DAISY Demystified

Original Author(s): Lynn Leith

DAISY is an internationally recognized accessible multi-media publishing system, compatible with the World Wide Web. DAISY is an acronym for Digital Accessible Information SYstem. The original concept for DAISY was born from the need for accessible audio that could be used by individuals unable to read print, as easily and efficiently as a sighted person uses a printed book.

Other "accessible" books are a single format. DAISY books are comprised of multiple inter-related file formats:

DAISY DTBs provide synchronization of the following media types:

  • Text: the XHTML or XML marked up file of the text of the publication
  • Audio: human voice or synthesized speech narration of the printed word
  • Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL)
  • Images
  • Video (under development).


  • Provides the multimedia support
  • Links the elements of the book: text, audio, image, video
  • Provides the DAISY navigation
  • It’s the glue that holds it all together

‘In the Information Age, access to information is a fundamental human right.’ — Taken from George Kerscher’s presentation to the United Nations, Bangkok 2002.

In short...


  • Accessible for individuals unable to read standard print
  • Navigable, providing direct access to specific points such as pages and enabling readers to move from heading to heading, page to page, paragraph to paragraph, phrase to phrase and/or word to word.

A DAISY book

  • reflects, as closely as possible, the original print publication
  • should always adhere to the DAISY Standard


Structure is at least two-dimensional, representing the sequential and hierarchical structure of the publication.


How do you use a reference book, a gardening book, a cookbook...? From cover to cover?

How do you read a textbook and study for an exam? By reading it from cover to cover?

Navigation in a DAISY DTB is defined in two ways:

  1. Global navigation is movement to a specific point or portion of a book (for example, a chapter, part or page, or the index).
  2. Local navigation is movement within a single text element (such as a list or table) or within a narrow range of text elements (such as a group of words, sentences or paragraphs). It is analogous to skimming a printed book.
  • Converted DAISY DTB or Original Production?
  • Meaningful structure?
  • Pages?
  • Audio and structure (headings) … Full text and audio?
  • Text only?
  • Human narration or synthetic speech?
  • DAISY 2.02 or DAISY/NISO (Z39.86)?

There is a very close relationship between DAISY books and DAISY reading systems (hardware and software players).

‘To create this rich reading experience, the books must be feature-rich and the reading systems must utilise the features to provide an enhanced reading experience… the DAISY OK self-certification process sets minimum requirements for books and reading systems. We strongly encourage book producers and reading system developers to go beyond what is set as the minimum.’

From the "DAISY OK Requirements"

DAISY OK takes DAISY book production and reading system development beyond the basic requirements.

Advanced Functionality Includes:

  • ‘go to page’
  • bookmarking
  • speed up/slow down without distortion
  • word searching

Simplicity: Reading could not be easier

One button control

For those who are elderly, have very limited hand strength or mobility, or have difficulty using complex equipment, a single button will start and stop playback.

Single physical medium

Many DAISY books fit onto a single CD, DVD, memory card or USB flash drive.

Last point played - retained in memory over multiple books

"Sleep" function

  • All ages and all purposes:
    • Pre-school
    • Elementary and secondary school
    • Post-secondary
    • Career, start to finish
    • Retirement
  • Those who cannot use standard print through:
    • Vision loss
    • Cognitive disabilities
    • Physical disabilities that limit one’s ability to hold a printed book.
  • Everyone who loves, wants or needs to read and learn

One of the goals of the DAISY Consortium is to move the DAISY Standard into the mainstream so that everyone, regardless of ability to use print, has access to all published materials. As mainstream publishers begin to make their books available in DAISY format, the percentage of accessible reading materials will begin to grow. Information will be accessible.

At present, most books in DAISY format are produced by libraries that serve those unable to read print and are available on loan through these libraries. A ‘global library’, which will provide access to DAISY books produced around the world, is part of the strategic plan of the DAISY Consortium and its members.

Publishers in the US are required by law to provide files of K to 12 books in NIMAS format (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, nimas.cast.org, and NIMAS is a subset of DAISY. NIMAS files are placed in NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Access Center, www.nimac.us a repository for files that can then be used to produce accessible reading materials.

From the NIMAS at CAST Web site:

"A NIMAS fileset is a set of source files that may be rendered into a variety of output formats, including student-ready versions such as audio books, Braille editions, etc. It is not a post-production product; it is a pre-production product. NIMAS files are intended for use by publishers, authorized entities, and others to produce accessible versions of printed instructional materials. They are not intended to be used as-is and should not be considered finished products. XML content files in NIMAS filesets must be conformant to the NIMAS 1.1 specification, a sub-set of the DAISY 2005-2 DTD."

The DAISY Vision and Mission


The DAISY Consortium envisions a world where people with print disabilities have equal access to information and knowledge, without delay or additional expense.


The DAISY Consortium's mission is to develop and promote international standards and technologies which enable equal access to information and knowledge by all people with print disabilities and which also benefit the wider community.

The DAISY Consortium works toward worldwide availability of publications in DAISY format, wherever print or electronic content is produced.

The Consortium pays special attention to and encourages the use of the DAISY standards in developing countries.

Compatible with the World Wide Web, DAISY technology is here to stay. Its adoption across so many countries helps to secure its future. Information about DAISY DTBs, the DAISY Standard and DAISY reading systems is available at the DAISY website - www.daisy.org.

You deserve reading materials that provide an enriched, better reading experience - books that for the first time put those who require accessible materials on an equal playing field. Don't settle for less.

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This page was last edited by VLuceno on Thursday, September 16, 2010 15:02
Text is available under the terms of the DAISY Consortium Intellectual Property Policy, Licensing, and Working Group Process.