The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - September 2016

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.

Publishers' Corner

It's the Book Industry Study Group's (BISG's) 40th Anniversary. Happy Anniversary! Brian O'Leary was named BISG's new Executive Director.

BISG announced several awards - congratulations to the winners and nominees! George Kerscher, Robin Seaman, Bill Kasdorf and Tzviya Siegman are also among them. Thank you for your dedication! Detailed information is provided on the BISG website.

The European Digital Reading Lab has published IDPF and W3C: First feelings.

EPUB 3.1 Draft Specification came out in early September.

Marrakesh Treaty Comes Into Force

Submitted by Anthea Taylor - Manager, Accessible Information Library Services, Accessible Information Solutions, Vision Australia.

Editor's note: Australians who are blind or have low vision are the first in the world to benefit from the Marrakesh Treaty.

Following decades of discussion and negotiation, and an international governments’ Agreement in June 2013, blindness and low vision and print disability communities are celebrating the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled coming into force 30 September 2016. To herald this significant achievement, a symbolic exchange of DAISY format books from the Canadian Institute for the Blind to Vision Australia has been initiated through the Accessible Book Consortium.

Image of a map of Australia

Having been ratified by 22 countries to date, the Treaty allows print disability organisations within the ratified countries to exchange accessible format books which are otherwise not available to them. In addition to CNIB and Vision Australia, DAISY Consortium Associate Member Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind (Brazil) will be able to exchange titles with their counterparts in the ratified countries.

With only an estimated 5% of published written materials available in accessible formats, the ability to exchange accessible format books between organisations without having to seek permission from rights holders will enable the organisations to provide additional and wider choice of titles to their respective clients. This is a positive step towards equity of access to recreational and informational reading materials.

Other resources:

Benetech Delivers 10 Million Accessible Books

Many years ago, Benetech’s CEO, Jim Fruchterman had the idea to start a non-profit technology company in the heart of Silicon Valley. He knew that technology, when applied for social good, would bring positive and sustainable change.

Benetech recently announced that over 10 million accessible e-books have been downloaded through its Bookshare initiative.

10 million downloads mark

Ten million is more than a big number. It represents Benetech’s ability to scale technology for global impact. It demonstrates what is possible when technology makes it cheaper to create and deliver an accessible book. It shows their ability to empower communities in need with the tools to succeed.

Bookshare is now the world's largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired or have a physical disability that interferes with reading, such as dyslexia.

 
"Access to information is a basic human right," said Jim Fruchterman, "Our Bookshare initiative is focused on using technology to make sure individuals who are unable to read standard print can exercise that right. Today's milestone is a celebration of what is possible when technology is used for social good."
 

Benetech works with over 820 publishers to collect new releases and existing books that are currently unavailable to individuals who cannot read standard print. Bookshare's technology converts the digital files to accessible formats, including braille, audio, highlighted text and large-font text. Over 425,000 Bookshare members in 70 countries access the growing list of 460,000 titles made available by this technology. The Bookshare library is free for all U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities. More information is provided on the Bookshare blog.

Thank you, Sara Gebhardt (Benetech) for providing information for this article.

AMAC Transforming the Digital Design Landscape

Submitted by Will Greer, Marketing and Administrative Coordinator, AMAC

It’s no secret that the graduation gap between college students with disabilities and those without continues to grow. At a time where technology and digital design innovation is beginning to peak, the solution to help students with disabilities access higher education might’ve been under our noses for years. Technology has transformed our entire higher education system. But the innovations and technology that we love, our new systems, applications, and trendy devices, do not equally benefit the diverse students that we serve.

Image of a young woman with headphones reading a book on a tablet

As a part of Georgia Tech’s College of Design, AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center is working on closing this gap using current and innovative technology. In 2014, AMAC was awarded a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund research efforts on studying this disparity. In order to get the most accurate view of the current landscape, AMAC went directly to the students. The ongoing study is targeted towards students with print-related disabilities, like dyslexia or low-vision, with a focus on students attending minority serving institutions.

two young men at a computer looking at a computer screen

The research project, known at AMAC as the Center for Accessible Material Innovation, collects data from students and determines which technology plays a factor in their success. These success trends could include technology accommodations such as accessible e-book formats and text-to-speech screen reading software.

With the help of AMAC’s relationship with major textbook publishers, the study’s research and development will pair government and college institutions with corporate organizations to design an accessible user experience for college students with disabilities. AMAC will take the research and develop a tool for publishers to use in the digital marketplace that offers students the option of purchasing accessible versions of the same book. The tool would be used similarly to nutrition labels on your groceries, providing data on accessible elements within a book.

student with a backpack on his back walking on campus

By changing the digital marketplace for students to purchase their textbooks, access to required books will be easier for all students. AMAC also offers accessibility services to students to help them achieve their goals of graduation. In addition to braille production, assistive technology evaluations, and captioning and audio description services, AMAC offers e-text production. AMAC’s e-text production unit converts books, from many different formats, into an accessible format that matches the student’s needs and delivers them directly to the school or student.

A multimedia format that the e-text unit is seeing a rising demand in is DAISY. Students are asking for their books to be read to them and the DAISY standard is able to provide their books in an accessible format that is compatible with many assistive technologies. The E-Text team has completed over 6,000 PDF and DOC orders in the last year. The newest format available through AMAC is EPUB which is also being incorporated into the research study mentioned above.

AMAC’s research-driven services are changing the way students and businesses interact with technology. Rather than providing more and better access to those students and communities that already have resources and education, developers, educators, and others can work together to ensure technology is leveraged to provide access for those individuals who do not.

EPUB Accessibility Spec Sets Formal Requirements

The new EPUB accessibility specification draft and the accessibility techniques document were published in September 2016. Although developed as part of EPUB 3.1 to provide guidance on making EPUB publications accessible, new guidelines are designed to be equally applicable to older versions of the specification.

The EPUB Accessibility specification addresses two apparent needs of the accessible EPUB® ecosystem:

  1. Evaluation and certification of accessible EPUB Publications.
  2. Discovery of the accessibility features of EPUB Publications.

It has always been possible to create EPUB Publications with a high degree of accessibility. The new specification sets formal requirements providing Authors a clear set of guidelines for evaluating their content.

The inclusion of accessibility metadata enables informed decisions about the usability of an EPUB Publication. Consumers can review the content and decide whether an EPUB Publication is appropriate for their needs.

This specification defines three categories of compliance for EPUB Publications:

EPUB Accessibility specification does not target a single version of EPUB. It is designed to apply to EPUB Publications that conform to any version or profile, including future versions of the standard.

These guidelines will be instructive in evaluating any digital publication built on Open Web technologies. Ensuring such application is outside the scope of this specification.

The Working Group including DAISY Consortium team members collected input regarding feasibility in September 2016. Feedback is gathered using the IDPF GitHub issue tracker. More information about EPUB 3.1 and the new accessibility specification as well as Media Overlays will be provided in the coming months.

NFB to Host an Event Focused on EPUB Accessibility

EPUB 3 provides features that outstrip those of electronic setups originally designed to be a replica of print, such as PDF. EPUB allows developing a better book that adapts to screen sizes and font size preferences. It is possible to create a book that speaks to the user in every sense, including the most literal - text-to-speech. With the accessible EPUB conformance requirements now out, a framework is developing to make this format work for all readers.

Join us in Baltimore on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 for a one-day training seminar that will focus on how to create and implement accessible EPUB 3 in a variety of different settings.

Logo of the National Federation of the Blind

The EPUB accessibility conformance specification will be a prominent topic. Speakers will discuss how the accessibility specification can help achieve greater ease of access. Organizers will also address the latest updates to EPUB.

This event will be hosted under the auspices of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access to Education, Public Information, and Commerce (CENA). The CENA serves to share the considerable knowledge that the NFB and its partners have of web accessibility and access technology to bring about greater accessibility in government, education, and business; to promote best practices nationally and to build Maryland’s status as a leader in the field. More information and registration are available on the NFB website.

Thank you, Amy Mason (NFB) for sharing this event!

The 2017 Better Together Conference: Call for Abstracts

Working together towards accessible information for people with low vision

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 - The Hague - The Netherlands

Update (October 17, 2016): Conference website is now live.

Combining forces

Better Together conference logo

If specialists and experts tap into their combined potential, they can produce something that's greater than the sum of the parts. This is Dedicon's inspiration and goal for the ‘BetterTogether Conference’. And this combined approach is great news for people with low vision.

Share your knowledge

Are you an expert in media or technology? Are you also inspired to work towards the ‘BetterTogether’ goal? If so, we would like to invite you to submit an abstract with your ideas for a presentation, workshop or master class. Because by sharing your knowledge, we can work together to make information and technology more accessible, to help people with low vision of all ages participate in society more fully.

Together, we can expand the horizons of everyone with low vision!

International stage for your ideas

‘BetterTogether’ is part of the 12th International Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation (ISLRR) conference, being held 25 - 29 June 2017 in The Hague. Dedicon is offering experts like yourself the opportunity to publicize your ideas, test and refine them on an international stage.

Your audience will act as an inspirational sounding board. Guests at the conference all have a greater than average interest in what you have to say: they are fellow experts, hold senior management positions and are extremely interested in the opportunities technology can offer for people with low vision.

Open dialogue is key

Dedicon logo

At Dedicon, we passionately believe that open dialogue is the key. It will lead to new forms of collaboration that will enable us to generate practical solutions to help anyone who is blind or with a visual impairment take fuller control of their life. Irrespective of their age or background.

The power of collaboration: Win-win!

This is the philosophy behind ‘BetterTogether’. Because together we can achieve so much more.

Working together on a single mission

A major handicap of people with low vision is not their visual impairment, but their lack of access to information. Especially in a society increasingly dominated by a visual culture. Our ambition is to make this information available by giving everyone with low vision access to images, text, and sound. Because access to information is the passport to fuller participation in society and equal opportunities.

Technological advances

Advances in technology and media are making a significant contribution to realizing this mission. But which solutions offer the best potential? To create focus, coordinated innovation is crucial. This is why the ‘BetterTogether’ conference will have three tracks, in which together we’ll explore developments now, tomorrow and in the future:

Track 1: TogetherToday

Today, the technological challenges faced by people with low vision are considerable. But, fortunately, so are the opportunities that are available. This track looks at how we can help anyone with low vision gain, or regain control over their lives. Off-the-shelf products and advice on accessible information can help people address the challenges and access the opportunities.

There are many applications already available to help with reading, learning, finding information and communicating. But which ones are worth taking on board? And how do you make sure you get the best out of them?

Examples:

Track 2: TogetherTomorrow

Tomorrow will be here sooner than we think. And the great news is that there are lots of exciting developments just around the corner. These are the tools that will offer you real opportunities to allow the visually impaired to function independently. A large number of developments is in the pipeline and will be available shortly. They lie just around tomorrow’s corner.

Examples:

Track 3: TogetherToBeContinued...

What will the world look like in 2025? One thing is sure: lots of things will have changed! The question is, what and how? And how will these changes impact people with low vision? We are convinced that, whatever changes there are, the world will be a better place if we work to create it together! Continuing to come up with more and more innovative ways to ensure equal opportunities for people with a visual impairment. How do you see the future? We want to hear your vision.

Examples:

Collaborating to facilitate inclusion and opportunity: Propose your presentation, master class or workshop

Are you a specialist in one of these areas, or do you have another specialist field you believe is relevant? Are you willing to share your knowledge and insights? Perhaps you have an inspiring example of a successful collaboration. We just can’t wait to receive your proposal for a presentation (30 minutes), master class or workshop (90 minutes).

Submissions

Your proposal should include:

Send your proposal to bettertogether@dedicon.nl before the 15th of December, 2016.

Any questions?

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss your ideas: bettertogether@dedicon.nl

Important dates:

The ‘BetterTogether’ congress is organized by Dedicon.

Program Committee: Maarten Verboom, Inge de Mönnink, Richard Schoonderwoerd, Bart Vroom.

We look forward to receiving your contribution.

Best regards,

Maarten Verboom, CEO

About Vision 2017: The conference ‘BetterTogether’ will be part of a leading international conference on visual impairment, Vision2017, held in The Hague 25 – 29 June 2017. The main theme for the scientific program: ‘Low vision rehabilitation, a global right.’ For more information about Vision2017, go to http://vision2017.org/.

The Hague has lots to offer as a conference city. The international atmosphere is great for networking and exploring. Discover The Hague.

Together we are remarkable!

“Life is difficult and dangerous. Anyone attempting to go it alone is simply mad. We know to always do difficult things with a buddy. So if the journey of life is to be filled with setbacks and disappointments, with confusion and uncertainty, it makes sense that we should trust others to join us on the journey. As individuals, we’re useless. We can’t lift heavy weights, and we can’t solve complex problems. But together? Together we are remarkable!” - Simon Sinek

Sugamya Pustakalaya: Online Library for People with Print Disabilities

By Prashant Ranjan Verma

On August 24th, 2016, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India announced Sugamya Pustakalaya, an online library where books are made available in accessible formats for people with visual impairments and other print disabilities.

DAISY Forum of India logo

The Sugamya Pustakalaya is the aggregator of accessible versions of books available in India, created by the DAISY Forum of India to provide access to books for persons with print disabilities.

Bookshare, the largest International online library for persons with print disabilities is also integrated into Sugamya Pustakalaya. All the titles available in the Bookshare library for India can be searched and downloaded through the Sugamya Pustakalaya. This library provides books primarily in DAISY, EPUB, and BRF formats. The files downloaded from this online library can be read on computers, mobile phones, tablets and dedicated eBook readers. It will soon implement the DAISY Online Protocol for providing the direct download to mobile apps and compatible DAISY hardware players.

The key stakeholders and beneficiaries of Sugamya Pustakalaya are:

  1. Persons with print disabilities: They get access through any DAISY Forum of India member organization. They can log into the website, search for accessible versions of books created anywhere in the country and download them.
  2. Organizations producing accessible content: These organizations can upload their book collection to the Sugamya Pustakalaya and thereby reach out to print-disabled across the country. They also get a robust mechanism for storing their books and maintaining membership and book distribution data.
  3. Organizations serving the print impaired: Universities, schools, and libraries can take up DAISY Forum of India membership to download books from the Sugamya Pustakalaya for their local members/students. They will be able to provide access to more accessible materials than never before.
  4. Publishers: Mainstream publishers can become members of DAISY Forum of India and directly contribute accessible versions of their publications.

Key stakeholders get log-ins to Sugamya Pustakalaya with different privileges. For example, content producers can only upload books whereas the persons with print disabilities can only download books. The Sugamya Pustakalaya secretariat supervises the process and has the rights to register organizations and publishers.

Anyone can visit the Sugamya Pustakalaya website and check out the collection of books. Registered user accounts are required only when content is downloaded.

For more information, see the Getting Started, FAQ and Accessibility Help pages on the Sugamya Pustakalaya website at http://www.sugamyapustakalaya.in/.

See also: Dipendra Manocha's presentation on Slideshare.

RNIB Winning Digital Service Delivery

Clive Gardiner, Group Head of Digital and Content at RNIB, wrote a blog post for Zoe Amar Communications highlighting improvements that have been made to the RNIB digital service delivery. Below please find an excerpt of his post.

What changes did you make to it and why?

In the last 2 years we’ve made four critical changes to expand our Talking Books service and audience after carefully listening to and learning from customer feedback. Our numbers were dropping, but we knew from research and consultation that the service was still as vital and valued as ever.

We boldly addressed the obstacles blocking growth.

Firstly, we introduced a choice of formats, adding USB memory sticks and digital download to the existing DAISY CD format (which combines regular audio with extra mark-up to help navigation).

Secondly, last November, we made the service free for eligible users. Previously Local Authorities paid an annual contribution of £83 towards the running costs which became increasingly difficult due to their significant funding cuts.

Thirdly, we invested in our operational capability by introducing a new library management system and library website, refurbishing our award-winning studios in Camden, building a new USB capability and partnering with leading US library platform Overdrive to ingest and serve our audio library for digital downloads.

Fourthly, we expanded our partnerships with publishers such as Harper Collins so we could bring more top-quality books to more blind and partially sighted people more quickly. Each of these steps required additional investment and were carefully analysed and discussed with all stakeholders before implementation. For example, our digital download platform was tested by 150 blind and partially sighted people of all ages and digital capabilities, and over a 3-month trial we learned valuable lessons to refine our user support package provided to all new joiners.

What was the impact?

We have had resounding success on all fronts: 1 year ago we had 25,000 Talking Books users with an average age of 84; user numbers were in slow decline. Now we have 33,000 Talking Books users with an average age of 74; user growth is reinvigorated with 170-200 new joiners every week for the last 10 months.

Of the new joiners since the service went free, 50% chose USB sticks; 33% chose downloads. This shows potential customers wanting the new digital formats were already there just waiting for us to listen to and cater for their needs.

30% of new joiners sign up online at the RNIB Shop – an online option only introduced last November. Overall across the 33,000 Talking Books users, 68% use DAISY CD, 20% USB sticks and 12% downloads. This shows a healthy mix between building the new while also respecting existing users and their non-digital preferences. Our digital choices have all been “as well as” not “instead of” so customers choose what suits them best.

We now distribute more than 110,000 Talking Books titles per month, more than ever before. In 2014/15 we added 1,100 new Talking Book titles, more than in any year before.

10% of readers now come to rniblibrary.com (a work in progress) to search the catalogue and self-serve.

Fundraising has seen renewed interest in our Talking Books service and wider acknowledgement of the tremendous value it provides spurred by the recent user growth, and have successfully run new community, cross-media and digital initiatives to help address the increased subsidy.

Reading is now the single largest group of common interest in RNIB’s Connect community with exciting new content initiatives planned for the coming months including a new weekly radio show, online forums, book groups and podcasts.

Bits & Pieces

Roland Esaiasson retired from the Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (MTM) on August 31st, 2016. The DAISY Consortium extends big thank you for his support and service over the years.

Dr. Thomas Kahlisch, DZB (Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde) has joined the DAISY Consortium Board. Welcome!

He replaces Elke Dittmer. We are most grateful to Elke for her dedication and service to the DAISY Consortium.

Registration for Learning Ally's Spotlight on Dyslexia Online Conference (Dec. 2nd, 2016) is now open. Register today!

Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW 2016) will be held from 3rd - 9th October. More information is provided on the British Dyslexia Association website.

W3C global web experts met and planned technical roadmap for future of the web in Lisbon, Portugal (Sept. 19-26). More information is available on the Global Accessibility News website. George Kerscher was the moderator and Charles LaPierre a panelist for a session entitled “Accessibility: Electronic Documents and Web Convergence” at this year’s TPAC conference.

Registration is open for the 2016 CNIB Braille conference.

In case you missed the announcement for the CSUN Call for Papers, the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge would like to take this opportunity to remind DAISY community that the General Track Call for Papers for the 32nd CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, is open and concludes Tuesday, October 4th, 2016.

Additionally, the Call for Pre-Conference Workshop Proposals is open and concludes the following week on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016. Submit a full-day or half-day workshop proposal to be considered for presentation on Monday, February 27th and/or Tuesday, February 28th during the Pre-Conference schedule. More information is provided on the CSUN conference website.