The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - June 2008


HOT off the Press!

This special issue of the DAISY Planet focuses on recent conferences and developments in China. 

The name of China in Chinese characters

Both the W4A and the WWW2008 conferences took place in April at the Beijing International Conference Center, a central site of the upcoming summer Olympics. The China Braille Press joined the Consortium in March and is located in Beijing. Perfect timing of a 2-day conference at CBP at the end of the week, enabled Judy Brewer of the W3C, Reed Schaffner of Microsoft, and Kathy Kahl, Web developer for DAISY, to attend, present, and experience the enthusiasm, efficiency, and overwhelming hospitality of our new DAISY members in China.

Hot Off the Press:
CNIB has selected Lynn Leith as the 2008 winner of the Grace Worts Staff Service Award. This award is presented annually to a CNIB employee or former employee in recognition of a distinguished and valued career with demonstrated leadership and outstanding commitment to the advancement of services to Canadians who are blind, visually impaired or deafblind. The committee based its decision on the profound impact Lynn has had on the lives of blind and visually impaired persons, both in Canada and abroad. Involved with DAISY since the mid 1990's, Lynn has been the Head of Information Services and Administrative Support for the DAISY Consortium since January 2007, and is the editor of the DAISY Planet. Her career with CNIB spanned 28 years.

Feature Articles:


Stay in Touch:

From The Editor

What is the BIG deal that warrants a special issue of the DAISY Planet all about China? Well, National Geographic did a special issue in May, probably due to heightened interest with the upcoming Olympics, but the BIG deal with this issue is that China is BIG - BIG with excitement regarding DAISY! Human rights in China includes BIG efforts to recognize and develop the potential of disability communities. This past January, a contingent from the China Braille Press came to find DAISY in Florida at ATIA and joined a few weeks later, LARGELY due to the efforts of DAISY President Hiroshi Kawamura and Secretary General George Kerscher. It was rumored that a TTS engine for Chinese would be impossible to build – not true, it's done and and used in production, BIG-time.

The spoken and written language differences do continue to be quite a challenge. Several presentations at CBP were handled collaboratively by Chinese to Japanese to English translators. Chinese characters are read right to left vertically. This written language presents differences that are not yet part of the DAISY object model. There are many more characters than can be represented with a single byte, so two bytes need to be reserved for each character. A relatively surprising use case for a Chinese-voiced screen reader emerges in Charles Chen's story. I had met Charles Chen at the W4A Conference last year while he was still a graduate student in Texas. Now at Google, he is a regular presenter at conferences with his work on AxsJAX (pronounced "access-jacks").

Attending three conferences in Beijing in one week - was it boring, tiring, exhausting? Certainly not boring, it was more like the DAISY Olympics.  To this conference attendee, it was an invigorating taste of China DAISY possibilities to come.  What a privilege to be there before the BIG athletic events, during the construction, (also before the BIG earthquake), and to experience the incredible changes taking place daily.

As Guest Editor this month while our award-winning regular editor is on vacation, I’d like to share the priveleges I had in attending these three conferences and help to convey, to the entire DAISY community, the excitement that I felt. DAISY technology is being presented as the basis for a segment of human rights activism and awareness in China, on a non-political basis. The Chinese people bring both empathy, energy, expertise, and a huge market for DAISY development.

This is BIG!

Kathy K.
Guest Editor

May 2008 Quiz Results:

The May Quiz Question was: In what year was the World Blind Union founded?

  1. 1959
  2. 1971
  3. 1984
  4. 1991

The answer is number 3.

The WBU was founded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 26 October 1984.

General assemblies of the World Blind Union occur every 4 years. The WBU 7th General Congress is scheduled for August 15-23, 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.


China has over 12 million visually disabled, and 60 million persons with various disabilities. These are results of the 2nd official survey.

Over 80% of disabled people in China live in the countryside and have very limited access to education, services and employment opportunities.

Currently only 1,000 blind people in China can log on to the Internet.

Over 80% of disabled persons in the world, are in developing countries.

Number of licenses granted as of April 2008:
MyStudio PC: 1170
Sigtuna DAR: 800

Licenses of MyStudio PC and Sigtuna DAR 3 are generously made available by JSRPD at no charge to DAISY Consortium Members. Special thanks go to JSRPD for its generosity and support. JSRPD is part of the Japanese DAISY Consortium.

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

Your Stories

Charles L. Chen
Charles L. Chen:
passion for technology,
passion for accessibility

"now let's apply that same innovation to accessibility..."

Web Accessibility Conference

What a difference a year makes.  At the 2007 W4A conference in Banff, Canada, there was no mention of DAISY in the conference sessions.  However, conference organizers invited the DAISY Consortium to assist in preparing the 2008 W4A conference proceedings in DAISY format.  This year, the DAISY Consortium was gratefully acknowledged as a W4A Sponsor for its role in producing DAISY materials for the conference which was centered on the theme "

What happens when surfers become authors and designers?"

Enthusiastic references to DAISY were plentiful during discussions, enabling many of the attending Web accessibility specialists to hear about DAISY for the first time.

Keynote Abstracts:

Highlights of other presentations:

DAISY-formatted proceedings of these and all the other papers will be published on the ACM Web  site and are posted temporarily on the DAISY Web site.

World Wide Web Conference


The cloud theme was continued by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee from Google in a WWW2008 keynote presentation: "Cloud Computing has arrived – Embrace the Cloud". Key ideas of cloud computing and what it means for users include new concepts regarding properties of data: data can follow you and your devices; data is accessible anywhere; data can be shared with others. "We are in the midst of a massive shift in computing – from PC-based applications to cloud-based applications, from storing on the PC, to storing on the cloud."

The Developing Countries Track did not attract a large audience this year in Beijing. Discussion and feedback confirmed that this arena is where the most research and development is needed, and the most change will take place. Papers focused on specific research studies regarding how to enable the economically deprived in developing countries through Web technology, i.e. "Organizing the Unorganized Through Virtual Communities". Wireless connections over mobile devices are enabling deployment of Web applications for users who may be illiterate and have never seen or need to see a computer. One presentation involved enabling taxi drivers in India to connect with customers via a Voice Site, a voice-driven application created by the users themselves. A Voice Site is a set of interconnected VoicePages (e.g. vxml files), accessed by calling up the associated phone number and interacting with the underlying application via a telephone interface. Reference: W3C "Voice Browser" Activity. Conclusions of the final panel discussion on Developing Countries: Web technology solutions in developing countries need standards and involve many accessibility issues.

CBP AttendeesThe final presentation at the Great Hall of the People on Tian'anmen Square by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the W3C, emphasized that the future of the Web depends on the interaction of many small flexible standards.

Note: The 2009 W4A and WWW Conferences are scheduled for April 20-24 in Madrid. Perhaps next year there will be presentations that specifically involve DAISY as it relates to Web accessibility at the 2009 W4A or Web technology issues in developing countries at the WWW2009.

See the W4A and WWW2009 Web sites for submission deadlines and more information.

China Braille Press Conference

DAISY President Hiroshi Kawamura orchestrated a conference with the China Braille Press (CBP) in Beijing where the Chinese enthusiasm for DAISY CBP Staff under TRhe Best Way to Read bannerand creativity was in full display with a red 7-meter long welcoming banner  of "The Best Way to Read, The Best Way to Publish". CBP was established in 1953, with help from Chairman Mao Zedong's son's mother-in-law, Ms. Zhang Wenqiu, and Mr. Huang Nai, a blind expert.


Mr. Feng Jun, President of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co., Ltd., passed around the Olympic torch that he carried as the honored first runner of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay starting in Athens.

CBP Conference group photo

President of the China Braille Press, Mr. Zwang Wei, summarized recent legislation supporting information accessibility by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The intense 5-year plan for advancement of science and knowledge gives great support to online and offline accessible material for the disabled. The 10th 5-year plan and 11th 5-year plan extend from 2006 to 2015. The Ministry involved leading scientists and researchers in this effort and the China Braille Press is honored to be one of the participants. Major points:

  1. Several major Web sites were redesigned for accessibility, such as the Web site of the China Disabled Persons Federation.
  2. CBP AttendeesEducation of how to use computers has been a priority: Schools for the Blind will teach the children. Adults are supported by CDPF and CBP, with more than 10,000 persons trained by CBP to date. Last year more than 1,000 teachers in just one province were trained to use computers.
  3. Over 1200 pop stars and rock stars are part of this activity.
  4. Major institutions have coordinated efforts. Beijiang University, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola are involved in the development of many new products.

Judy Brewer, International Program Officer of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative presented the status of Web Accessibility Guidelines, and thrilled the audience and CBP staff with her Chinese language skills.

Tatsua Nishizawa, from Plextor (Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd.), presented "Reading by Plextalk Way". He demonstrated the non-working prototype of their new DAISY player/recorder that will be available later this year.

The JSRPD China Braille Press Conference staff of Mayu Hamada and Misako Nomura presented a Profile of DAISY Users Around the World including the benefits of DAISY for multiple purposes: autism, dyslexia, etc., and Free DAISY Software Authoring Tools.

Reed Shaffner, International Manager of Microsoft Word, gave the first world premiere of the Microsoft/DAISY video in Mandarin, available now both from the Microsoft site (other language versions) and on YouTube.

Dipendra Manocha, Assistant Manager of the DAISY For All Project, summarized the current status of DAISY in India and recommended some practices for DAISY development:

Dipendra holding  Olympic Torch in his right hand smiling proudly.
Dipendra with Olympic Torch
      "• Work with the DAISY Consortium to make sure that the free open-source tools for producing DAISY books are available for use in developing countries.
      • Maximise the best thing about the DAISY book format being independent of a particular type of player. It works on a mobile phone, CD player, or a computer. To make all of these mediums affordable in India, a free open-source DAISY software player called AMIS was used for demonstrations.
      • Legislate accessibility: in India we are currently fighting for exemption from the copyright law.  Our goal is to get the books directly from the publishers and some digital sources are already being supplied.
      • We are working with a private company in developing an affordable multiuse device: a DAISY player, recorder, and FM radio for less than $125 US. At least 5000 people will be able to purchase this device in the first year.
      • Recognize and seek funding to overcome particular challenges: we have a voice synthesizer only for the Hindi language and need one for each of 22 languages."

Monthian Buntan, current Senator from Thailand, President, Thailand Association of the Blind and Assistant Manager, DAISY for ALL Project, presented "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: from Philosophy to Policies, Standards and Mandates", based on direct personal involvement and leadership in Thailand as a developing country with respect to accessibility issues. He offered collaborative solutions in response to questions from the audience: Is the China telephone time-metered for local calls? If we can negotiate for local call to be one charge, then we can share our solution for telephone-based DAISY support. Senator Buntan concluded with an expressive postlude to his presentation: "Imagine there is a book", available as a text testimonial and audio recording. The recording includes the Chinese translation.

A workshop followed to focus on DAISY book generation in Chinese. Mayu Hamada summarized the issues:

      • "Vertical text and Ruby are used in government registered text books of Japanese and history in Japan (Find a definition and links in our Tech Tips section.) Especially for text books for dyslexic students, it is crucial to have DAISY books which have similar appearance of the original print copy. Also, many people with dyslexia have problems with reading Chinese characters (Kanji) and Ruby helps a lot.
      • Many playback or authoring tools can not handle books with double byte codes. Even though quite a few people have problems with English command in countries using double byte codes (such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese), we can't use our own languages. debugging session with Reed, Hiroshi, Mayu, Misako, CBP staffWhen I tried to open a Chinese DAISY book by playback software on my computer, the other DAISY book on my computer opened instead of the Chinese book. After changing the folder name from Chinese to English characters, this problem was solved.
      • XHTML 1.0 used by DAISY 2.02 spec doesn't support Ruby.  No validation tools available. Authoring and playback tools often have problems and sometimes, could not handle at all. If we open a book with Ruby by authoring software which does not support Ruby, book will collapse. Reference: W3C Ruby FAQ.
      • Although it is possible to display vertical text by using style sheets, browser doesn't fully support display of vertical text. For both Ruby and vertical text, strange appearance often happens: when playing back, Ruby sometimes highlighted but sometimes not; misalign of vertical text often happens.
      • Thus we have to do a lot of work around. Authoring procedure becomes more complicated. These situations also make a 'valid' book creation difficult."

Chinese DAISY book displaying vertical text

Note: Support for Ruby and character set issues is listed as one of the future requirements for the DAISY Standard. Reference: Chinese Character Set Issues, etc.

Letters to the Editor

The 2008 Olympics in Beijing is August 8-24th, and the Paralympic Games will be September 6-17.

The China Braille Press has already expressed intention to contribute to the Olympic/Paralympics Games with national pride. Why don't we support them to extend international support to produce official documentation in different languages in DAISY Format.

from DAISY President,
Hiroshi Kawamura



We have some technical questions about making DAISY books. One is how can we set the text format in Word2007 and then translate the DAISY book to show the right headings?  Another question is about the graphics. We made an English textbook in which there were some pictures. We have to write words in the picture. We can do this in Word, but when it is translated into DAISY format, the words and pictures are separated. We don't know why this happened.
      We have already published 6 books about 5.12 earthquake in braille, and we are planing to produce them in DAISY format. And we have  got some Olympic materials, they are guidelines of Olympic Stadiums. But they are not the final versions.

Many Thanks,
Tang Xuefeng (Stella)
China Braille Press

Dear Stella,

Your 2 questions about producing DAISY books from Microsoft Word are good ones.
   1. Unfortunately, there is a problem that has been detected in several foreign language versions that affects the translation of the heading information which is a very significant part of the structure of a DAISY book. This bug is clearly understood and will be fixed by the next release.
   2. The output of Phase 1 of the Microsoft 'Save as DAISY XML' project only produces the DTBook XML file of the text portion of the document. Other files contain the references to the pictures and other navigation. The DTBook file must be post-processed by other DAISY authoring tools to synchronize the text with other media. Phase 2 of the project development is now being scheduled. It will be appropriately titled 'Save as DAISY'. Output will be a full DAISY book.

How You Can Help

The 5-year period of funding from the Nippon Foundation for the DAISY-for-All project has successfully concluded.

Nippon logo

More than 3 million US dollars has benefited international technology development and training in developing countries with special emphasis on disaster preparedness materials.

DFA is not ending, nor is the commitment to developing countries. As DAISY membership and contact points have grown, needs continue on an exponential basis:

1. A special pricing structure for membership fees for organizations in developing countries has been defined, but direct general funding is needed for the DAISY Consortium to coordinate and expand efforts in developing countries.

2. Specific funding is needed for training and preparation of DAISY materials for disaster preparedness. Accessible information of common health and awareness issues cannot prevent disasters, but it can help save lives.

3. Technology grants, donations in kind, and dedicated research are needed by DAISY experts and partners.

4. Language translations of DAISY materials are needed on a continual basis.

Please use the Contact Us form to get in touch regarding these needs.

The DAISY Consortium is registered as an international not-for-profit entity, and as a Section 501(C)(3) non-profit for US tax-deductible purposes.

More references:

  • In Touch for China is a radio show produced by a core team of 6 visually impaired Chinese radio producers and journalists in Beijing.

    The weekly radio programme is broadcast on local radio stations throughout China. It aims to improve the lives of visually impaired people, while simultaneously increasing the public's understanding of disability issues.

    It covers issues such as visually impaired people's access to health care and education; problems and solutions relating to mobility; the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and social attitudes to blindness.

    It is the first time that disabled people in China have been in control editorially.

  • Wall Street Journal China Blog
  • One Stop Chinese Culture

Tech Tips

"Ruby" are short runs of text alongside the base text, typically used in East Asian documents to indicate pronunciation or to provide a short annotation. It is common for the term to be denoted in lower-case. This is not to be confused with Ruby (i.e. Ruby On Rails), which is a Web programming platform. See W3C Ruby, also Ruby On Rails, and specific details from the W3C as an XML Internationalization Best Practices Tip: Defining markup for ruby text.