Fifteen years ago, in 1996, something changed, something that has over time brought organizations, companies and people around the world together in their efforts to bring published material to people unable to read print – the DAISY Consortium was established. We have grown from a mere six not-for-profit organizations to an association with a membership of more than 100, and several of our Full Members are made up of numerous sister organizations.
In the first of our special anniversary series, TPB & the Swedish DAISY Consortium, a meeting held in 1995 in Toronto Canada is mentioned. I was at that meeting, and it was my first introduction to DAISY. The Plextalk DAISY player that was demonstrated was a very, very early prototype, but I knew as I watched that this would change the world of information access. I have never looked back, and more importantly, neither has DAISY. To those few people who met after the meeting to begin to talk about how they could and would work together to bring accessible information to a new level through digital technology, I take off my hat and say a sincere thank you. Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt was of course one of those people. In 2006 Ingar was presented with the DAISY Culture of Sharing Award, acknowledging of the significance of her contribution.
In the November Letter from the Editor there was a paragraph headed "Editor's "Rant" for 2010" about Donna Jodhan, a special needs consultant who sued the federal government of Canada because she was unable to apply online for a government position. Ms. Jodhan won the case, however earlier this month it was made known that the federal government would appeal a court ruling that had ordered it to upgrade its websites to make them fully accessible for blind and partially sighted Canadians. If this issue concerns you as it does me, please read the CNW Newswire: CNIB Appalled at Government Plans to Appeal Court Ruling Mandating Website Accessibility. CNIB/the Canadian DAISY Consortium is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.
On a much more positive note it was wonderful to receive Hans-Christian Holdt's email with an update on his daughter Mai-Linn whose story was published last June. Thank you for staying in touch Hans-Christian.
This month's story is from Bernhard Heinser who has been involved with the work of the DAISY Consortium both as a member of the Board of Directors and as one of the staff team members. You will learn from his story that he is now also working for the TIGAR Project. We wish you well in your new endeavours Bernhard.
Please keep the DAISY Planet in mind when you have news or an update about an issue that may be of interest to the DAISY community. If you, your organization or company have news to share, please get in touch with me directly by email or by using the Contact Us form (Newsletter category). Articles and suggestions for articles are always welcome, as are Letters to the Editor and Stories.
I'd like to close my first DAISY Planet letter of the year with a quote I've recently read:
Dann Berkowitz, Assistant Director of Boston University's Office of Disability Services, from the Altformat website:
Alternative formats come in as many shapes and sizes as there are people to use them. The title alone, "alternative format," could give the impression that all are equal and equally accessible, but this not the entire truth. As explained by Dann Berkowitz, Assistant Director of Boston University's Office of Disability Services, most alternative formats are not fully accessible. Many alternative formats are not easily navigable, and with computers taking over the accessible trend, Berkowitz must always explain "Digital does not mean accessible."
"I've been doing alt format stuff for over a decade now, from cassette tapes, to talking PDFs, to Wynn, and they all have their place and they all have their students dedicated to them, but DAISY is the ultimate," says Berkowitz. "This is because it's not proprietary to any company. DAISY is an international standard outside of any company and the companies have to create the software to publish the DAISY books. The software has to be fluid and flexible as DAISY was meant to be."
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.
This year is the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniversary. We are a consortium comprised of organizations, companies, institutes and individuals who in one way or another, support and advocate for equitable access to information for everyone, everywhere. To highlight our anniversary we will publish a special series of articles in the DAISY Planet featuring our Full Member organizations. One representative from each of the Full Members of the DAISY Consortium sits on the Consortium's Board of Directors. It is this Board that determines the future direction of the Consortium, and it is the organizations represented on the Board which provide the greatest human resource and financial commitment to the ongoing work of the DAISY Consortium. The series will begin with the original six members.
In 1996 six organizations came together to form the DAISY Consortium:
We are hopeful that the articles in this series will form a comprehensive record of the past, present and possible future of the DAISY Consortium and its Full Member organizations. It is also hoped that in terms of documenting our history, it will become an invaluable resource.
For reasons that will become apparent, the first article looks at the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille (TPB) and the Swedish DAISY Consortium. Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, who was the Director of the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille, was the first President of the DAISY Consortium; she was instrumental in the formation of the DAISY Consortium, and was considered by some to be the "mother" of DAISY.
In 1976 the Swedish government published a paper called "Culture for All". One crucial conclusion of the paper was that the state bears the responsibility of providing reading material, in the form of talking books and braille, to people with a print disability. On the back of this paper the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille (TPB) was founded in 1980 and has provided these services ever since. Another key element in "Culture for All" was the goal to provide 25% of all books published in Sweden during each calendar year to those who have a print disability, a goal eventually reached by TPB some years later.
TPB is a national library and accessible content provider. In 1980 the TPB catalogue was comprised of 12,500 talking book titles and approximately 400 braille titles. As of 2011, the catalogue contains over 80,000 talking book titles, many of them audio and full text DAISY Digital Talking Books, and 14,300 titles in braille. TPB still continually aims to meet the needs of its users by working to meet the goal to produce 25% of books published per year in Sweden.
Like similar organizations, TPB provided talking books on analog cassette. In 1988, after recognizing the limitations of cassettes, TPB began the development of a new talking book format, a format that from its inception was known as DAISY. In 1991 TPB received a government grant to develop the 'DAISY idea' into a working platform that could replace cassettes and revolutionize the way talking books were used. In 1994 the first prototype of the system was shown at the ICCHP in Vienna.
In April 1995 thirty people from eleven countries, representing organizations of and/or for the blind, met in Toronto, Canada. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss digital technologies, future directions and alternatives for talking books on cassette. Representatives from both IFLA and the WBU were in attendance. Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, Director of TPB, Kjell Hansson and Lars Sönnebo also representing TPB, were present. Ms. Beckman Hirschfeldt introduced "DAISY", the digital format TPB was developing, and indicated that TPB was willing to make the software available to other organizations. Two portable CD-ROM players were demonstrated, one of which was developed by Plextor. For many in the room this was their first introduction to DAISY, which would become the standard for accessible digital talking books. All of the participants knew that cassette technology was nearing the end of its life cycle and that a digital alternative had to be found.
The DAISY Consortium was established in 1996 to promote the development and internationalization of a standard which would provide the new way to provide accessible materials to people with a print disability. Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt was the first president of the DAISY Consortium, serving two consecutive, four year terms.
TPB's primary goal with the DAISY format was to provide ease of navigability in talking books, and to move away from the handling of analog cassette to digital media. With the exponential advancements in digital technology the possibilities for DAISY development continued. Since 2001, TPB has provided talking books exclusively in the DAISY format, either on CD or via download from TPB's digital online library.
In 2004 TPB began to investigate the possibility of providing DAISY books with the text and image content of a book, using the DTBook portion of the DAISY 3 Standard. The idea was that the DTBook file could be used for the production of both audio and full-text talking books and eventually to also produce braille (working with the concept of the "single source file").
Between 2004 and 2007 TPB conducted a project to provide audio and full-text DAISY talking books with the audio created with synthesized speech for university students. Over those two years the project became an integral part of production at TPB, eventually resulting in the in-house development of a Swedish speech synthesis voice, international outsourcing of DTBook production and drastically reduced production times for university level literature. The work also resulted in the provision of audio and full-text books with human narration for children.
For many years TPB has investigated options which could increase the quality and effectiveness of digital braille production, which it has used in one form or another, since 1984. The use of DTBook has led to a revolution in the way in which TPB provides braille to readers by improving production technologies. An example of this is the development of the Portable Embosser Format (PEF) specification for braille embossers. The PEF specification allows TPB to take a DTBook file, convert it to PEF and send that file to an outsourced company which can then emboss the braille volume. This radically reduces waiting time for readers who no longer need to wait for a book to be returned.
In 2011 things will change again. The DAISY Consortium will deliver a new authoring standard and TPB is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities this will provide the agency as it continues to provide services for, and meet the needs of, its users.
The Swedish DAISY Consortium was founded in 2003 and is now comprised of 40 members. The goal of the Swedish Consortium was (and is) to disseminate knowledge of and skills in the DAISY format. In order to achieve this goal the newly formed consortium initially recruited Sweden's 20 county libraries. The recruitment of libraries was particularly important for establishing the use of a decentralized loan system for adapted materials and also important because those libraries have close contact with their users. The next phase in the consortium's work was to recruit university libraries.
Until 2006 the consortium provided free courses in DAISY production techniques. Today courses are still free, run and administered by employees of TPB's production department. They are tailored to meet the needs of those attending and have proven to be popular with members, being held both in Stockholm and around the country.
The Swedish DAISY Consortium's strategy from 2003 onward has been consistent:
In 2006 the Swedish DAISY Consortium arranged, in co-operation with TPB, an international conference titled "DAISY – Reading the Future". The goal of the conference was to fulfill the consortium's strategy on a focused larger scale. There were over one hundred participants from ten countries, including George Kerscher, Hiroshi Kawamura and Markus Gylling. Since 2009 the consortium has arranged a yearly conference with similar content but at a national level.
In 2010 the consortium recruited its first commercial member in the "DAISY Friends" category and aims to expand this area of the organization.
More than 1,100 libraries download DAISY talking books from TPB:
In addition 3,200 people downloaded DAISY talking books individually (not through a service provider or institution). In total there were 1,500,000 DAISY loans in 2010, with 50,000 active users of the public talking book services. The average age of those who use the service is 69, and approximately 80% are blind or have a visual disability. Fewer than 55% have access to a computer and the Internet.
Two of TPB's primary goals for the future are:
This week at the 2011 ATIA Conference held in Florida, USA, Benetech® (the parent nonprofit for Bookshare®) announced that during the first quarter of this year it will release Read2Go, an accessible e-book reader for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
"This new app furthers our Benetech Literacy goal of making printed content accessible to individuals with print disabilities however and wherever they want it. With Read2Go, we're offering a mobile reading solution based on strong demand from our users...The accessibility built-in to iOS devices and their widespread and growing use highlight their potential to help close the gap for students and other individuals with print disabilities." [Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager of the Benetech Literacy Program and member of the DAISY Consortium Board of Directors]
International Bookshare members who reside in a country other than the USA will be able to use Read2Go to access the Bookshare content they are permitted to read. Information about Bookshare International Membership is available on the Bookshare website.
Read2Go is being developed in partnership with Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd, developer of the well known PLEXTALK® series of DAISY Digital Talking Book players and recorders.
The RoboBraille e-mail service automatically transforms documents into a variety of accessible formats, DAISY, braille and MP3 and includes conversion services for documents in twelve languages. This service which is available free of charge to all non-commercial users was greatly enhanced this month with the inclusion of a simple, accessible and easy to use web interface. Individuals who have a vision or reading disability do not need to register in order to use either service.
RoboBraille's web interface is available in the following languages, English, Danish, Icelandic, Polish, Spanish, Italian and German. This new approach eliminates the need for users to keep track of different email accounts, making it easier and faster to use. The four easy steps outlined in the new user online interface are:
Shortly after submitting the document an email with the transformed content attached will be sent to the email address provided. The time required for the conversion is based in part on the size of the document to be converted.
The objective is to create an unlimited supply of accessible material to anyone with a need, anywhere. The service can convert otherwise inaccessible documents into more accessible formats. RoboBraille combines commercial Text-To-Speech, Text-To-Braille, OCR software and open source DAISY authoring capabilities, and currently serves between 1,000 and 2,000 user requests from all over the world each day. Users of the service include individuals who are blind or have a visual disability, people with dyslexia, people with poor reading skills and others who require accessible formats. The service is also being used by a growing number of language students.
To use the RoboBraille email service a document is sent as an email attachment to the appropriate RoboBraille email account. Submitting an English-language document to email@example.com, for example, will result in the document being converted to an mp3-file in British English. Submitting the same document to firstname.lastname@example.org will convert the document into contracted Grade 2 Braille according to the British English Braille code. Submitting a well-structured Word document to email@example.com will produce a full-text/full-audio DAISY project. There is a comprehensive set of email accounts for different format conversions and languages. Services can be customized, allowing the user to specify, for example, the playback speed of the audio, the target braille character set, formatting and pagination requirements for a braille document, etc.
Although RoboBraille's email service is efficient and easy to use for frequent users, the number of email accounts and available options may make the email interface somewhat confusing for the occasional user or users with learning disabilities. The web interface has been developed to make RoboBraille easier for those who may find the email interface difficult to use.
The RoboBraille service has won seven international awards, including the 2010 BETT Award from the British Teachers Association (video link) for best special education needs solution, and the 2008 eInclusion Award for eAccessibility from the European Commission (video link). Two brief video documentaries have been produced; the eInclusion Award video is also captioned.
RoboBraille is developed jointly by Synscenter Refsnæs (The Danish Centre for Visual Impairment, Children and Youth) and Sensus ApS. The development and operation of RoboBraille has been funded by the Danish Government, the European Commission and private foundations. Synscenter Refsnæs is an Associate Member of the DAISY Consortium.
"...documents that have been tagged for DTB production may well contain all the information required for producing material in other alternative formats including Braille, large print and customized formats, making the DAISY format an ideal master format for single-source publishing." [Source: Exploiting the DAISY format for automated, single-source Braille publishing by Lars Ballieu Christensen, Synscenter Refsnæs and Sensus ApS, ICCHP 2010.]
Lars Ballieu Christensen is the co-inventor of numerous innovative enabling technologies including the award winning RoboBraille. He is also the RoboBraille Coordinator and leader of the RoboBraille Consortium.
The London Declaration was issued by the International Council for Education of People with visual Impairment (ICEVI) and the DAISY Consortium on December 4, 2010. This is the third of three important declarations which reflect a mutual commitment to collaboration and to equitable information access for everyone, everywhere. The Leipzig Declaration was endorsed by the EBU (European Blind Union) and the DAISY Consortium, and the Melbourne Declaration was endorsed by the WBU and the DAISY Consortium.
"International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) is a global association of individuals and organizations that promotes equal access to appropriate education for all children and youth with visual impairment so that they may achieve their full potential."
The London Declaration includes the ten points which provide a framework for bringing accessible information to the millions of people worldwide who have a visual or other print disability, as presented in the Melbourne Declaration. Please also see the article Melbourne Declaration Issued by World Blind Union & DAISY Consortium in the November 2010 DAISY Planet.
Just thought I would keep you updated on the June Your Stories. Following a conference in Oslo this August, Mai-Linn has now been invited again to Japan. In preparation for the travel to Osaka in February, Mai-Linn's story has been translated into Japanese! It is written with the same setup, but still looks so different with the Japanese characters.
She will speak at an IFLA mid-term meeting on February 9th and at a conference for Japanese teachers, parents and kids with dyslexia on the 10th.
This autumn I've been involved in a project developing a DAISY player for Android smartphones and Tabs/Pads. During December, three of the Scandinavian libraries producing DAISY (NLB, TPB, NUTA) have joined the project. Hopefully, this will speed up progress and also deliver new functionality to the player (like online book download and steaming). A beta version of the mobile player is already available for testing.
Always interesting to have your new Planet Newsletter. So much to read.
All the best,
Can AMIS save books from DAISY discs? I have a netbook that I use in bed but it doesn't have a CD Drive so I use an external one. I don't want to have to keep plugging it in and I can't use my mouse when I use it because I don't have enough USB ports. So can I save the books from the discs?
You can certainly use AMIS to read books from the hard disc of your netbook. AMIS cannot be used for copying the book from CD to hard disc. You can always use the Windows Explorer to copy the entire content of the CD into a folder on the hard disc. Now you can use the search or open command from the file menu of AMIS to open this book in AMIS from hard disc.
• Bookshare Launches Developer Portal: Bookshare has just launched its new Developer Network, a community where developers around the globe can contribute to the socially conscious work done by Benetech. Work will begin on Bookshare which is the main product within Benetech's Literacy Program.
• CSUN Conference, March 14-19:Registration for the 2011 CSUN Conference opened earlier this month. Complete details and registration information are available on the 26th Annual CSUN Conference website.
• RNIB Online libraries and booksellers: This page on the website of the Royal National Institute of Blind People provides information about online reference services from RNIB and from public libraries, the RNIB Book Site, Bookshare and more.
• RFB&D Announces New CEO: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has appointed Andrew Friedman as President and CEO: "As the spectrum of assistive technology expands to embrace wider needs of the public, we have the ability to drive solutions that help more people who learn differently fulfill their educational goals." Complete details are available in the RFB&D press release.
• Braille21 Conference – Important Dates:
Information and forms are provided on the Braille21 website.
• The e-Quality Newsletter and some of the other documents from the JISC Regional Support Centre, Scotland North & East, including "The Assessor's Guide to Freeware and Open Source Software Alternatives" are available for download in DAISY format from the JISC Regional Support Centre website. (See also Create&Convert: just use it, give it, share it – all for free in the October 2010 DAISY Planet.)
• "What to expect in EPUB3": In the O'Reilly Radar interview with Bob Kasher, Bob outlines some of the changes that EPUB3 will bring to digital publishing. Bob Kasher is the business development manager for integrated solutions at Book Masters and a member of the International Digital Publishing Forum EPUB Working Group.
John Gardner, President of ViewPlus Technologies presented a paper and conducted a workshop on new DAISY features that ViewPlus and Infty (Research Project on Mathematical Information Processing) have been working on as part of the group. That paper Highly Accessible Scientific Graphical Information through DAISY SVG: Improving SVG for Perfect Accessibility presented at the SVG Open meeting in Paris last year is in part an SVG status report. It provides background on why these extensions are necessary and describes five that are complete or under development. The new extensions, described in Section 5 of the paper, are DAISY Layers, DAISY Views, DAISY Actions, DAISY Overlays, and DAISY text. The first three have now been implemented in a special version of the IVEO Creator application. This application also implements a new DAISY data-reading sonification feature that is not described in the paper.