The DAISY Consortium's Monthly Newsletter - January 2014

From The Editor

As promised last year, we have implemented the change in the DAISY Planet that many of you suggested would make our newsletter more 'useable'. The three column layout remains with the feature articles in the centre. However the sequence of the regular columns and the list of these in the Index (Table of Contents) are now in synch. It was also suggested that as my letter often provides an overview of what is in the issue, it should be the first item in the Index and the first item in the left column. These changes should not negatively affect the usability or reading experience for anyone but will hopefully make the DAISY Planet more "usable" for those of you who read it with a screen reader.

We begin the year with six feature articles, the first of which Window-Eyes Screen Reader: Free to Microsoft Office Users came as a surprise to almost everyone. The article OverDrive eBooks & Audiobooks: Positive Changes Coming also deals with a mainstream company that will be introducing new enhanced eBook features, including books that are 'synchronized audio & text' (via EPUB 3 media overlays). The more mainstream companies, both large and small, that incorporate features and/or functions that make their products accessible, the better the world will be for everyone.

Attitudes are changing – people are finally waking up, although perhaps not as quickly as we would like. The press release from Gartner, Inc., Assistive Technology Can Be of Benefit to All, Not Just People With Disabilities, opens with: "Companies that address accessibility needs in their IT product development are better positioned to leverage those same assistive technologies to mass market solutions". (Gartner, Inc. "is the world's leading information technology research and advisory company.") Text-to-speech recognition and optical character recognition are two examples given. This piece is very interesting and takes only a minute or two to read.

This issue also includes two feature articles about advances and activities at Learning Ally, one of the Consortium's Full Members in the US. It is rare for an issue to include more than one article about a single organization, but both include interesting information and focus on services for people who have dyslexia. In addition, the most recent issue of DAISY TechWatch carries the topic further with the article Overcoming Dyslexia: Technology Can Help; it also provides insight into this learning disability and reading.

DAISY to EPUB: To Migrate or Not to Migrate? introduces Matt Garrish's blog post "DAISY to EPUB Migration". I thought Matt covered many of the questions and issues extremely well, and he kindly gave me permission to republish the piece in this issue of the Planet. (Thank you Matt.)

The only article I've not mentioned here yet is FCC Order: Temporary Waiver for Basic E-Readers. Although this deals specifically with a legal issue in the US, I felt compelled to share it with you. It is a rather complex issue but in the article I have attempted to relay the facts in a way that is as uncomplicated as possible. I suggest that if this issue is important to you (and it was for me, even though I am not from the US) that you read the FCC Order and other materials (links are provided in the article).

In 1964 Isaac Asimov predicted What the World Will Look Like Today – in 2014. Although some of his predictions are rather far-fetched, this one stood out for me like a blazing star:
"Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica."
The idea of reading books from a screen rather than a printed page was incredibly forward thinking for 1964 – he did not however anticipate that electronic devices would 'talk' or that screen readers would change the lives of millions of people. It is an interesting article, and it is quite short if you are interested in looking at the world of today as it was seen 50 years ago.

I have followed the news on Intellectual Property Watch for some time, in particular over the past few years to find information about what is now known as the Marrakesh Treaty. On January 9 they published the "Top IP-Watch Stories Of 2013", and, much to my amazement "the landmark agreement in Marrakesh on a WIPO treaty easing access to books for the blind" was in the top 5 for the year. In light of the subjects they cover relating to property and intellectual rights around the world, I think it is rather astounding that 'our Treaty' would be read by so many, many people. This Treaty is a milestone. Please remember to advocate for its ratification in your country. (The specific article that made the top 5 was Miracle In Marrakesh: "Historic Treaty" For Visually Impaired Agreed.)

Three New Techniques for Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration by Bill Holton was published in the January AFB AccessWorld® Magazine. If you have AMD, if you are 65 or over, or, if you know someone who has AMD, this article is a 'must read'.

We were notified this month that DAISY Consortium slide sets on SlideShare were among the top 3% of the most viewed on the SlideShare website, with 11,746 views in 2013. In the report it stated that "It would take three Titanics to hold that many people!" There are now 24 sets of slides on the DAISY SlideShare page and the 3 countries which accessed our slides most often last year were the USA, Switzerland and Brazil. Congratulations go to Varju Luceno, our Director of Communications, for her efforts to share DAISY information resources on SlideShare.

"It's never a waste to follow your dreams." Our daughter said this when we were visiting over the holidays. I've Googled the exact quote and there are numerous similar statements, but none exactly the same. The message is simple: regardless of the challenges or 'brick walls' you may face, you can still dream and you can still try to follow those dreams, whatever they may be. If you read the stories published with this newsletter you learn about people who have done just that, follow their dreams. And speaking of our stories, I received an email from a friend who had read one of the three DAISY stories that are my favourites from 2007 to 2010. He wrote: "I just finished reading the Michael Hingson story and it was indeed gripping reading! Great story."

Greg Aikens' story in this issue of the DAISY Planet is republished with permission from the Marietta Daily Journal. It is wonderful and I felt it would be a good way to begin the year.

I'd like to close off with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968). It will be my 'go to' thought for 2014 (and likely for years to come): "Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."

Thanks to everyone who has written to me with ideas, articles and suggestions for this issue of the DAISY Planet. Your input helps me keep our community up to date on what is going on in the world of information, access and publishing. DAISY stories provide insight into the lives of people we might not otherwise have ever come to know. You can reach me by email (you will have my address if you receive the DAISY Planet email notice) or you can use the DAISY Contact Us Form (DAISY Planet Newsletter Category).

Lynn Leith
Editor

DAISY Marketplace

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

The DAISY Marketplace

Publishers' Corner

Issue 17 of Publisher Accessibility Newsletter (December 2013) is now available online on the Publishers Licensing Society website. This publication covers topics relating to publishing, accessibility, copyright and more from around the globe. It is published twice a year and is available in Word and PDF formats.

• In the article Semantics and Simplicity Are Keys to 'Future-Proof' EPUB3 Content written by Joshua Tallent and posted on the Digital Book World website January 13, he states "Semantic language should be the focal point for ebook designers working with EPUB3, especially when it comes to planning for the future of digital products." He also writes that "publishers implementing EPUB3 should consider functionality and accessibility" and concludes with "Accessibility is now another major consideration for publishers. Files built properly from the ground up will have greater longevity in the marketplace."

Helicon Books provides insights about the new IDPF "EPUB Preview" Standard for Digital Books in the January 7 PRWeb press release. Until now there has been no official standard method for preview publications. The new standard is basically additions to the metadata section of the EPUB file including a method to identify the publication as a preview and most importantly a way to acquire the complete publication. The standard was under public and member review until January 15.

• In the W3C interview Pearson Publishing on Digital Learning, with Madi Solomon, Solomon closes with "Requirements today relate to layout, pagination, metadata, behavior adaptation, annotation, accessibility. Pearson wants to promote open standards for digital publishing rather than be locked into technologies for specific devices. For content to be fluid on any device, we need open standards, and W3C is helping to create important ones in this space."

• The final draft of the EPUB Indexes 1.0, Draft Specification was published January 14, 2014. "The purpose of this specification is to define a consistent way of encoding the structure and content of indexes in EPUB Publications, in a manner that enables indexes to be rendered on all EPUB Reading Systems and handled in an optimal manner on EPUB Reading Systems that conform to the specification. Reading Systems can exploit this encoding to offer not only the benefits of a print index but also interactive functionality and features not possible in a print book."

• In the January 30 PRWeb press release, Mission-based Start Up Addresses eBook Accessibility in Mainstream and Educational Media, Lynn Wehrman, President and founder of WeCo, stated "When publishers produce inaccessible materials, they lose a large part of their market share and could be placing their companies on the precipice of a public relations nightmare. Their competitors who produce accessible materials will be taking the lion's share of new publishing profits because their readers, whether they presently live with a disability or not, will ultimately benefit from books with the improved flexibility accessible features provide." A link to the DAISY Consortium slide presentation Inclusive Publishing: The Key to Accessible Digital Books is included in the second last paragraph.

How Removing Copy Protection Increased Record Companies' Music Sales (Forbes): "…with on-going digitisation in various industries – including games, books and television – it might make producers and rights-holders take notice and think twice."

Window-Eyes Screen Reader: Free to Microsoft Office Users

Microsoft & GW Micro Announcement: a Game Changer

On January 14 Microsoft and GW Micro made an announcement that took all of us by surprise – they have partnered and are making Window-Eyes, the screen reader developed by GW Micro, available in over 15 languages to anyone using Microsoft Office 2010 or later…at no cost. Window-Eyes, GW Micro's flagship product, provides access to Windows PC's with speech and/or braille (when the user has a braille display). The screen reader allows users with a print disability to the Office Suite.

This collaboration between one of the largest mainstream technology companies in the world and an access technology company is unparalleled and the impact could be far-reaching. It is a global initiative that has the potential to benefit many, many people.

The fully functional version of Window-Eyes is suitable for home use, and for use in corporate, educational and government working environments. There are however some limitations, for example, there is no support that comes with the free version; better quality speech synthesizers, and hotkey lists are also available for a fee. For those who already have a license for Window-Eyes, there is unlimited tech support. Microsoft Speech Platform will be the default synthesizer for Window-Eyes with the no-cost version.

David Goldfield is a computer technology instructor at the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Founder and Peer Coordinator, Philadelphia Computer Users' Group for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He posted his thoughts about the announcement on LinkedIn. This is one part of what he had to say:

"This move from GW Micro is more than just a great idea or a clever marketing strategy. In my opinion, it represents the end of an era and the beginning of a new one regarding the business model of screen reader distribution. I've said for some time that our current model, where you pay hundreds of dollars for computer access, needs to go away. With this decision, I predict that it soon will.

A "Toast" from the "Competition"

"Serotek raises a glass in celebration of GW Micro's latest achievement. The recently announced partnership between GW Micro and Microsoft marks the beginning of a new chapter in assistive technology history, and the team at Serotek applauds a huge step forward that can only bring positive benefits to the blind consumer." [Serotech blog, January 16]

Still on the Serotek page with its congratulations, Mike Calvo, founder of Serotek and executive director of the AIR Foundation said: "GW Micro should be commended for making their flagship product attainable to thousands of blind people in developing countries…That's universal access the way it was meant to be enjoyed."

Window-Eyes Download: Link & Details

Eligible customers using Microsoft Office 2010 or higher can download a full version of Window-Eyes. Operating Systems supported are: Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP. (Download instructions and additional details are also provided).

Resources and Additional Information

VOICEtext: Human Narrated Audio Synchronized with Text

Learning Ally has taken navigation and synchronizing of human voice audio books to another level. Students in college and in advanced programs are comfortable with books produced with synthetic speech. However younger people struggling with reading because of a learning disability such as dyslexia, are much more likely to learn more quickly when the audio is human voice rather than synthetic speech. Because reading for these young people can be so difficult, it is important that they learn to 'love to read'. VOICEtext formatted books, which are full-text and audio DAISY books, help them to do just that – love reading and learning.

Navigation by heading and page is of course present, but the audio in VOICEtext books is also synchronized at the sentence level with the text which displays on the screen. Some Learning Ally VOICEtext books are also produced with synthetic speech.

Ben Shrader, a young dyslexia advocate and Learning Ally member This format was introduced last year and there are now over 2,000 VOICEtext titles available. New titles in this format are being added to the collection and older books will be converted to meet the needs and expectations of both students and educators. Research and development are underway at Learning Ally to create more improved VOICEtext books with deeper levels of synchronization and functionality. In the future, VOICEtext books will include word-level synchronization.

In the article VOICEtext – Text Synched with Audiobooks Improves Reading posted this month, Paul B. Yellin, M.D., and Whitney D. Hall, Ph.D., each describe the benefits of 'multisensory' reading.

"Many children understand language that they hear at a higher level than language they read on their own. Audiobooks allow children to access information at this higher level. And very often, reading skills are best improved if the listener follows along with the written text…Having the ability to actually see a word highlighted while hearing it read allows a child to access content by reinforcing the linkage between 'how a word looks' with 'how a word sounds' and supports the development of independent reading skills…" [Paul B. Yellin, M.D., founder of The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain and Education]

How are VOICEtext Books Produced?

Synchronized text and audio is relatively straight forward with text-to-speech (TTS), but with human narration it's somewhat more complex. To find out the 'how' I spoke with one of the production specialists at Learning Ally and found that there are actually two distinct workflows. (Audio recording at Learning Ally is done by volunteers.)

In-Studio Production

Learning Ally has recording studios across the country. Using software developed in-house, the volunteer narrators mark the synchronization points. This is done by depressing a single button used specifically for this purpose. Marking these points at the sentence level (rather than only to mark headings, chapters, and pages) is somewhat more challenging for the volunteers but the end result is that much more useful for the Learning Ally members – the students and others who read these multisensory books.

Off-site Recording

There are also volunteers in this program who record at home. These are people with some recording and narration experience and who have their own recording environment, using the software that they are accustomed to using. Text files for a book, one file per chapter for example, are uploaded to a specific, secure site. The volunteers download the text from the book folder, record the audio, and then upload the completed recording to that same folder. Each audio file corresponds to a single text file. Software is then used to synchronize the audio with the text at the sentence level. This post-production process is automated once the completed audio has been downloaded.

Learning Ally is working on expanding this recording program which is now open to volunteers regardless of audio recording software that they use in their home and regardless of the operating system, Windows or Mac.

Going Forward

Image of the VOICEtext app showing the text highlighting For the most part the books recorded by volunteers in their homes are relatively straight-forward (literature, history, etc.) while the more complex textbooks such as sciences and mathematics are recorded by experienced volunteers with subject expertise, in-studio, using the Learning Ally recording software.

At present there are approximately 1,000 volunteers waiting to be trained to use the new software. All of these people, some new to the Learning Ally recording program, others who were previously studio volunteers, will be recording in their homes.

Perhaps the most significant change in the near future will be word synchronized VOICEtext human voice books. With a significant percentage of Learning Ally's members (the people who use their library) having a learning disability, this further enhancement will be welcomed by many.

Additional Resources & Reading

Learning Ally logo Learning Ally is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.

FCC Order: Temporary Waiver for Basic E-Readers

Brief Background

In May 2013 Amazon, Kobo and Sony (forming the "Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers") petitioned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to permanently exempt eReaders from certain US federal accessibility laws for the disabled, stating that eReaders are basic devices which have the primary function of read text. The FCC's rules require that ACS be operable without vision.

On May 16, 2013, a Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers (the Coalition) filed a request for a [permanent] waiver of the ACS requirements contained in sections 716 and 717 of the Act, and Part 14 of the Commission's rules, for a narrow class of e-readers…On August 1, 2013, the Commission released a Public Notice seeking comment on the Coalition Petition. On October 22, 2013, the Commission granted a temporary waiver for the requested class of equipment until January 28, 2014, to enable the Commission to evaluate the merits of the waiver request and to determine whether a grant or denial would be consistent with the Commission's rules. [FCC Order, January 28, 2014 (footnote numbers have been removed)]

There were many comments submitted to the FCC in opposition to the Coalition's request for a permanent waiver. Submissions were received from the National Federation of the Blind together with 23 other organizations (including the DAISY Consortium and other DAISY Members), and over 150 individuals. Commenters objected that eReaders are commonly used to access ACS (Advanced Communications Services), including email and social media. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the American Library Association (ALA) filed additional reply comments backing up the statement that along with reading, basic e-readers have ACS as a "co-primary purpose".

The Coalition however purported that "basic eReaders" do not have ACS as a primary or co-primary purpose, which would exempt them from the ACS accessibility rules.

The Outcome

On January 28 the FCC issued its decision:

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) grants a waiver from the Commission's advanced communications services (ACS) accessibility rules to a distinct, narrow class of e-readers. Although capable of accessing ACS (such as e-mail), we conclude that this narrow class of e-readers is designed primarily for reading text-based digital works, not for ACS. Given the swift pace at which technologies are evolving and the expanding role of ACS in electronic devices, the waiver will expire on January 28, 2015. [FCC Order, January 28, 2014 (footnote numbers have been removed)]

At two points in the Order the term "close call" is used, indicating that the decision to grant or not to grant the waiver was far from clear cut, that the arguments for and against were almost equally strong:

"The competing public interests at stake – i.e., the ability of consumers with disabilities to use ACS via basic e-readers, versus the e-reader industry's interest in preserving a unique product – make consideration of this petition a close call…However, the mere inclusion of web browsers on these devices or the fact that they provide access to ACS, including ACS available on some social media websites, or even that "Internet access is a basic functionality of e-readers that is integral to their use and popularity" is not sufficient to reach a determination that ACS is a primary or co-primary purpose of these devices." [FCC Order point 18 (footnote numbers have been removed)]

The class waiver refers specifically to the class of "basic e-readers". The FCC defines the class of basic e-readers "to include any mobile electronic device that is capable of accessing ACS, designed primarily for the purpose of reading text-based digital works, such as books and periodicals…" Four requirements for this class are listed in the order (point 15).

The arguments put forward by the Coalition requesting the waiver are laid out in points 7 through 10 in the FCC Order. The arguments put forward by the "Consumer Groups" against the request for the waiver are given in points 11 through 13.

The Coalition's petition for a permanent waiver for "basic e-readers" was not granted. Only time will tell what the outcome of the FCC's one-year waiver will be.

Resources and Sources

DAISY to EPUB: To Migrate or Not to Migrate?

Matt Garrish is the author of What is EPUB 3? and Accessible EPUB 3, and is also the co-author of EPUB 3 Best Practices. All are published by O'Reilly Media. He has a background in publishing and has been very much involved with accessible publishing (DAISY and now EPUB 3) for more than five years. Earlier this month Matt posted the article DAISY to EPUB Migration on his blog Lost in the Ether which is primarily focused on the technology of ebooks.

I found that article to be extremely interesting – Matt has covered many of the issues thoroughly. Many organizations do not produce educational materials and some are required by law to distribute 'special format' content. The decision to continue to distribute DAISY formatted publications or to migrate to EPUB 3 is very complex. Some may not make that transition, at least not for some time. Because Matt's article deals with questions and issues that will be of interest to many producers and publishers I asked him for permission to republish DAISY to EPUB Migration in this issue of the DAISY Planet. Thank you Matt for giving the "OK".

DAISY to EPUB Migration

by Matt Garrish

DAISY and EPUB logos It's the oft asked question: if EPUB is the future of accessible digital reading, when should I migrate?

The easy part is asking the question, the hard part is giving a meaningful answer. I know I don't have a perfect one to offer up, as a lot of what is most impressive about EPUB is still not implemented at this point. But there are other reasons that make the transition a challenge beyond feature support in reading systems.

The one resonant concern that I hear time and again is that clients of libraries that serve individuals who are blind or low vision are already used to DAISY players and there isn't a compelling reason to change. The clientele tends to be individuals who have lost their vision later in life, so learning to access ebooks and ebookstores through multi-purpose tablets is a secondary consideration to simple devices that are easy to use and easy to get content for. What some would consider large, bulky and conspicuous players are perfectly fine and usable players to others.

I can throw out all the technical reasons why the EPUB format provides enhanced functionality beyond what DAISY can, but until reading systems catch up with the format, playback will be a consideration. If you've deployed DAISY players to your client base — players that aren't EPUB capable — migration also becomes dependent on an upgrade of those devices. If your whole library is DAISY-based and you haven't considered a migration path forward and/or are lacking the resources to migrate your content yourself, you're further tied to what you have. In a cost/benefit analysis, the additional new features of EPUB are likely to lose out to these considerations.

The prime advantages of EPUB over DAISY are also a secondary concern to many readers. TTS voicing of text appeals to a smaller demographic than narrated audio books, for example, even if there are significant download savings to be had for producers by avoiding pre-recorded audio. Without really high-quality synthetic voices on tablets, synthetic rendering also tends to be acceptable more to those who are proficient with screen readers.

When you strip EPUB bare of its markup and rendering capabilities, there's not a lot to distinguish EPUB 3 with media overlays from DAISY 3 or 2.02 using the same SMIL technology, either. That EPUB 3 doesn't have an NCX-only equivalent might even make EPUB audio books more of a nuisance to produce and consume (although that nuisance could be mitigated by a reading system on the user end).

And, of course, there's always the legal issue. Copyright exemption for production of an alternative format collides with a mainstream format like EPUB, at least depending on where you live and what your copyright laws are. The DAISY format never achieved widespread adoption outside of producers and consumers of alternative formats, so skirted under the radar in most cases as a uniquely accessible format. A move to EPUB may mean a change in the way libraries produce/purchase and loan their materials. It might require licensing content from publishers in the same way that a regular library would. It might also mean that consumers have to begin living with crummy markup coming from the source.

But assume you've already made the business case to change. You still have the production problem to solve.

From the technology side, where I sit, it's easy to point out the many advantages that a format like EPUB 3 offers. But shiny new bells and whistles rarely justify a major undertaking like changing production on their own. Especially if you haven't factored change into your operation.

The impetus for change may only come when you realize that your tools simply no longer work on modern operating systems, a situation that's been looming for a long time at least for 2.02 production that hasn't evolved since the format was developed.

Solutions for EPUB production are still varied, so there are challenges even in finding how to produce to the new format. You can find solutions (commercial and not) now that bridge the past and the present, but do you want to encumber your narrators with the business of synchronization? Would you rather store your audio separate from any output and only merge it as you create the EPUB? If so, the production upgrade challenge potentially grows in complexity and cost.

And what do you do with a library full of content in an older format? Do you try to batch convert all your DAISY content to EPUB 3? Do you live with two formats and put the burden on your clients to figure out which device they might need for which, or which app they'll need for which?

And then what do you do when EPUB 4 comes along? EPUB moves fast, more like the web than a traditional document format. Backwards compatibility isn't guaranteed, and whenever the next major revision of the format rolls around what results will probably be significantly different from what exists now. Not that DAISY was static, but there's the perennial question of how closely you tie yourself to one output format, or at what cost you try to develop a parallel output process.

There are a lot of complex questions to be considered when migrating, so it's really not surprising to me that reception of EPUB 3 has lagged to some extent. I don't see it as an indictment of EPUB. The accessibility community isn't alone in being slow to migrate to EPUB 3, after all, as these complexities are faced by all publishers.

The tipping point for EPUB 3 may actually come from the education realm. The new functionality the format provides is much more geared to facilitating educational production than run of the mill novels, and so much of the push for EPUB 3 adoption is coming from education (look at EDUPUB, for example). It's also in education that so much of the accessibility potential can be realized in meaningful ways.

But while the education push may drive improvements in reading systems and production tools, it'll never solve the migration problem completely for you. Some problems are always going to be unique to your situation.

OverDrive eBooks & Audiobooks: Positive Changes Coming

OverDrive is a global leader in digital content solutions, partnering with 28,000 libraries and schools worldwide. At the recent American Library Association Midwinter Meeting they provided a preview of the enhanced eBook features they will soon be introducing. It was also announced that during the coming months OverDrive will no longer sell audiobooks in WMA format – MP3 will soon be the only audiobook format offered for OverDrive digital audiobooks.

eBooks

"Our investment in HTML5, EPUB3 fixed layout and media overlays using SMIL documents will enable publishers, libraries and schools to serve readers with enhanced reading abilities on the widest range of devices…" [David Burleigh, Director of Marketing, OverDrive] OverDrive to demo enhanced eBooks at American Library Association Midwinter Meeting (OverDrive press release January 21)

The new enhanced eBook features to be introduced are:

Audio Books

OverDrive has the largest collection of audiobooks from leading publishers in MP3 format for schools and libraries. The change from WMA to MP3 is:

"…in response to user preferences, widespread compatibility of MP3 across all listening devices and the fact that the vast majority of our extensive audiobook collection is already in MP3 format. This includes the audiobook collections from Hachette, Penguin Group, Random House (Books on Tape and Listening Library), HarperCollins, AudioGo, Blackstone, Tantor Media and dozens of others." [OverDrive announces plan for audiobooks to be solely available in MP3 format]

Two posts have indicated that the OverDrive MP3 audiobooks will be DRM-free:

OverDrive Audio & eBooks and Accessibility

Audiobook & eBook Accessibility on the OverDrive website provides information about the accessibility of the OverDrive Media Console™ including Screen Reader Compatibility, a list of keyboard shortcuts, and books in EPUB format.

There is also a review of the OverDrive Media Console app on the AppleVis website: OverDrive Media Console – Library eBooks and Audiobooks. The conclusion reached is that the app is accessible on Apple devices.

The interface has also been tested by one of the DAISY staff team members and it was found to be totally accessible with Voiceover.

The OverDrive Media Console is also available for major desktop and mobile platforms, including Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Kindle, NOOK, Windows 8 PC and tablet, Blackberry and Windows Phone (Links for each are provided on the OverDrive website).

OverDrive Read™ is another feature provided to libraries for their patrons through the OverDrive service for reading eBooks. With "Read", eBooks can be read on most devices, both online and offline. I have not been able to find information about the accessibility of "Reads" or reviews of it in terms of accessibility.

Additional Sources and Reading

The article OverDrive Unveils Enhanced eBook Lending at ALA Midwinter was referenced in addition to the sources linked to within the article.

Dyslexia Winterfest 2014

A Community Event for Children & Their Parents – Presented by Learning Ally

Learning Ally logo Earlier this month Learning Ally hosted more than 90 people at the first ever Dyslexia Winterfest.

The event brought together parents who are relatively new to dyslexia and learning disabilities and their children who have recently been diagnosed as having dyslexia or who have not yet been "officially identified" as having dyslexia.

Ben Foss speaking at Dyslexia Winterfest 2014 Ben Foss, author of "The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan" and founder of the non-profit Headstrong Nation, gave a presentation on self-empowerment with stories from his life (both as a child and adult) about living and succeeding with dyslexia. Topics included how to build a supportive environment, boost a child's confidence and renew a love of learning. One of his key messages was that both parents and children should focus on the child's strengths rather than on his or her weaknesses. Foss led a "strength star" activity during which children identified their strengths and talents. They were each given three colored wristbands, with the band colors representing these strength groups: visual, verbal, mathematics/science, narrative, social, kinesthetic, musical, and spatial.

Matt Bloom speaking at Dyslexia Winterfest 2014 High school and college-age representatives from Eye-to-Eye, a mentoring program that pairs children who have a learning disability with an older peer, shared personal success stories. They then led the young participants through an art activity crafting "super hero belts" that featured tools each child would need to succeed. The activity concluded with the children presenting their art projects to the audience and sharing feedback with Learning Ally staff.

Dyslexia Winterfest began as an in-person event and continues online. All participating parents are part of a private Facebook group where they are guided by LA staff to keep the conversation alive. The parents have been sharing what they've found works for their children and for them. Some amazing and deeply personal posts have already been shared within the group.

Jim Halliday, Executive Vice President with Learning Ally and DAISY Board representative, helping a young student This was a learning experience for both the participants and the Learning Ally staff team; this dedicated team made the event something special for the parents and children as well as a learning experience for themselves. Senior staff members present included Andrew Friedman, President and CEO of Learning Ally, and Jim Halliday, Executive Vice President with Learning Ally and DAISY Board representative. The Learning Ally Dyslexia Winterfest YouTube video provides some insight into the event for those who did not attend and for anyone interested in dyslexia, learning and community events that may assist children with dyslexia and their parents.

What Some of the Parents Had to Say

"The thing I'm going to walk away with the most from this is that, my daughter is not social – that's not one of the strength bands she chose today — but she stood up in front of those people today and spoke about her dyslexia, and that to me is amazing."
"I'm glad I came. This program helped me understand what my kids are going through, and I could relate to what other parents were describing."
"So much of what I've done has been just me sitting in front of the computer searching, searching, searching, and today was great because it actually put people and their faces and their issues up front. It wasn't just two dimensional."

Dear DAISY

I am legally blind and I belong to the NLS in Oklahoma. Are there DAISY library services available to me? I have searched but cannot seem to finds the answer to my question, but due to my visual limitations I did not want to just give up. Can you please help me with information. What I hope to accomplish is a membership where I would have access to download audio books from the library only. Is this possible?

Thank you sincerely for your time and consideration,
Terri P.,
USA

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Hello Terri,

The NLS library service in the US offers a download service called "BARD: Braille and Audio Reading Download". (NLS audio books are in DAISY format.) Members of NLS are eligible for this service. Information about BARD is available on the NLS website. This page includes a link to the BARD application instructions as well as links to Instructions and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Last year NLS also introduced a BARD app for use with iPad, iPod, etc. The BARD Mobile app can be downloaded from iTunes (there is also information about the app on that page).

There are links to information and videos about the BARD Mobile app in the October 2013 issue of the DAISY Planet that you may find helpful.

If you encounter problems or have questions not answered at the links provided here, there is a "Contact Us" link in the upper right on the NLS website homepage.

I hope this information is helpful and that you are able to take advantage of the BARD service.

Bits & Pieces

• The deadline for the Call for Papers for the IFLA Satellite Conference eBooks for everyone! – An opportunity for more inclusive libraries has been extended to March 3. This IFLA WLIC 2014 postconference is organised by IFLA Section 31 - Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities (LPD) in cooperation with the BrailleNet Association and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and will take place August 22-23 in Paris, France.

• Rosenfeld Media has announced that all of their books are now available in DAISY format. As of January 21 it is possible to log in to your Rosenfeld Media account and download all past purchases in DAISY format. The announcement, DAISY format now available for all Rosenfeld titles is on the Rosenfeld Media website.

• The IFLA Manifesto for libraries serving persons with a print disability was passed at the 37th UNESCO General Conference held late last year. "…While the Marrakech Treaty improves the legal framework, the Manifesto expresses the political will to include everybody in the information stream. Treaty and Manifesto work well together… The real benefit is the inclusion of all persons, including those who cannot read print, into our information society." [Koen Krikhaar, Chair, IFLA Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Section]

• The DIAGRAM Center's "Accessible Image Sample Book" is a new, free, online resource that illustrates some of the many options for creating accessible versions of digital images such as maps, bar charts, diagrams, mathematical expressions, and photographs. The seven chapters in the book show a different complex image in the context of its source publication, and much more. In a free webinar which is open to everyone, the presenters will demonstrate this resource and discuss how it can be used as a guide when creating accessible images in digital publications. Date, time: Thursday, February 6, 11:00 a.m. Pacific (12:00 p.m. Mountain, 1:00 p.m. Central, 2:00 p.m. Eastern); 1 hour in duration. Register online for "Accessible Image Sample Book". (Find your local time.)

• Techshare India 2014 which is India's premier Accessibility & Assistive Technology Conference & Exhibition will take place February 13-14, in New Delhi, India. Online register is available on the conference website.

• Opportunities in Computing and IT Fields for People with Disabilities is a free EASI webinar that will take place Thursday February 13 (11:00 a.m. Pacific, noon Mountain, 1:00 p.m. Central, 2:00 p.m. Eastern). Learn about opportunities in computing and IT academic programs and career fields that can be pursued by students with disabilities. Presenter: Richard Ladner. Register online on the EASI website for this webinar. (Find your local time.)

IVONA Software is bringing its text-to-speech technology to OrCam, one of the new wearable devices. The small wearable computer clips to the user's glasses with a small magnet. By pointing with their finger, the user can get OrCam to understand that he or she wants the text read out loud on a menu or a newspaper article. It can provide information to help the user catch a bus or cross the road, and more. The IVONA TTS engine is currently available in 22 languages with a selection of 49 voices. [The source, Global Accessibility News Global Accessibility News includes a demonstration video and contacts for additional information.] IVONA is a Friend of the DAISY Consortium.

• The CSUN 2014 General Sessions Schedule is now available on the CSUN website. The conference will take place March 17 - 22 in San Diego, California.

• The Project Aspiro website, developed by the WBU in partnership with CNIB, and with financial backing from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is an information-filled resource for those who wish to improve their skills and access resources that may be helpful for those seeking employment. It includes advice about career planning, information about education, as well as information for friends and family, service providers, and employers.

• The article Public Libraries Show Why Sharing Culture Should Never Have Been Banned in the First Place by Rick Falkvinge examines culture and knowledge, rights and liberties as the world moves from analogue to digital content consumption.

• Following extensive testing at Dolphin and design input from accessibility experts, Dolphin has launched Dolphin Guide 8. It offers simple talking computing for people with sight loss and now includes a new web browser to help people with sight loss to get more from the Internet. Details are available in the Dolphin news story. Dolphin Computer Access Limited is a Friend of the DAISY Consortium.

• This YouTube video from the CNIB Library, Direct to Player and the PLEXTALK PTX1, explains how use the PTX1 (also known as PLEXTALK Linio) and how clients can download CNIB Library books on this PLEXTALK Internet-enabled player. (The PTX1 is one of many products from Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd. which is a Friend of the DAISY Consortium.)

Tech Tips

• The English and Japanese versions of the Microsoft Save-As-DAISY Add-in for Word have been re-compiled for Office 2013. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions in English have been posted to the DAISY Consortium website. The Japanese version is available online on DINF (Disability Information Resource) webpage, from the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD), a member of the Japanese DAISY Consortium.

• Add-ons for NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), the free, open source screen reader for Windows available in more than 43 languages, can be downloaded from the NVDA Community Add-ons website. There are also NVDA add-ons available on Jeff's NVDA Add-on Repository, Jeff Rutkowski's Webpage which aims to bring together all of the optional components available for NVDA. It is not a part of the NV Access website.

• From How-To Geek this month:
° The HTG Guide to External Battery Packs (particularly useful for those who travel extensively)
° How to Create eBooks from Wikipedia Articles (1 of the eBook format options available is EPUB)
° USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0: Should You Upgrade Your Flash Drives?
° Warning: Your Browser Extensions Are Spying On You From the article: "The very scary thing about this example is that I was on my banking site at the time, which is SSL encrypted using HTTPS. That's right, these extensions are still tracking you on sites that should be encrypted."