the time table. Information letting them know at which bus station they are, when and which bus lines will stop there, and what the location around them looks like is all provided through audio output.
When passengers open the point "bus lines" on their M312 they can for example choose the line number 7 to the train station. When bus number 7 is in front of the station, they receive a signal or vibration that their bus is near. With a push of a button on M312 they can open the door of the bus. While sitting on the bus passengers are connected to the bus system, all upcoming stops are announced via their accessible device (M312). After they have stepped off the bus, passengers can again scan the time table.
PAVIP makes life and traffic more navigable for many visually impaired users.
The Text to Speech Language Development Session also caught my attention as text-to-speech (TTS/synthetic voice) is increasingly used in a wide variety of services, devices and applications, help desks and voice response systems. For example, if you have an Android device running Android 2.1 or above, Google now offers accessibility support and TTS reading of books in the Google 'Play Books' app for Android. Users need to enable accessibility in their device's settings.
A country's mother tongue is an essential part of each nation's identity and ideally text-to-speech voice/s should be available in every language. TTS solutions in minority languages bring new opportunities for people with disabilities to actively participate in society and find new educational and employment opportunities. It is not a simple task to develop high quality text-to-speech voices – it requires highly skilled linguists, computer engineers as well as financial and time investment.
Lukasz Osowski (IVONA software) shared the IVONA methodology of semi-automatic 'Rapid Language Development' which consists of 3 different stages:
New voices are made available as SAPI voices for Windows, voices for Android platform, voices for publishing, voices for other professional use, voices for embedding into consumer products and voices in the cloud.
Richard Orme (RNIB) shared the Case Study of RNIB's collaboration with IVONA to build Welsh and Welsh English voices as there was no viable TTS voice option in Welsh that worked with access technology or could be readily understood. There are approximately 650,000 Welsh speakers. Richard provided very interesting background information about Wales and its history and the audience sampled the new high quality Welsh voices.
Kristinn Einarsson from Blindrafelagid, Icelandic organization of the visually impaired (BIOVI) introduced the Case Study that focused on the small Icelandic market for TTS development – Iceland has a population of about 315,000 people. He noted that the Icelandic language is the single most important identifier of the Icelandic nation. It is very close to the Old Norse Viking language as it was spoken 1,000 years ago in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and part of the British Isles. The new TTS voice development project was viewed as a language preservation project in addition to providing new windows of opportunity for print disabled people.
Two Icelandic TTS voices were produced in the past: Snorri, a male voice that sounded like "a Frenchman speaking Icelandic", and Ragga, a female voice that sounded like "a crying woman". Neither of these voices can be used in modern technology due to limitations in their design. Presenters demonstrated two new high-quality voices, Döra (female) and Karl (male) that are being developed in collaboration with IVONA.
We would like to thank all of our Friends and Members who attended CSUN 2012 and shared their expertise and knowledge of DAISY Standards and technologies.
This article was prepared by Varju Luceno, Director of Communications for the DAISY Consortium.
Version 1.2 of the DAISY Pipeline 2 project is now available for download. Changes since the last release include:
More details (notably on the 3-party prerequisites) are available in the user guide. At the moment the Pipeline 2 is a command-line tool only, targeted at developers and early adopters. A Web User Interface is in the works for 2012.
All of the Pipeline 2 slides and samples created for the Pipeline 2 workshop held in Peterborough, UK in February are now available online on the Pipeline wiki.
New hub pages to the Pipeline Project's wiki have been created and will be gradually enriched with complementary documentation resources:
The Pipeline 2 discussion forums can be used for support or any other user-oriented issues. Additional details are available in the Pipeline 2 release notes The Pipeline 2 team is available to answer any kind of questions via the developers' mailing list or the user's forum which can also be used to provide feedback (which will be warmly welcomed).
Since our email exchanges last year I am pleased to inform you that I released a new version (12.04) of the Daisy Web Player. A lot of changes and improvements were made, so I think it could interest the DAISY community.
Would it be possible to put a few lines about this new release on the daisy.org site?
Association pour le Bien des Aveugles, Geneva,
& Nice Data Systems
Editor's Note: Dear Martin, we will post a short news entry on the DAISY homepage and will tweet about it as well on accessibledaisy. Thank you for your email and for sharing the update with the DAISY community.
[This inquiry was posted to the DAISY Pipeline Forum.]
I have an simple Audio book that includes only mp3 files. Is it possible to convert the Audio book to a DAISY Audio book with the DAISY Pipeline? So I can hear the book in DAISY players and DAISY apps such DAISY Worm or DAISY2go or another apps? If so, how? Also I'd like to know if there is a DAISY player app for the iPhone and iPad from the DAISY Consortium.
Obi, the free & open source authoring tool is well suited for converting audio files into a DAISY book. You can import both MP3 & WAV files in Obi and export them as a DAISY book which will play on all platforms in DAISY players.
The steps for importing audio files in Obi are explained in this short video on the DAISY YouTube channel
To download Obi visit www.daisy.org/obi.
For more tutorials and videos on Obi visit the Obi section in DAISYpedia.
A number of apps are available from DAISY friends & other developers for playing DAISY books on the iPhone & iPad. See the article DAISY Books on Mobile Phones and Multimedia Devices in DAISYpedia for more information.
The reply to Ilana's inquiry was posted by Prashant Verma, Consultant for Technical Support and Software Testing with the DAISY Consortium.
• Tuimagina is a Spanish language blog which provides useful tips about how to make the most of your computer by using some simple adaptive software tools. It is oriented to find practical solutions to common problems such as navigating through your Facebook account, or using Twitter, or making the most of Windows7. It offers tricks and workarounds, short tutorials (as podcasts) and other advice to help PC users who are blind or have a print disability.
• The theme of the IFLA WLIC 2012 preconference which will take place August 8 and 9 in Tallinn, Estonia, will be "Let's Read! Reading and Print Disabilities in Young People". The conference will highlight the importance of delivering special library services for children and youngsters with print disabilities and will provide information about how to improve services through co-operation and partnership with schools and reading associations.
• Panasonic has launched a "talking television" in the UK, delivering the world's first digital television sets with integrated Voice Guidance. Voice Guidance works by announcing on-screen information with synthetic speech, for example it reads out what channel and program is on and what is showing later in the week. This feature makes it easier for people who are blind or have limited vision to use their television. A video demonstration of the main features is available on YouTube.
• The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will present "Training the Trainers: Teaching and Supporting Users of Access Technology", May 9 - 11 at their headquarters in Baltimore Maryland. Hands-on training will cover: screen access software, braille, DAISY eBooks, tactile graphics creation plus other tools and solutions. The agenda and other details are available on the NFB website.
• Accessible EPUB 3 is now available for download in EPUB 3 format at no cost from the DAISY website.
• Math by touch: Jenna Gorlewicz, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University is working on a project that uses haptic technology (tactile responses like vibrations or motion built into devices) to provide students who are visually impaired with a new way to learn math using tablets like the iPad and Android.
• The Accessing Higher Ground 2012 Conference deadline for proposals is April 6.
• The library service of the Association for the Blind of Western Australia (ABWA) has recently added 206 Chinese language talking books to its holdings (the books were provided by the Malaysian Association for the Blind). ABWA is also seeking sources for DAISY books in Polish, Italian, and Greek – general reading, particularly fiction. Please contact Greg Kearney by email at gkearney[at]gmail[dot]com with any information regarding this request.
• Matt Garrish (author of the 1st 2 installments of "EPUB 3 Best Practices": What is EPUB 3? and Accessible EPUB 3) and Sarah Hilderley Accessibility Project Lead for EDItEUR recently presented at BookNet Canada Forum 2012. The presentations were videotaped and will be posted on the BookNet Canada website in the near future.
• FLOSS Manuals is a foundation focused on the development of documentation for free software. It includes multiple language translations and is based in the Netherlands.
• The Tobi Webinar which will be held April 19 will demonstrate how to produce accessible diagrams in the DAISY 3 format, and provide a sneak preview at the upcoming EPUB 3 support in Tobi. Registration is available online. This webinar will be hosted by EASI.
• Android Accessibility: Tips for users and Tips for developers: Designing for Accessibility (For application developers, providing an overview of the steps developers should follow to make sure that their applications are accessible).