The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - December 2015
Season's Greetings

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.

Publishers' Corner

“Raising the bar for an inclusive publishing ecosystem" was a workshop organized by Fondazione LIA in November. Participants discussed a roadmap for "born accessible" content. Read a summary on the SMART BOOK website.

Find out how the European Digital Reading Lab will boost the digital publishing ecosystem.

Closer to Resolving the Book Famine

The future for the blind and people with low vision in Brazil and Australia is looking brighter. Those two countries recently ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, facilitating access to published works by visually impaired persons and individuals with print disabilities. The treaty will come into force following 20 ratifications / accessions.

Less than ten per cent of all published books are available in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and audio talking books. Barriers set by copyright laws are among the main reasons this number is so low. The Marrakesh Treaty helps remove these barriers, which will significantly expand the number of books available to the blind, as well as people with low vision and other print disabilities.

Image of a map of Brazil

The Treaty will allow organizations to share books directly with those individuals and will enable the international exchange of books between relevant organizations. This will prevent the need to duplicate production in various countries.

Vision Australia, a DAISY Consortium Full Member, operates Australia’s largest library for people who are blind or have low vision. This Treaty will allow them to provide even more publications in accessible formats such as braille or DAISY to suit the needs of these individuals, presently denied under the current Copyright Act.

Image of a map of Australia

Michael Simpson, Vision Australia's General Manager of NSW Client Services and Accessible Information Services, who has been blind for 40-years, said:

“We are excited that the Australian Government has acted quickly to support greater access to written works by ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty. While this is a fantastic step for better access to books, Australia still has a long way to go in getting better access to Australian programming for people who are blind or have low vision. This has given us the determination to achieve the same outcome with the Australian Government to reach our goal of audio described programs on free-to-air television. Vision Australia is absolutely committed to achieving equal access to information for the blindness and low vision community,” he said.

To learn more about Australia’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, please go to the Vision Australia website.

More information about the Marrakesh Treaty is provided on the WIPO website and Brazil’s ratification announcement is available on YouTube. Lynn Leith closely followed the developments and published several articles about the Treaty in the DAISY Planet over the years.

Further reading: Why Your Country Should Ratify the Marrakesh Treaty by Jim Fruchterman.

20 Years of Sharing Open Standards

By Jesper Klein, Chair of the DAISY Consortium Board

The DAISY Consortium will celebrate its 20 year anniversary next year. A highlight for me and many others in our community will be the upcoming Take Part conference in Stockholm, May 16-18, 2016. Registration will open in January 2016. Stay tuned.

We have come far in two decades, but we still have a long way to go to make sure that people with disabilities can access information as they wish - with eyes, ears and fingers, at the same time and cost, as well as the same user-friendly reading experience that people without disabilities enjoy.

I want to share with you some facts about the current situation in my home country Sweden to cast light on some issues that I believe are universal and relevant around the globe.

First, some facts about Sweden:

Image of a map of Sweden in blue and yellow

Sweden is a fairly small nation in Northern Europe. With a population of 9.8 million, it is country number 89 in the world according to Wikipedia. Immigration is fairly high - 1.6 million Swedes were born outside Sweden. Sweden has one of the highest Internet use rates in the world. In the field of accessibility, Sweden is known for being the place where the DAISY standard was born.

Agencies in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland specializing in providing accessible books and other types of information to people with print disabilities, share target group definition. Our assumption is that at least 6% of the population have visual impairments, dyslexia or both. For Sweden, this translates to approximately 600 000 people. We also regard persons with cognitive disabilities, dementia or intellectual disabilities to be part of the target group. In other words the total number of people with print disabilities is difficult to specify. In this article I’ll keep using the 6 % number for Sweden.

My home agency, the Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (MTM), is proud to have reached many new users this year. One main reason for this growth is the popularity of our core service Legimus - the digital library of accessible reading materials for people with print disabilities in Sweden. Legimus is many things in one package: a website, an iOS and Android app and also a DAISY online server that can be accessed using online DAISY players.

In early 2016 we will surpass 100 000 Legimus users (1% of Sweden’s population) - a number we could only dream of 10-15 years ago.

Logo and a screenshot of Legimus app on a tablet

When I write this, Legimus contains a collection of 111 181 DAISY talking books. Most of the books are human narrated in the Swedish language. The oldest titles were recorded in the 1950s. All titles are available for free to all registered users.

In 2014, we were able to add talking book versions of about 25% of all trade books and textbooks published in Swedish language that year. They are mostly narrated by skilled readers, but not by famous actors like commercial audio books.

I get so thrilled when I think about the fact that more and more young dyslexic people discover DAISY talking books, and therefore, can kick start their reading. Some of them write to us saying things like ”it changed my life” or ”I made it through high school thanks to talking books.”

Do all talking book users in Sweden download or stream digital books?

No. We estimate that in addition to the Legimus users, another 20 to 30 thousand users keep using the CD-based service provided through local public libraries. Their profile is of higher age and dominated by people with visual impairments. They represent a large volume of usage – CD loans currently represent half of the total number of loans, the rest is digital.

Now comes the itching thought that clouds my mostly happy mind: 130 000 is only 21.7 percent of 600 000 – why don’t we reach more of the target group?

The following four reasons come to mind:

  1. Some people with low vision or dyslexia read print books including large print and / or commercial e-books in PDF or EPUB2 format. It may be slow and take much effort, but it works well enough for them to prefer it to listening.
  2. Many adults in the target group don’t have a tradition of reading books. They live their lives without books. Therefore, there is a low interest to subscribe to our services.
  3. The existing talking book services are not known among many people with print disabilities, or they have misleading information about the services.
  4. The existing commercial services of streaming audio books cover the best- selling titles and are useful to many. Since they meet much of the demand, the Legimus services are not interesting enough to everyone.

Rather than providing answers to how we can cope with the above-mentioned challenges, I want to say this:

I strongly believe that when publishers in my country implement the EPUB 3 standard, and, with support from the accessibility industry, reach a point where most e-books are born accessible, we will see a growing number of people in our target group shift from talking books to e-books. Additionally, we’ll see a higher interest in reading as the whole reading experience will be designed to include those who have reading disabilities. There is, however, a long way ahead before we are there. Let’s keep sharing open standards, tools, and best practices – I’m sure we can get there.

[This is a modified version of the IFLA/LPD newsletter article.]

Empowering Social Action: Making Learning Accessible in Bangladesh

A large number of visually impaired students study in Bangladesh schools. But, there has been a severe lack of accessible study materials available to them. Furthermore, approximately 35% of people in Bangladesh are illiterate or have low literacy. This number comes from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (2015). Illiteracy and low literacy are often considered print disabilities. Accessible information and reading materials have not been available to this group either. In the past, information needs were not recognized or adequately met. This created further barriers for people with print disabilities or visual impairments.

Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) along with Access to Information program (A2I), Prime Minister's Office, and WIPO's Accessible Books Consortium are working to change this situation. The DAISY Consortium and GAATES have assisted with the production of accessible digital books for students in Grades I to X. This approach has proven to improve accessibility and is more cost-effective than the creation of accessible (tactile) paper books for students with visual disabilities, print disabilities and learning disabilities.

Students gathered around the computer

All national curriculum textbooks from Grade-I to Grade-X are converted into DAISY digital multimedia format. Content is also made available as full-text full-audio DAISY books, Braille and accessible e-books from the DAISY source file, for other disadvantaged groups of students.

Digital talking books are for EVERYONE who needs accessible information and for EVERYONE who loves to READ. Readers can play the audio and simultaneously display and highlight the corresponding text. These are uploaded to the Jatiyo e-Tathyakosh (National e-Content Repository).

Students gathered around Vashkar who is holding an Android device

Honorable Prime Minister of People’s Republic of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina distributed DAISY Multimedia Books to visually impaired students of primary schools on December 30, 2014, as a part of the countrywide textbook distribution festival for the academic year 2015. The government took the initiative to provide free specialized books (Digital Talking Books) along with CDs to visually impaired students and ensure "Education for All" in 2015.

Thank you very much for the photos and this report, Vashkar Bhattacharjee.

Share Your Experience: Digitizing Hard Copy Braille

One of the benefits of DAISY Consortium membership is the ability to share knowledge with experts around the world. We'll continue providing opportunities for DAISY members to learn from each other. This includes creating surveys to collect information on topics of interest.

Recently, Nick Williamson from RNIB contacted us. He would like to know how DAISY members digitize hard copy Braille. Click on the link below to respond to the questions included in the survey: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2504208/Digitising-hard-copy-Braille-assets.

Thank you for your participation. This survey will remain open until January 10th, 2016.

You can also send Nick an email: Nick.Williamson(at)rnib.org.uk

Unlocking Inclusive Publishing in Kenya

In 2015, within the framework of its support to digital inclusion in Africa, UNESCO has been organizing a series of capacity building programs in partnership with the DAISY Consortium. Having successfully conducted capacity building workshops in Rwanda and Uganda, UNESCO in collaboration with stakeholders in the Education sector in Kenya, organized a 5-day training November 9-13, 2015 in Nairobi. Prashant Ranjan Verma (DAISY Consortium) and Sushil Pandit (XRCVC India) conducted the trainings.

The program consisted of three modules, namely Web Accessibility Training, Inclusive Publishing Training and Seminar on Reading Technologies.

35 participants attended this program. They represented the institutions under the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, specifically the National ICT and Innovation Centre (NI3C), Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), ICT Authority, inABLE Africa and Kenya Institute for Special Education (KISE).

Photograph of young Kenyan men with white headphones

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development strives to provide training to staff in order to undertake the adaptation of digital content for learners with special needs. The focus of this training was on the needs of the print impaired - particularly those with visual and cognitive impairments.

Training Materials

All the required software, tutorials and training videos were downloaded beforehand by the trainers and distributed to participants to ensure easy installation even without Internet connectivity. An index file was included in the Resource Material folder with description of all the contents and links to webpages for additional reading.

Feedback

A participant from the E-learning unit of KICD said: “This kind of capacity building should be frequent as we delve into technological approaches in the day to day curriculum implementation.” KICD officials expressed the need for a follow-up meeting or training to work out the final plan for adaptation of their digital content and production of new eBooks. They expressed their desire to work with UNESCO and DAISY Consortium in the near future.

In a short closing ceremony, Mr. John Temba from the Ministry Of Education Science and Technology said “We are grateful to UNESCO for this opportunity; I also thank the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development for mobilizing all stakeholders so as to cater for the needs of persons with disabilities. I will see to it that Kenya Institute of Special Education is also actively involved so that learners with disabilities can open and freely access digital information.”

Thank you, Prashant Verma for the Kenya Training report!

Photo credit: SA / UNESCO

Bits & Pieces

New York Public Library now has 375,000 e-Books for people with print disabilities.

10th e-Accessibility Forum will take place on May 30th, 2016 in Paris. 2016 theme is eAccessibility in a Connected World, for more information please go to http://eaf2016.braillenet.org.

Submit your nomination for the 2016 Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing on or before January 16, 2016.

Dates of the IFLA's LPD Section's Satellite Conference in Louisville, Kentucky are August 11-12, 2016. This is a pre-conference to WLIC 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, August 13-19, 2016. THEME: Creating an inclusive community of readers. Call for Papers deadline for the Satellite Conference is March 1st, 2016. Please submit your papers to Koen Krikhaar [koenkrikhaar(at)dedicon.nl]. Paper Guidelines are available on the Satellite Conference website. Exhibiting and partnership opportunities are also available.

CSUN 2016 conference schedule and session descriptions have been posted to the CSUN 2016 website.

Tech Tips

Obi 3.8 [free open source audio book production tool] has been released. Helpful documentation is posted to the Obi project site.

Benetech's description of the benefits of the MathML Cloud is available on their website. Information for developers is provided on GitHub. Aaron Page (University of Montana) has created a helpful demo video. You can also watch the DIAGRAM Center's video Accessible Math for Ebooks Using MathML Cloud on YouTube.