The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - April 2011

From The Editor

My letter to you this month will be mercifully short (well, perhaps not), but before I write anything else I would like to say a special 'thank you' to Hiroshi Kawamura, President of the DAISY Consortium, for writing and submitting the article on the Japan DAISY Consortium for the Planet 15th Anniversary series: Japan DAISY Consortium: DAISY for Critical Life-Saving Information. Almost everyone, everywhere is aware of the multiple disasters that have done so much damage and killed so many people in Japan. Hiroshi has been working at an even more fevered pitch to bring accessible disaster prevention and recovery information to the people of his country. Thank you Hiroshi for making the time to contribute the article for this month's DAISY Planet.

There are six feature articles in this issue of the Planet, two of which tie into the DAISY meetings and Conference that will take place next week in Helsinki, Finland. Thanks to Dr. Alicia Wise for submitting the article Embracing Technology to Close Access Gaps. Alicia will be the special guest speaker at the Consortium's 15th Anniversary celebration on the evening of May 4. She is an advocate for accessible information, and, she is in the publishing industry. Two other special guests will speak that evening, Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, one of the founders of the DAISY Consortium and the first president, and Elsebeth Tank, the second president.

The second article which is linked to Finland was submitted by Maria Finström who works with the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired. Thank you Maria and congratulations on the implementation of DAISY Online in Finland.

It was a pleasure to speak with Lukasz Osowski, co-founder of IVONA, and John Worsfold of RNIB about synthetic speech and text-to-speech, and the creative development work being done by IVONA. There was so much information I've divided it into three articles: Is it a Computer or a Human 'Speaking'?, IVONA, Passionate About Helping People (Part 1), and "IVONA, Finding a Better Way (PART 2)" which will be published in the May issue of the DAISY Planet.

DAISY tool enthusiasts and developers will want to read the article Obi-Tobi Joint Project Reaches 1st Milestone. Congratulations to the Obi-Tobi development team on reaching their first milestone.

Two sets of guidelines for accessible publishing have been made available this month. EDItEUR launched the Accessible Publishing, Best Practice Guidelines for Publishers and RNIB has created an area on its website called Accessible Publishing. The RNIB site covers topics such as "Why publish accessibly?", "How to publish accessibly", and "Ways of reading". Both sets of guidelines are intended for publishers. Your organization or company may wish to link to these guidelines from your website.

IDPF Digital Book 2011 will be held on May 23 and 24 in New York City, USA. Guest speakers include George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and Markus Gylling, CTO for the Consortium.

This month's Story is about an incredible man, John J. Boyer. John has achieved more in his lifetime than many of us might ever hope to achieve. He is both blind and deaf. Please do take a few minutes to read John's story. Thank you John for sharing your story. It has been a pleasure getting to know you, even just a bit.

Thanks to everyone who has provided input, comment, information and/or a suggestion for this issue of the Planet. If there is a topic, article or column that you feel strongly about (positive or negative) please let me know. Also, 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.

Lynn Leith

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

Japan DAISY Consortium: DAISY for Critical Life-Saving Information

DAISY Consortium 15th Anniversary Series

Written by Hiroshi Kawamura, President of the DAISY Consortium

Hiroshi Kawamura's commitment to digital technology and the developing world was made as early as 1981. He was one of the original founding members of the DAISY Consortium, has been on the Board of Directors since that time, and is in the final year of his term as President of the Consortium. The vastness and intensity of the recent disasters in Japan are deeply woven into the article he has written about the Japan DAISY Consortium as part of the DAISY Planet 15th Anniversary Series.

On 2011 March 11th, the North East Japan Pacific Coast was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake and giant tsunami which reached as high as 38.9 m above sea level in Miyako City. One of the consequences of this natural disaster was the complete loss of electricity supply for the nuclear plants which require continuous cooling. Several hours without the cooling system the nuclear reactors triggered a partial meltdown of 3 reactors that were working at the time of the earthquake. Thousands of used nuclear rods can be as dangerous as the working reactors if the water in the storage pool is lost either by cooling system power loss or a water leak caused by an earthquake or tsunami. This was a level 7 nuclear accident, the worst.

Between March 11th and April 28th, we had 515 aftershocks larger than magnitude 5. Out of the 515, 75 were larger than magnitude 6, and 5 were larger than magnitude 7. The Japan Meteorological Agency continues their warning on aftershocks that could be magnitude 8. We must therefore remain alert and informed, and prepare for a giant earthquake and tsunami.

The Japan DAISY Consortium (JDC), which is made up of four organizations, is struggling to serve people with print disabilities living in the country which has been hit by the 3 worst disasters: earth quake, tsunami and nuclear accident, all at the same time. As of April 27, 14,517 people were confirmed dead and at least 11,432 people are missing. 130,229 people are living in more than 2,000 shelters. Loss of homes results in loss of all information channels. Recovery and reconstruction of individual life, home and the community should not exclude anyone. All stakeholders need to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by taking all measures to guarantee access to information throughout the recovery and reconstruction process.

Easy Reader Express screenshot of a multimedia DAISY book which is the actual Tsunami manual; characters shown include Tsunami-man Encouraged by international support, JDC full member organizations (Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD), Nippon Lighthouse Information Center (ICC), Assistive Technology Development Organization (ATDO) and the National Association of Institutions of Information Service for Visually Impaired Persons (NAIIV)) jointly launched a website to disseminate critical life-saving information in DAISY multimedia format for everyone, including persons with print disabilities. The site is hosted by JSRPD. The full-text and audio synchronized content and Easy Reader Express DAISY player are zipped for free download and distribution. ATDO offers the Easy Reader Express processing service. ICC joins the shared rapid production and NAIIV distributes the same content to registered members of the SAPIE online library for persons with print disabilities. Microsoft Japan is supporting distribution of the DAISY formatted information to the wider general community through its MSN network.

JDC has a long history of being in the forefront of information services to provide critical life-saving information for persons with print disabilities, including research and development funded by the research grant of the Japanese Government.

JSRPD Information Center has run an excellent bilingual website Disability Information Resources (DINF) since the late '90s. DINF has been a vehicle for the promotion of web accessibility and DAISY in Japan, including the nationwide implementation of the DAISY Talking Books Project from 1998 - 2000. JSRPD was granted US $15 million from the government to introduce DAISY to approximately 100 libraries for the blind across the country, including the provision of a core of 2,650 talking book titles, basic production equipment, 8,600 playback units, and staff training.

JSRPD's DAISY implementation included tool development such as Sigtuna DAR, MyStudio PC, the prototype of the PTR1 and AMIS Version 1. I believe that JSRPD's decision to make Sigtuna DAR, MyStudio PC and AMIS available free of charge is a good example of international collaboration to disseminate DAISY in developing countries. Generous funding from the Nippon Foundation for the DAISY Consortium's "DAISY For All Project" made the most of those tools to implement DAISY in developing countries. JSRPD gave Japanese translation support to international DAISY business partners such as Labyrinten and VisuAide (now HumanWare) to develop Japanese version of their tools.

As the Japanese Disability Community formulated the joint action for copyright change in 1999 to guarantee the access to information and knowledge, in particular critical life-saving information such as disaster preparedness information, JDC member organizations took the initiatives of the copyright revision movement to realize the distribution of full-text and audio synchronized DAISY titles to all persons with print disabilities. In collaboration with the DAISY Consortium, the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities (NRCD) conducted a research project to develop use cases for accessible multimedia to save the lives of persons with disabilities in a severe disaster such as a massive earthquake and tsunami. NRCD hosted onsite research in Urakawa, Hokkaido, to formulate the Urakawa Project, which successfully contributed to the development of SMIL 3.0 (a W3C standard), plus DAISY 4 and EPUB 3 development.

Group photograph of the meeting organizers taken at the meeting in Phuket, 2007; Senator Monthian Buntan and Hiroshi Kawamura are on the left The DAISY Consortium, NRCD, JSRPD and colleagues in Asia and the Pacific Region jointly contributed to the 2nd United Nations ESCAP Decade of Disabled Persons in particular its ICT accessibility policy development, by co-hosting an ICT accessibility seminar in Bangkok in 2002 and establishing a global link with the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Throughout the WSIS process, JDC contributed to the use case development of DAISY multimedia for a tsunami evacuation manual to be used by 150 people with a psychiatric disability in Urakawa, with actual evacuation drills and feedback. The outcome of the onsite research in Urakawa, which has continued and expanded to include wider communities with support of local government and autonomous community groups, was shared at the international disaster risk reduction seminars held in Phuket, co-hosted by the DAISY Consortium, Senator Monthian Buntan and other partners in 2007 and 2009.

ATDO logo, in red Since the tsunami evacuation manual development team for Urakawa has been transferred from NRCD to ATDO, ATDO has been developing a use case for DAISY multimedia for users with cognitive or psycho-social disabilities. The research conducted in Urakawa by ATDO and NRCD has been focused on preparedness. It is still valid to focus on preparedness for the safety and security of persons with disabilities in a severe disaster situation because the development of a survival strategy is crucial. However, the challenge we are facing in Japan becomes quite complex due to extensive recovery and reconstruction work in addition to the continuing critical battle to control the monstrous nuclear reactors for at least next several months.

What happened to people living within a 30 km radius of the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Plant was, first, they were hit by the largest earthquake, second, the 14 m tsunami (which reportedly killed more than 1,000 people in the area and destroyed cooling system of nuclear plant) and lastly, they were forced to move out of the area immediately. The nuclear reactor explosions and radioactive water leaks are both fatally dangerous. Tens of hospital patients lost their lives in the evacuation process.

'Free, Prior and Informed Consent' is the guiding principle of the JDC's effort to disseminate critical life-saving information in DAISY format. Everyone, including persons with print disabilities, has the right to make a critical decision with dignity based on equitable access to information and knowledge.

With the release of DAISY4 and EPUB 3, JDC members will take advantage of the new standards to change the workflow of public documents for recovery, reconstruction and disaster risk reduction to guarantee the inclusion of persons with print disabilities.

Embracing Technology to Close Access Gaps

Elsevier's Alicia Wise on Universal Access

portrait photograph of Alicia Wise When I joined Elsevier in April 2010, my job title – Director of Universal Access – raised some eyebrows among family and friends. I saw myself confronted with questions about access to extra-terrestrials and sending journals to Jupiter. Quite amusing associations, but inspiring and ambitious at the same time. Looking back on the past year, I can only conclude that Universal Access is exactly that: inspiring and ambitious, but in a slightly more down-to-earth way though. Enhancing access for people who have a print disability is an important part of that concept. But before getting into Elsevier's access enhancing initiatives for this particular group, let me explain a little bit more what Universal Access actually stands for.

Elsevier is the world's largest publisher of scientific, technical and medical information. We publish over 2,000 journals and close to 20,000 book titles. We have a vision for working with others to ensure access to high quality information is available to anyone regardless of disability, income or geographic location. That's the vision for Universal Access. To shape that vision into concrete initiatives, we have created a dedicated Universal Access team, responsible for Elsevier's access strategy and policies, and aimed at identifying and closing access gaps. We are a small unit that can form internal project teams, so that Elsevier can actively test and learn about new, sustainable access models.

As I mentioned earlier, a substantial part of our Universal Access agenda entails expanding access for people with print disabilities. With 10% of people in the developed world and even 15% of people in the developing countries struggling with some form of print disability, I personally think it's our moral obligation. And by embracing new advances in technology, we can truly make a difference for this group. A concrete example of how we go to work to achieve this objective is Elsevier's Global Digital Books Archive. This archive fulfills over 3,100 requests for digital files from organizations all over the world. In the US, schools are by law required to make reasonable accommodations to help students with print disabilities. Canada, the UK and many other countries have similar legislation. As a result, schools rely on Elsevier to provide alternate formats for use by students with disabilities. Through the Global Digital Book Archive, we are able to fulfill the needs of this group.

Elsevier logo showing an oak tree and vine, and the Latin inscription 'Non Solus' which means 'not alone' Even more excitingly, Elsevier is producing all of its ebook titles in the ePub format, not only making sure our titles can be read on ebook readers, but also allowing readers with dyslexia or a vision disability to apply their own style settings to make reading easier. With our recent decision to enable the text-to-speech option on all of our ePub titles, and to proactively communicate this to all of our ebook retail partners, we are moving access for people who are visually impaired to the next level. Enabling our ebooks to 'read aloud' provides a very powerful form of access for bright and talented people who – despite their print disability – want to pursue an education or a career in science.

These examples are only a few of the access enhancing initiatives that I've had the pleasure of working on, and the real commitment to mainstreaming accessibility features is palpable in the publishing industry. I'm delighted that Elsevier received external recognition for our accessibility efforts by receipt of the first Publisher Lookup Award in April 2010. This sort of recognition is so powerful for motivating positive change. Of course this doesn't mean we're there yet. There is much work to be done in partnership with accessibility experts, software developers and device manufacturers. For example there is still work to be done to improve the accessibility of highly structured and illustrated text books, mathematical formulas and highly specialized and interactive databases. We continue to also closely cooperate with industry bodies such as the International Publishers Association (IPA), the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), the Publishers Association (PA), and the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM), and with partner organizations such as the DAISY Consortium and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Closing access gaps for people who have a print disability as well as other users of scientific information remains an ongoing project requiring dedication, innovation, creative ideas and the right partnerships. It is exciting we have been able to achieve results, truly helping people to achieve their objectives. It's even more exciting, however, to stay the course and look to do even more in the future.

Editor's note: On the Elsevier Founding Principles page, information about the history of the logo dating back to 1620, and the principles which are still in place today are described: "...the logo represents, in classical symbolism, the symbiotic relationship between publisher and scholar...Publishers and scholars cannot do it alone. They need each other. This remains as apt a representation of the relationship between Elsevier and its authors today."

The DAISY Consortium is extremely pleased that Dr. Alicia Wise will be the special guest speaker at the Consortium's 15th Anniversary Celebration on May 4, in Helsinki Finland. Prior to her current position with Elsevier, Alicia held the positions of Chief Executive of the Publishers Licensing Society (a not-for-profit owned by publishing trade bodies to oversee collective licensing arrangements for UK publishers) and Head of Digital Publishing at the Publishers Association (PA). Many thanks to Alicia for submitting this article for publication in the DAISY Planet.

Moving DAISY Online in Finland

Celia, the National Library for persons with print disabilities in Finland, and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired, in close cooperation with Shinano Kenshi Co., have developed a new DAISY online delivery service for readers who have a print disability. With this service, a user of Celia Library can listen to audio content via the Internet with an easy-to-use listening device – a next generation online DAISY player.

Plextalk PTX1 Pro Until now, Celia Library has made a CD-ROM copy of each DAISY talking book borrowed, and then mailed them to the user. The users have signed an agreement stating that they are obliged to dispose of the CDs after reading the books. Now, people who are using the new DAISY Online Delivery service, are given a new listening device, a Plextalk PTX1 Pro, manufactured by Shinano Kenshi. The device is a DAISY player which enables Internet-based listening to DAISY audio content such as books and newspapers. The DAISY player supports the international DAISY Online Protocol, developed by the DAISY Consortium. It is directly connected to Internet – no computer is necessary. The user can arrange for a subscription to receive books by contacting Celia Library. The borrowed content is immediately available for listening with the Plextalk PTX1 Pro DAISY Online player. The books are automatically removed from the player after one month, however the same books may be borrowed again.

The online delivery of DAISY audio content has many benefits as compared to distributing DAISY books on CDs. There is no need to wait for the mail as the books are immediately available for listening. The system has been made so easy to use that people can pick a book from the virtual bookshelf and begin reading it as soon as it is selected. Once the book or other content is chosen, the PTX1 Pro behaves in the same way as a standard DAISY player. PTX1 Pro can also read content from a CD, SD card and USB. Online delivery eliminates waste because there is no need to dispose of the CDs.

For the moment, DAISY Online delivery is available only to specific target areas within Finland. The service is free of charge for Celia's users. The online delivery service is the first DAISY Online service in the world where users can listen to audio content via the internet by using DAISY players instead of computers.

About the Project Partners

Celia logo Celia is a Finnish state-owned specialist library which produces and provides literature in accessible formats for people who are unable to read standard printed books due to illness or disability – including people with a visual disability, those who have dyslexia, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities or muscular diseases. Celia's aim is to work towards equality for people with print disabilities in terms of access to literature and information. Celia is also a specialist institution within its field. In 2010, Celia had 15,000 users who took out a total of almost one million loans.

Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired logo

Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired
is the umbrella organization of the Finnish organizations of visually impaired people. The Federation's aim is to advocate for the rights of the blind and partially sighted people. It provides special services and has expertise in the field of vision and sight. There are an estimated 80,000 visually impaired people in Finland. The number people who are blind is estimated to be 10,000.

Both Celia and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired are members of the Finnish DAISY Consortium, which is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.

PLEXTALK logo with tag line Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd. is a global leader in providing integrated motion control solutions and assistive technology. With a history dating back to 1918 Shinano Kenshi is well-known for electrical motor production (small precision motors), Plextor (IT-products such as CD/DVD recorders) and Digital talking book players (PLEXTALK). PLEXTALK (Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd.) is one of the original Friends of the DAISY Consortium. Their DAISY product line includes desktop models such as PTN1 and PTN2 DAISY recorders, PTR1 and PTR2 portable DAISY player/recorder, PLEXTALK Pocket and PTX1 Pro Network player for delivery of DAISY books online.

Is it a Computer or a Human 'Speaking'?

Within the DAISY community and in a variety of external commercial fields such as the entertainment and communications industries, interest in text-to-speech technology has grown exponentially over the past several years. This is possibly in part due to the fact that the sound or 'voice' quality of synthesized speech for the major languages has improved greatly, which of course opens commercial markets for these systems. However the quality is now so good that people who once turned up their noses, that is would rather have listened to a cow mooing than listen to a recorded book or newspaper with synthetic speech, are realizing that in some cases the sound is so natural, so close to human speech, that it may just be the way of the future (if not the way of the present).

A Very Brief Audio History of Synthetic Speech

There is a fascinating area on the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing website called Dennis Klatt's History of Speech Synthesis. It consists of a timeline of the history of synthetic speech, in audio clips, the first recording of synthetic speech dating back to 1938! The samples are divided into five sections, beginning with Highlights and progressing through Sections A to D.

Clips which may be of particular interest are Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) which was the first song produced with synthetic speech (1961). The song was used it in the climactic scene of the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" – it is also this version of the song that was the inspiration for the name "DAISY" that has become the standard for rich, navigable and accessible publications. The other clip, which, without question, illustrates how far synthetic speech has come, is the clip of the Kurzweil 'reading machine for the blind' from 1976. The Acoustical Society of America retains the copyright to these recordings.

Synthetic Speech Is...

Text-to-Speech systems use synthetic speech to convert electronic text (various formats) into the 'spoken' word.

A reasonably comprehensive explanation of synthetic speech is available on Wikipedia outlining the history and the technology, including two primary technologies used for generating synthetic speech (concatenative synthesis and formant synthesis).

The article Exploring the use of synthetic speech by blind and partially sighted people, published by the RNIB Centre for Accessible Information, provides a clear analysis of the benefits and uses of synthetic speech for people who are blind or partially sighted, an analysis of the subjective acceptance of synthetic speech by that same population and by the general population. It also examines how synthetic speech affects reading performance.

Please also read the article IVONA, Passionate About Helping People (PART 1) in this issue of the DAISY Planet, and IVONA, Finding a Better Way (PART 2) in the May issue of the DAISY Planet to learn about IVONA Software's mission to create TTS for minority and dying languages and their innovative approach to TTS development.

IVONA, Passionate About Helping People (Part 1)

Thanks go to Lukasz Osowski, co-founder of IVONA , and John Worsfold of RNIB for sharing their thoughts about Text-To-Speech and information about the collaborative efforts of IVONA and RNIB.

IVONA Software logo In their final year at Gdańsk University, two young men, Lukasz Osowski and Michal Kaszczuk, both with a passion for computer technology, decided that they wanted to build a useful product for people and at the same time use the knowledge they had gained to build a company. It was as important to them that the results of their efforts be useful for people as it was to create a business. They were as passionate about helping people as they were about computer technology. Their expectations have changed considerably since 2001 when they could only dream of achieving what they have actually done over the past ten years.

Lukasz and Michal were looking for something relatively new in computer science. They were interested in character recognition and so decided on text-to-speech which required knowledge of linguistics, signal processing, computer science and algorithms. In 2001 TTS was largely used by people who were blind or visually impaired. They met some people who were blind, found out what they really needed to know, and learned it. They started their company in 2001, working from their university dormitory room; they didn't have an office for the first two or so years. After three months they launched their first product which was called "Speaker".

Another factor that pulled them into the field of TTS is that at that time there was no good quality TTS voice for the Polish language. Of the big companies developing TTS, only one or two had what Lukasz and Michal considered to be good TTS, and neither had TTS for Polish. Polish was a minority language even though there were 40 million people speaking it. They decided to build TTS for Polish and make it available to people who were blind or visually impaired. Moving forward, they knew there were people in countries like Poland and even smaller countries in which people did not have TTS for their language; large companies were not investing in 'small languages'. In 2006 they decided to develop TTS for Romanian (approximately 20 million Romanian speakers)

"It is basically human right to have TTS in your own language and listen to books in your own language." [Lukasz Osowski, CEO, IVONA Software]

IVONA Partnership with RNIB

RNIB logo In 2008 IVONA made the decision to build a TTS engine for a major language. In cooperation with Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), they developed TTS for British English. There was also discussion between IVONA and RNIB about the needs of people in other countries, to build TTS for minority and dying languages. They agreed that it was a good idea to help people in small countries, with under 10 or 20 million native speakers, but with a high number of people who need TTS to work with computers, access the Internet, etc. As a result they invested in technology that would allow them to build new languages.

RNIB has been working with IVONA for approximately two years and together they have developed a range of solutions. From RNIB's perspective there are a few reasons for this partnership but the primary reasons were that IVONA's philosophy of preserving minority and dying languages was an ethical one, and, IVONA wished to raise the bar in respect of the quality of TTS output. RNIB as an organization needed to standardize on the use of TTS for both content production and embedding in products; this has now been achieved. They are currently in a position where they can help sister organizations to achieve a similar goal. RNIB has developed a TTS solution that suits their needs both in terms of audio quality, production/embedding flexibility and also have a licensing model that meets their particular business needs.

Lukasz Osowski and young students at the IVONA booth, CSUN 2011 "Creation of TTS for a language is a very complicated process…" Please read the article IVONA, Finding a Better Way (PART 2) in the May issue of the DAISY Planet to learn more about IVONA Software's goal to create TTS for minority and dying languages and their innovative approach to TTS development, including BrightVoice and "Rapid Voice Development" (RVD). An extensive list of the awards received by IVONA Software is available on the IVONA website. There is also a page with recordings of comparative audio samples with human voice followed by synthetic speech. Samples are for all of the IVONA languages available, those very recently released and those that will be released in the near future.

Obi-Tobi Joint Project Reaches 1st Milestone

Collaboration Enabled by Shared Code Base

The positive results of the decision and investment in merging the code base, and the benefits of collaborative development of the DAISY Consortium production tools, are illustrated with the recent maintenance release of Tobi V1.4.0.1 and the very recent release of the Obi 2.0 alpha. The first part of the joint project that was largely focused on the code base consolidation, resulting in faster, more efficient development of these two DAISY software tools. The common, underlying Urakawa SDK (Software Development Kit) has been dramatically enhanced. Improvements made to the code base for the Obi alpha 2.0 release were immediately reflected in Tobi.

The joint project defines the development path for these two interactive authoring tools – Obi which is an audio-NCX authoring tool, and Tobi which is a full-text, audio authoring tool. One of the goals of this project is to provide support for EPUB multimedia and another is to develop enhanced feature sets such as image/graphics description workflow and audio overlay, while the short term goal has been to prepare Obi and Tobi for future development by consolidating the code base. This consolidation is intended to empower both tools through the sharing of components, while at the same time maintaining the unique user interfaces of each for their specific user bases.

The consolidation of the code base and the release of the Obi 2.0 Alpha mark completion of the first milestone of the joint project. This version of Obi utilizes the upgraded Urakawa SDK 2.0, using the same backend that is being used by Tobi. Milestones and the development cycle for the joint project are identified in the Tobi-Obi Project Charter which was approved by the DAISY Consortium Board of Directors in November 2010.

Tobi Maintenance Release V1.4.0.1

Tobi logo The primary focus for the Tobi V1.4.0.1 update was performance improvements. Large project files can now be opened and saved much more quickly. In addition, the responsiveness of the document pane in the Tobi user-interface has been greatly improved thanks to optimizations in the audio recording workflow. This results in an overall smoother recording experience, with less lag and potential delays on slower machines.

Tobi can now import Obi projects. This new feature means that already existing DAISY audio-only content can be "upgraded" to DAISY full-text, full-audio projects. Tobi currently only offers basic text editing (no structural modifications of the document are possible), but this is sufficient to author the text labels associated with audio phrases originally recorded from within Obi. The user-manual has updated to explain how to use the Obi import feature and the Tobi FAQ has also been updated to add basic Obi import information.

Tobi, including the most recent releases, can be downloaded from the Tobi area of the DAISY website. The Tobi Forum is available for questions, comments or feedback for the development team.

The Tobi development team has been receiving feedback that the performance is much better in this release, particularly with the recording large text documents. This is good news, but more feedback from users is needed. The Tobi team would like to thank all testers and contributors for their support.

Obi 2.0 Alpha Release

Obi logo The main features included in the Obi 2.0 Alpha release are:

A complete list of new features and bug fixes is available on the Obi wiki area of the DAISY website. Download links for the two types of available installers and a link for the JAWS script for Obi are also on the same page. Instructions for submitting bug reports are also provided.

Obi 2.0 is an alpha release, and as such is intended for serious users who can provide bug reports and input. It is not a final product. The development team is looking forward to feedback and bug reports from serious Obi users in order to further refine this software.

Both Obi and Tobi can be localized (translated) into multiple languages. The production computer minimum requirements for Obi and Tobi are included in the DAISY Planet Tech Tips column in the February 2011 issue.

Letters to the Editor

Hi Lynn,

I enjoyed the recent article on the CSUN conference, but noted it makes it sound like the DAISY Consortium is an outside player collaborating with DIAGRAM (like the W3C) rather than mentioning that it's one of the three core organizations running DIAGRAM (along with Bookshare and NCAM). The DIAGRAM R&D effort is designed to put better and more efficient tools in the hands of all producers of accessible media. We're delighted to have strong involvement from DAISY to maximize the positive impact of this work.


Editor's note: This letter is from Jim Fruchterman, President of Benetech. Thank you for your input Jim. The article CSUN 2011: New Technologies Breaking Down Boundaries in the March 2010 DAISY Planet has been edited so that it more closely reflects the role of the DAISY Consortium in the DIAGRAM Project.

Lynn Leith,


[This inquiry was posted to the DAISY General Forum. There were two responses.]


Firstly I'd like to say thank you very much for all the works done by anyone linked or associated with DAISY Consortium.

My papa was diagnosed 1-2 years ago with partial to full blindness and has something called macular degeneration and things are getting worse and worse.

He has been using his DAISY player for about 9 months now and he loves it, giving him a little enjoyment in these hard times, as he was a keen reader all his days!

We live in the UK (Scotland to be precise) and he has been using the RNIB site for his Daisy books and he sometimes feels that some of the more recent titles and older books are not available to him.

He has asked me to try and obtain for him three books by Harold Robbins - The Betsy, The Adventurers and The Carpetbaggers.

I am quite good with computers and I can turn my hand to anything really but I was wondering if there are any other sites that I could use to obtain Daisy books, for these titles then burn them to a CD for him.

I noticed you can turn text based ebooks into a Daisy book or even an MP3 audio book into DAISY format?

Is the above easy to do?
Does it ruin the audio enjoyment i.e. computer voice reading book?
Best web-site(s) to obtain all this information?

Any help would be really appreciated.

He is also a keen lover of Football (Soccer) and if anyone had web-sites or information on any audio for these that would be useful - i.e. making an audio podcast into a Daisy CD?

Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards
A loving Grandson


Dear Luke,

Many thanks for the great feedback. You have posted your questions on the right forum and I am sure you will get good suggestions from other users too. Regarding your questions,

• Converting text to a DAISY book is not all that difficult now. The Save As DAISY is a free add-in which can convert Microsoft Word or Open Office documents into synthesized speech narrated DAISY talking books. There are many more tools for doing this like the Tobi & the Dolphin Publisher. You can look up the tools area of the DAISY website for more information.

• Text to speech has come a long way and especially for English there are numerous human-like voices. You can checkout demos of these voices and select the one which feels most comfortable to your grandfather. You could start your search for a good TTS from the Text to Speech page on DAISY website.

DAISYpedia is a good source of information on reading and creating DAISY books. You are already in contact with RNIB which is a terrific source of accessible reading material. If your grandfather becomes accustomed to the TTS voice then you will have a much wider choice of books from websites like the Bookshare and the Inclusive Planet.

• A new application called Accessible News DAISY has been launched recently which can look up your selected RSS feeds and convert them to a DAISY book. You may use this to help him read newspapers and articles on sports and current affairs.

Regards, Prashant Verma


Hello Luke,

Another resource that you may find helpful in providing your grandfather with more reading material in DAISY format is RoboBraille. Information about this service is available in our monthly newsletter, the DAISY Planet, specifically in the January 2011 issue: RoboBraille Web Interface: Easily Transforms Documents into Accessible Formats.

You may find information in the DAISY Planet useful. There is a link to an online subscription form from the DAISY homepage.

DAISY books can also be purchased from ReadHowYouWant.

I hope this additional information is useful to you.

Kind regards,
Lynn Leith

Bits & Pieces

Learning Ally logo

The original name "Recording for the Blind" was changed to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic decades ago. Learning Ally, the new name for the organization which has provided accessible reading materials for over 60 years, is more inclusive of a wider community which can benefit from assistive technology services and accessible educational content. Andrew Friedman, President and CEO of Learning Ally explains some of the reason for the name change, and he states: "It's really about out users." The video in the PR Web press release includes Mr. Friedman, Learning Ally members and volunteers, and celebrity supporters. Learning Ally is a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium.

• The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB), a Full Member of the DAISY Consortium has developed and posted an extensive resource list of sources of accessible books on their website.

• At the London Book Fair the seminar "Making your e-books Accessible to More Users: Why and How" was presented by Publishers Licensing Society (PLS), Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), EDItEUR, The Right to Read Alliance and the Publishers Association. The seminar addressed the increasingly important issue for publishers to ensure that their e-books are accessible to people with vision problems or with a print disability. It explored why accessibility should be on all publishers' agendas, and why it makes perfect business sense for publishers to ensure that their works are fully accessible to all readers. RNIB recording the seminar which is online on the Publishers Licensing Society website. There is an audio recording of each speaker. Two of the speakers were Alicia Wise of Elsevier and Pete Osborne of RNIB.

• An 'ideas marketplace' for new, open source assistive technology projects has been launched by a group of academics and developers with funding from JISC, which inspires UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies. The REALISE project is an open, three-stage tool for creating new software technologies to make it easier for people with disabilities to use the Internet, computers and mobile devices.

• TechAdapt Accessible Media Centre (TAMC) started up in the 2006 in the USA to fill a need to provide easy and effective conversion options for DAISY books and NIMAS file sets. TAMC's primary goal is to provide educational agencies, parents, teachers, and others with a way to quickly and easily convert books into consumer-ready formats. It is now in widespread use by braille transcribers who want to use DAISY or NIMAS file sets as input for braille transcription, by accessible media specialists who need to convert text-only DAISY books to audio format, and by education agencies. Details are available on the TAMC website.

• The two models of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH, USA) Digital Talking Book Player are explained in the You Tube video – NLS Digital Talking Book Player. Both the advanced and the basic players are discussed. A contact phone number for people not yet registered for the service but who are interested is provided (888-657-7323). (Note: the video is not captioned).

• A recent Bookshare /John Wiley & Sons, Inc., partnership will further expand the Bookshare collection. With the signed agreement, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a leading publisher serving the professional, consumer, scientific, technical, medical and academic communities worldwide, will provide digital files of professional and trade titles to Bookshare for its accessible DAISY and BRF (Braille Ready Format) file format collection. Additional information is provided in the PR Web press release.

Michigan's Integration Technology Supports (MITS) website includes groups of videos about topics such as various DAISY players and Bookshare. The videos are captioned.

• The Braille21 - BraillePost 3rd edition newsletter includes a portrait of the Braille21 keynote speaker, Dr. Judith Dixon.

odt2braille, the free, open source extension for Writer and LibreOffice Writer, was named as the SourceForge Project of the Month for April 2011.

Tech Tips

Detailed instructions for translating Tobi and links to files which need to be downloaded for the process are provided on the Tobi Wiki on the DAISY website. When the translation is finished, contact the Tobi developers (through the Tobi Forum if you do not have a personal email address for one of the Tobi developers) and they will build a DLL that can be copied into any installed Tobi application.