There are four feature articles in this issue of the DAISY Planet. I was inspired to write the first article DAISY Working Groups: Delivering the 'Goods' by the incredible response to recent 'Calls for Participation' in new or 'reborn' groups. The collaborative efforts of DAISY Members and Friends began in the 1990's. Our Working Groups have not only "delivered the goods" they have forged solid relationships within our membership and resulted in long lasting friendships between some of the Working Group members. Your contributions have made and continue to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people – keep up the good work!
Techshare India 2014 & the New Delhi World Book Fair relays the highlights of both of these recent events. Again, thanks go to Prashant Verma for providing the notes and image files.
I have included the article New European Standard on Accessibility Requirements for ICT Products & Services because even though it does not focus specifically on accessible reading materials, tools or publishing, these documents set out accessibility requirements that can be applied to a wide range of products and services related to ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) products and services. I believe it will be of particular interest to those of you who live in Europe but also think that others may find it useful.
The final article IBM Standardizes on EPUB is brief but illustrates the extent to which the mainstream world is waking up to the importance of making publications (and information generally) accessible.
Moving on to Jim Fruchterman's blog Accessibility Excitement in Geneva posted February 19. This is an "in-depth report" on the two day meeting he had attended in Geneva the previous week – the ninth meeting of the Stakeholders' Platform. (Information about the Stakeholders is available on the WIPO VISION IP web page.) His report contains details about the outcome and insights into how the results came to pass. For those who have not been following some of the developments around the Marrakesh Treaty, TIGAR (Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources) and international copyright issues, Jim begins his report with a section headed "The context" which provides some background and sets the stage. One reason for the meeting was that the Stakeholders' Platform and TIGAR project timelines were close to an end and a "successor project" was needed. The "Accessible Book Consortium" (ABC) was proposed. I will not even attempt to summarize this report but do want to let you know this: "The stakeholders were able to come to an agreement on establishing the Accessible Book Consortium: its structure and activities." Please take a few minutes to read Jim's "Beneblog" and find out what "ABC" is all about.
In the Virginia Tech TEDx video Creating Interfaces, Creating Experiences Chelsea Cook talks about 'touching the stars' – she is a university physics major. "…It's easy when you have the right tool…Any concept, any idea, any action can be achieved if the correct interfaces for the job are developed, if you think about the right tools. Keep the word "impossible" out of your vocabulary…" Chelsea was a student in the NFB STEM programs and is now a mentor and instructor in those programs. She is an inspiring young scientist and the video is absolutely worth catching.
In another TED video Rupal Patel: Synthetic voices, as unique as fingerprints, Dr. Patel shares her work to engineer unique voices for people who are voiceless. This video is informative, interesting and moving. Although this does not deal with accessible information as our community often thinks of it, it definitely deals with communication and making voice communication possible and unique.
Several times a year I include a Letter to Editor in the DAISY Planet. The letter this month is from Bart Simons and I was pleased to learn that the changes we made in the ordering of the newsletter columns and the index improved the reading experience for him. It was also wonderful that we could quickly implement the suggestion he made in that note to me. If there is something that we can do to improve your reading experience with the DAISY Planet, please let me know – your suggestions are most welcome.
The story this month is about an architect, an architect who also happens to be blind. Chris Downey's story is presented in a "Question & Answer" format and will be published in two parts. Chris has an incredibly positive outlook on life and has been able to survive the economic downturn in the US while at the same time dealing with losing his vision. I have truly enjoyed talking with Chris over the past several months and I am sure you will enjoy reading his story. Part 2 will be published with the March issue of the DAISY Planet. Thank you Chris for taking time away from your demanding schedule to share your story with us.
Thanks to everyone who has written to me with ideas, articles and suggestions for this issue of the DAISY Planet. Your input helps me keep our community up to date on what is going on in the world of information, access and publishing. DAISY stories provide insight into the lives of people we might not otherwise have ever come to know. You can reach me by email (you will have my address if you receive the DAISY Planet email notice) or you can use the DAISY Contact Us Form (DAISY Planet Newsletter Category).
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.
• From the PRWeb press release Helicon Books Paves the Way for High End Digital Books Technology in Hebrew and Arabic: "Helicon Books' main focus is introducing today's advanced technology to publishers and developing the Hebrew and Arabic languages in digital books." Helicon Books was established in 2012 and joined the IDPF to be involved in the developments in the standard and contribute to the promotion of technologies for non-Roman languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Today Helicon Books EPUB3 Reader has many users worldwide, particularly in Israel. EPUB 3 fully supports right to left reading.
• The article MathML Forges On: The standard for mathematical content in publishing work flows, technical writing, and math software by Peter Krautzberger provides an informative overview of the state of MathML and highlights its importance for accessible math content: "One of the great advantages of MathML is accessibility. Accessibility today is not just about low vision and blindness but everything from physical to learning disabilities. Most of all, it improves content for all users. With MathML, mathematical content becomes native—searchable, re-usable, copy&paste-able, and can take part in dynamic content. Simply put: it does anything we've come to expect from text on the web."
DAISY Working Groups bring together experts from the Consortium's membership and other invited experts to find solutions, document requirements, and develop standards and tools to support the work of the DAISY community in its efforts to provide accessible reading materials to people who have a reading disability. These groups which forge paths for moving forward include representatives from around the world, leaders in their fields of expertise.
A few examples of previously established DAISY Working Groups are:
Since the beginning of 2014 there have been three Calls for Participation for DAISY Consortium Working Groups: Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 Ecosystem (TIES), DAISY Online Delivery (revision), and Reading System Methodology (which has since been merged into the TIES project).
Version 1 of the DAISY Online Delivery Protocol reached Recommendation Status in May 2010. Portions of the Specification have been implemented by some DAISY Member organizations and a number of DAISY Friends have added support for the protocol to their reading systems and/or developed new players which support it. DAISY Member organizations and Friends have expressed an interest in an update to this Specification with consistency in implementation at the top of the wish list, closely followed by new enhancements.
Immediate tasks for the Working Group will be to establish working group leadership and to determine the scope of work to be done.
HumanWare will host an informal DAISY Online Delivery update roundtable meeting at CSUN on Thursday, March 20th from 8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. in the HumanWare Private Suite. DAISY Members and Friends who are interested can RSVP using the online registration form by the end of business day Wednesday, March 5.
"DAISY Consortium's experts have led the ground breaking advancement of embedding accessibility features in the main stream EPUB 3 specifications. This advancement has opened tremendous opportunities for inclusive publishing, and has the potential to lead us to an era in which all the published materials are born accessible." [Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 Ecosystem Project Charter]
The outline of the plan for 2014-15, milestones, priorities, resources and dependencies & risks are clearly laid out in the charter. There will be three separate groups within the TIES project: production processes, publisher relations, and reading systems.
DAISY Member organizations and Friends which have had team members participating in DAISY Working Groups are in many cases well ahead of many others in terms of production and/or delivery. The people who have been Working Group members have had opportunities to exchange ideas, learn new concepts, influence the direction and outcome of DAISY projects, and further develop their own skills. The work of the DAISY Consortium has benefitted greatly from this involvement.
Working Group Procedures are outlined in section 3 of the document Intellectual Property Policy, Licensing, and Working Group Process which was approved by the Consortium's Board of Directors in February 2008.
Thank you for your ongoing participation in DAISY Consortium Working Groups, for bringing your expertise to the table and contributing to the evolution of accessible publishing.
Techshare India, which is held every two years, is India's premier accessibility and assistive technology conference and exhibition. This year the conference was organized by BarrierBreak Technologies (a subsidiary of
Net Systems Informatics) in partnership with National
Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The event was held in New Delhi, February 13 – 14.
Presentations were held under four "verticals": Education, Employability, Accessible Technology, and, Laws, Policies & Standards, all under the theme: Innovate — Adapt — Evolve. An exhibition highlighting accessibility and assistive technology catering to all disabilities was held at the same venue. An Inclusive Science Lab and an Inclusive Library put up by BarrierBreak Technologies were key attractions.
Mr. Avneesh Singh, Ms. Rachana Singh, Mr. Rohit Tandon and Mr. Prashant Verma who are Members of DAISY Consortium Technical Development and Support Team worked the booth which was shared by the DAISY Consortium and DAISY Forum of India. Bookshare and Saksham also shared a booth. Ms. Kristina Pappas, International Program Manager with Bookshare, informed the visitors about Bookshare's initiatives in India with the Bookshare Outreach & Training Consultants for North and South India.
Neil Heslop and Robin Spink of RNIB, one of the DAISY Consortium founding Members, were among the key speakers. The DAISY Consortium made two key presentations on the second day of the conference. Mr. Avneesh Singh, spoke on the topic "Universal Design: Embedding accessibility in mainstream publishing".
In the second presentation Avneesh Singh, Prashant Verma and Rachana Singh demonstrated production and playback tools for DAISY and EPUB 3. The participants were very interested in the presentations and asked many questions which were answered by the DAISY staff team. The booth at the exhibition was useful in raising awareness regarding the most accessible way to read and publish. The information provided was directed at both the users and organizations which provide services and support for people who have a disability.
DAISY Consortium Friends Shinano Kenshi Co., Ltd. and HIMS were present to demonstrate their latest products. Shinano Kenshi introduced the PLEXTALK Vachak, a portable DAISY player with Hindi TTS specially developed for the Indian market. In addition to DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 support this reader and recording device also supports MP3, WAV (PCM), several text formats and Text to Speech for both Hindi and English. It has been chosen by the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), a nodal agency of the Government of India, to be distributed free of cost to persons who are blind and who are in low income group families. The first 1000 units will be supplied to NIVH in the near future. PLEXTALK Vachak will be officially launched early in the coming quarter through their branch company, Shinano Kenshi India ABV.
New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) is India's oldest book fair. First held in 1972, it is a biennial event that takes place in early February and is organized by the National Book Trust of India (NBT). The Fair is held at Pragati Maidan, a venue for large exhibitions and conventions; it is New Delhi's largest exhibition centre. NDWBF is now a major calendar event in the publishing world in Asia, attracting international participation. With more than 1,300 Indian and 25 international exhibitors, and 1 million visitors, the venue provides unparalleled opportunities for business promotion for the publication industry. The Guest Country at the event this year was Poland which was well represented by the Polish delegation.
At present a great many Indian publishers are largely still 'in the print medium'; however they are faced with the explosion of electronic devices in the hands of readers and are evaluating whether or how to move into the realm of digital publishing.
The DAISY Consortium partnered with XRCVC, Saksham and DAISY Forum of India to use this event to reach out to publishers and introduce them to the benefits of adopting inclusive publishing. A large exhibition space was secured for the Antarchakshu™ experience zone along with an exhibition of the latest reading and writing technologies for people who have a print disability.
Antarchakshu, 'the Eye Within', is a simulated environment intended to provide people who do not have a print disability with an insight into the worlds of those who have a visual or other print disabilities. The Antarchakshu experience was followed by a guided tour and demonstration of assistive technologies for people who have a print disability. DAISY books were included in the demonstration. Many participants were astonished by the experience which was followed by a debriefing intended to break down misconceptions about limitations and barriers as well as the capabilities of persons with disabilities.
The DAISY Consortium team members used this opportunity to interact with the leading publishers. Key people from publishing companies were invited to go through the Antarchakshu simulation experience. The DAISY team then discussed eBook publishing and any plans they have. The benefits of the EPUB 3 standard and Unicode fonts were presented.
During this week-long event the DAISY team – Dipendra Manocha, Avneesh Singh, Prashant Verma, Rachana Singh and Rohit Tandon – took turns interacting with the publishers and demonstrating EPUB 3 features and accessibility on different devices.
The team had discussions with more than 80 publishers and some government officials, helping to increase awareness for the need for built-in accessibility. Although most of the publishers are still producing print, these interactions introduced and reinforced accessible e-publishing as an opportunity for business expansion. Some publishers already publishing digital content expressed interest in making their eBooks accessible; some also requested additional information that would help them to make their publications accessible.
Thanks go to Prashant Verma for providing the notes and image files for this article.
ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, has very recently announced a new European Standard on accessibility requirements for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) products and services.
"It is intended in particular for use by public authorities and other public sector bodies during procurement, to ensure that websites, software, digital devices are more accessible – so they may be used by persons with a wide range of abilities." [ETSI Announcement, February 19]
'Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe' (EN 301 549) was produced by CEN and CENELEC and ETSI. Developed by an international team of experts, with the participation of the ICT industry and organizations representing consumers, people with disabilities and older persons, it is the first European Standard for accessible ICT.
A series of three Technical Reports (TR 101 550, TR 101 551 and TR 101 552) compliment the standard:
"Together, these documents set out accessibility requirements that can be applied to a wide range of products and services related to ICT, including computers, smartphones and other digital devices, ticketing machines, websites and emails. The aim is to ensure that ICT products and services are accessible either directly or through compatibility with assistive technologies such as text-to-speech, so that everyone can access information and use services that are being delivered electronically."
This new European Standard is complemented by these three Technical Reports (TR 101 550, TR 101 551 and TR 101 552). However the Standard is supported by Technical Reports 550 and 551. At the present time links to the Standard and these two Reports are included in the list of available documents on the ETSI website/Human Factors. Technical Report 552 will be published and included in the set of links in the near future.
Numerous additional documents are also listed on this page. The documents are in PDF format and are accessible. The Standard is currently available in English and over the coming six months it will also be published in various languages in 33 European countries.
The accessibility requirements identified in these documents are consistent with other global accessibility requirements.
This standard is comprehensive. For example, section 4, clause 4.2, "Functional performance statements", describes performance requirements for use by individuals who may have a wide range of possible usage requirements or abilities. Various levels of vision, hearing, physical and cognitive requirements are identified with brief notes as to how the various clauses can be met. (Learning abilities are covered under 4.2.10 "Usage with limited cognition".)
Although the accessibility requirements in the standard are defined in a form suitable for use in public procurement, they are not limited to that purpose. They may be used in other contexts, for example, as guidance for procurement in the private sector.
This standard addresses the accessibility requirements for ICT products and services in a clear and comprehensive manner, and it could potentially be used as a starting point in countries where a standard addressing these requirements does not yet exist.
CEN, CENELEC and ETSI are officially recognized by the European Union as European Standardization Organizations.
In the February 13 press release the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) and IBM announced a collaboration to develop a white paper highlighting lessons learned from IBM's recent decision to support EPUB as the company's primary packaged portable document format.
"Increased client demand for mobile solutions, accessibility through the cloud, and the transformational opportunities…are the key drivers for IBM's move to the next-generation portable document format. By standardizing on EPUB, IBM is also extending its leadership in accessibility and delivering a richer user experience and engagement."
IBM has also recently joined the Readium Foundation which was formed a year ago to develop technology which will accelerate the adoption of EPUB 3 and the Open Web Platform by the global digital publishing industry. Readium.org is a non-profit membership organization.
Accessibility and other EPUB features will redefine what we know as textbooks by expanding its utility to all students, including those with speech, hearing or vision challenges, to ensure they have the same opportunities to gain skills and training to compete in the 21st-century workforce…By having digital content available on mobile devices of their choice, we can create more engagement from students, while also helping teachers teach in the digital world that students live and play. [Michael D. King, Vice President, Global Education Industry for IBM, February 13 press release]
Accessibility of electronic books is essential for ensuring access to information, education, employment, and entertainment for people with disabilities…W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) works to ensure that accessibility support is built into all W3C standards, allowing flexible support for a broad range of disabilities. W3C welcomes IDPF and IBM's commitment to expanded implementation of these W3C technologies through EPUB 3, and their efforts to promote equal access to digital books. [George Kerscher, Secretary General for the DAISY Consortium, and President of the IDPF/ IBM EPUB Adoption Quote Sheet]
The new order of articles in the newsletter makes much more sense to me. Thanks for that.
Could you please ask your webmaster to include lang="en" in the HTML element of the newsletter web page. There is already xml:lang="en" but not all screen readers including JAWS support this. That's why you need to add the lang="en" as well. This is OK for the www.daisy.org website but not for the newsletter pages.
What this does is force the screen reader into English. For English speakers this is not relevant because their default language is English but my screen reader is by default not set to English. If this attribute is added, I will no longer need to manually switch to English before reading the newsletter.
Editor's Note: lang="en" has been added to the Planet newsletter template. As all issues are generated through the same template, it should apply to issues already published as well as all future issues. Bart has since said that it now works perfectly for him and also said "Thanks for addressing this so quickly and accurately."
Given all the discussion on e-book accessibility, I want to bring an interesting issue into the discussion. Many textbooks today are not always written to be narrated, but are written to be read silently. When they are read aloud, it can sometimes sound strange.
Given this, I think that authors, along with textbook publishers, should think about how to write a textbook that can be read well both silently and out loud.
I also want to address another issue that is common in education. If a blind/visually impaired student needs to access supplemental material, they may need to buy the book. I believe that if an e-book is created with accessibility in mind, the student could use it, get the access code for the web site or whatever, and find ways, through the site, to download all supplemental materials, so they can save paper and gain many other benefits.
I know that with many texts from Learning Ally, the textbooks are recorded, but you need an access code to get to the web site for the book and other online materials. As a result, you need to buy the textbook through your college or university bookstore. Yet you're probably not going to use it after the term you need it for, so you need to take it back to the bookstore when you're done with it. The paper textbooks are a bit of a strain on the environment, and since the world is moving to digital, it's time to find a good, accessible, electronic solution. If none exists, one may be thought up, but I haven't seen it.
All that being said, I think these are issues to be discussed in education: how to write textbooks optimized for narration, and how to facilitate access by blind/visually impaired students to supplementary materials while saving the environment.
I'm hoping these issues are being discussed. If they're not, I think they could be, and the time is right to start the discussion.
Thank you so much for your thoughts on accessible textbooks and digital publishing.
There are publishers, in the US and other places in the world considering the issue of accessibility. I believe strongly that in the future a significant percentage of published content will be accessible directly from publishers. There are phrases that the DAISY Consortium and some of our Members use: "Born digital" and "Inclusive publishing" for example. Please have a look at the DAISY Consortium's Slideshare page. I agree whole heartedly that publishing digitally will save paper and thus benefit the environment.
About the narration point, how someone reacts to the 'voice' and delivery can be simply a matter of opinion. The main issue is, 'is the content accessible', can the student readily get the information. With content produced with synthetic speech some of the issues that may exist with human narrated content can be reduced or eliminated. However other issues such as interpretation of graphics or appropriate inflection can be introduced.
The issue for publishers is that their publications be accessible, not that they be optimized for narration. Different authors have different writing styles; it would be impossible to get authors to change the way they write, and optimization for narration would have more to do with the writing than the publishing. As synthetic speech improves (and it has improved greatly over the past 10 years) the need for human narrated accessible publications will decrease. And, as more and more publishers produce content that is accessible right 'out of the box', the role of organizations which now provide accessible content will change.
You have raised several other issues Tina, including the fact that an access code is required to download materials from the Learning Ally website. I am quite sure that this is true for most providers of accessible content. This is necessary – they must ensure that the material they provide is used only by qualified individuals. Password access is one way of doing this.
The problem with supplemental materials is a different issue. Students need to advocate for themselves with the college or university.
Regarding your point "…it's time to find a good, accessible, electronic solution. If none exists, one may be thought up, but I haven't seen it." There are "good, accessible, electronic" solutions. DAISY formatted content and accessible EPUB 3 are both good solutions. The DAISY Standard has been used around the world for more than a decade. EPUB 3 is more recent but is being picked up by publishers worldwide. Common Word and PDF documents, if produced properly, are accessible. There are solutions, people just have to implement them.
The more people who advocate for accessible content, the more people who advocate with their government to ratify the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty, the closer we will be to equality in education, employment and lifelong learning.
• The February 12 press release, CRPD 2013 Progress Report…, demonstrates the need to incorporate accessible technology and multi-stakeholder partnerships. "The Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) and Disabled People's International (DPI) announced the release of a new report on benchmarking progress in making Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) accessible in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)." Key findings were presented in New Delhi at Techshare India 2014.
• The Call for Presentations on Applications, New Services and Case Studies for the 2014 M-Enabling Global Summit is open until March 21. The Summit will take place June 9-10 in Washington, DC.
• YouDescribe is a new tool that allows volunteer sighted describers to take a YouTube video and create an audio description soundtrack – it is free. Information about YouDescribe and a link to download the tool is available on the Media Access Australia website.
• George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and President of the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) will be a keynote speaker Montana Tech XLI 2014 which will take place March 27-28 in Butte Montana, USA.
• The WIPO website has been redesigned. A search for "Marrakesh treaty" on the site will bring up 435 results. (WIPO is the World Intellectual Property Organization.)
• Benetech's Blog The Case for Copyright Exceptions and Fair Use by Jim Fruchterman, January 17, looks at "how critical a balanced copyright law is for technology innovation".
• The YouTube video How can you use an iPhone if you Can't See? does an excellent job of explaining & demonstrating how someone unable to view the iPhone screen uses it. Appcessible.net, a company that evaluates apps for accessibility has developed the video.
• A list of Dolphin online learning events includes sessions on Guide, SuperNova, SaySo and more. All are available at no cost. Dates, times and links for registration are listed.
• The February 6 demo, "Victor Reader Stream 2nd update V4.3 – online radio demo" is in the series of audio demonstrations and information at iSee – How to use Apple Products from an Accessibility Perspective. Additional information about using the Stream, including getting the updated version is also provided.
• HumanWare Victor Stream audio testimonials explain how and why the Stream works for them, plus user reviews and comments on the newest release of the Stream version 4.3 appear in a recent HumanWare newsletter.
• On September 9 the NFB Jernigan Institute will once again co-host another Web Accessibility Training Day with the Maryland Technology Assistance Program. General sessions will take place in the morning, and a technical track and a policy track will be held in the afternoon. The event will be held at the NFB Jernigan Institute at 200 E. Wells Street, Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD. Details are provided on the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) website page about the training day.
• Two new Obi articles have been added to DAISYpedia:
Obi: Features for efficient audio book editing, and
Obi: Merge Projects feature improves large audio book recording.
• The slides for MathML Cloud presented this month at EDUPUB 2 by Gerardo Capiel (VP of Engineering at Benetech) contain useful information including MathML authoring tools and a video demonstration of MathML rendered with synthetic speech. The slides are available on Slideshare; there is also a link on the page to download the PowerPoint slides. Learn more about MathML Cloud and making math accessible on the Benetech website.
• EPUBTest.org includes a test suite of 20 EPUB 3 books that can be used to test the performance of eBook apps and reading systems. It is also home to the EPUB 3 Support Grid, a reference tool that evaluates which enhancements and features of EPUB 3 render correctly on commonly used devices, apps, and reading systems. EPUBTest is a joint project of the BISG (Book Industry Study Group), the DAISY Consortium and the IDPF. The test suite samples can be downloaded at no cost.
• @longdesc Specification Moves to Full W3C Recommendation: HTML5 Image Description Extension on the W3C website. The new property for providing descriptions for images and other elements, aria-describedat, continues on its development track in ARIA 1.1, currently a first public working draft.
• NVDA 2014.1rc2 was released February 25. It is a release candidate – unless critical issues are found, it will be identical to the final 2014.1 release.
• From How-To Geek this month:
° What’s the Best Antivirus and How Do I Choose One?
° 4 Hidden Window Management Tricks on the Windows Desktop
° The article Do You Know What Sites & Apps Have Access to Your Google Account? explains how to get to the account permissions page with the list of permissions assigned to apps and sites, and how to change the settings.
° How to Find the Fastest ISP in Your Area