The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - October 2017

From The Editor

Farewell Varju

Many of you will have known Varju as the marketing face of DAISY, producing a wide variety of newsletters, tweets as well as participating in events. Varju finished working at the DAISY Consortium in July, and we’re sure that the entire DAISY community will join us in thanking Varju for her contribution to the Consortium, and wish her all the very best for the future.

The News email address (news at daisy dot org) has been established for the wider DAISY community to continue to submit their announcements of new products and developments for sharing on the DAISY website, on Twitter or through one of the newsletters.

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 Marrakesh Treaty - one year on

This week at the WIPO offices in Switzerland the second Marrakesh Treaty Assembly takes place to review the applications and impact of Treaty adoption, so this seems like a good time to reflect on the past year and highlight some recent developments.

The Marrakesh Treaty, or to use the full name “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities”, was adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in June 2013, being signed by more than 75 WIPO member states indicating their intent to ratify the Treaty, which quickly became known as the “Miracle of Marrakesh”. The Treaty provides a framework for the cross-border exchange of accessible format publications through exceptions and limitations to copyright, ultimately enabling people with print disabilities much greater access to existing accessible titles, and dramatically reducing the duplication of effort in the conversion and creation of publications in accessible formats.

Photo of a large and full bookshelf

On the 30th September 2016 the Marrakesh Treaty came into force after being ratified by 20 countries, and over the last year a further 11 countries have ratified the treaty bringing the total to 31 countries around the world. The first secure transfer of accessible content took place almost immediately, and continue to take place with many using the ABC Global Book Service established by WIPO to facilitate the process, which has now enabled the download of over 9,500 accessible titles to authorised organisations, with a reported saving of $19 million US Dollars against the creation cost of those titles.

The European Union, along with a number of member states, signed the Marrakesh Treaty on 30th April 2014 indicating intent to ratify the Treaty. After a series of legal challenges, agreement on an EU framework for implementation was finally agreed in September 2017, requiring all 28 EU member states to have implemented legislation supporting the Treaty by 11th October 2018. This opens up the possibility for some of the oldest and largest collections of publications in accessible formats to share their collections internationally for the first time.

The European Blind Union (EBU) and World Blind Union (WBU) both highlight the importance of monitoring how each of the EU member states implement the legislation, especially the optional clause on compensation rights or what has become known as the “tax on accessible works”.   The WBU publication “A Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty: Facilitating Access to Books for Print-Disabled Individuals” provides a good starting point for anyone interested in the stages, decisions and recommendations for treaty implementation.

In October 2013 the United States also signed the Treaty, indicating intent for it to be adopted, and in February 2016 President Obama recommended adoption of the Treaty to the US Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and it remains on a list of 45 Treaties pending review by the Senate, the oldest of which dates back to 1949.

The Treaty adoption process was always considered to be a time consuming process, nevertheless it has been incredibly encouraging to see the first year of Treaty implementation being so fruitful, providing further evidence of the benefit of adoption for those continuing to work through the process. For the coming year the Treaty is set to go from strength to strength, which can only be positive for the global community of organisations supporting people with print disabilities, and ultimately individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have access to publications in accessible formats, for whom the Marrakesh Treaty continues to be a miracle.

Author Dave Gunn

W3C Publishing Summit

In 1989 the first of 24 Global Positioning System satellites was launched, Nintendo launched their handheld console Game Boy, the first version of Microsoft Office was released, and Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. In 1989 nobody could have envisaged the impact web technologies would have around the globe.

Today, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) technologies are used just about everywhere, far beyond the rendering and use of web pages within a conventional browser. Active development areas at W3C encompass telecommunications, automotive, TV and broadcasting, interconnected devices (Web of Things), as well as publishing which is in a very exciting place.

W3C Publishing logo

The first ever W3C Publishing Summit in San Francisco on 9-10 November 2017 is set to be a ground-breaking event. While publishing and web technologies have had close links for some time, this is the first event since the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formally combined organisations in February 2017, creating Publishing@W3C.

Over the two days industry leaders will deliver presentations on the latest developments in the sector, with presenters from technology companies, publishing houses, retailers, libraries and standards organisations will all share their innovations and visions, all of which benefit from the web and publishing communities working together.

The event will highlight cutting edge developments in both web technologies and publishing practices which together make publications better for everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessibility is likely to be mentioned in many of the presentations, but will be particularly highlighted in the session from W3C and DAISY staff on “Accessibility in Publishing and W3C” which will include the latest developments for testing and certifying accessibility in publications.

The W3C Publishing Summit is also co-located with W3C’s main annual meeting, TPAC, so attendees will have the opportunity to network with developers and technical experts engaged in all areas of W3C work. The conference also allows access to the W3C solutions showcase demo area, to observe first-hand the very latest developments created with the spectrum of W3C technologies.

DAISY Members are eligible for a 10% discount over the general price, obtain a discount code by sending a request to from an account associated with your DAISY membership. The event has limited space, so early booking is highly recommended.

Read more at the W3C Publishing Summit event page.

DAISY welcomes VitalSource

VitalSource logo

VitalSource Technologies recently joined DAISY and we are excited to be a part of this community!  While we are new members, we have a long history of collaborating with DAISY and many of its members and friends because accessibility has always been one of the core values of everything we do.  We know that ensuring accessibility is a shared responsibility between a learning platform, such as our Bookshelf® platform, the creators and publishers of the content, the users device or operating system, and the assistive technology that they use. For more than a decade, we have been working with industry partners (such as DAISY) on industry standards (i.e. EPUB) to provide transparency, trust and simple access for all learners.

For those of you who are not familiar with us, our Bookshelf platform is available online and through native applications on iOS, Android, Chromebook, KindleFire, Windows and MacOS. We are proud of the fact that all our applications are the only readers to have a 100-percent score on the fundamental accessibility test grid for EPUBs. This past year we delivered 2.5 billion page views in 20 million titles to more than eight million users in over 7,000 educational institutions in 240 countries and territories around the world. 

One of the more exciting initiatives we have recently become involved with is content creation. While we have our own authoring tool (VitalSource Content Studio) that creates WCAG 2.0 AA conformant interactive EPUB documents, we also want to ensure there is transparency about the accessibility of content to all users. To that end, we are working with DAISY and the Inclusive Publishing Hub to create an accessibility checker that will be used that to check the content that flowing to our end users. Every user will know ahead of time if content has been certified or has been found to contain specific features related to accessibility. This is an exciting step forward in providing transparency all the way from the creator or the content to the end user. Look for more information about this in early 2018 as the software moves from beta to a final release.

Finally, it is important for us to acknowledge that we are a partner with many of you in helping solve the accessibility needs of our community. As we all work to improve our solutions, we will continue to find gaps that must be filled. We might find these gaps in functionality, the standards, the laws or even the testing process. We all need to roll up our sleeves and participate in working groups, test creation and community discussions about the best ways to partner, fill these gaps and ensure transparency around every facet of the problem.

Providing accessibility is a never-ending journey and vendors must understand the commitment it requires. It must be at the core of their operation and development processes. We will never solve the problems at hand if we are trying to fix things afterward or in later releases. Vendors must design in accessibility from the start, commit to the journey and ensure it is a fundamental part of their DNA.  One of the strongest reasons we are now a part of the DAISY community is that the historic leadership, community development and advocacy DAISY provides is helping to solve problems, deliver a vision for where we need to go and provide the leadership to get us closer to 100-percent accessibility.

We are proud to now be a part of that community!

Rick Johnson, VP of Product Strategy, VitalSource Technologies LLC.

Capacity building accessibility training in Botswana

Under the aegis of WIPO and the Accessible Books Consortium, the DAISY Consortium has been delivering a project in Botswana to provide access to books and information to persons with print disabilities. It had been observed that both government departments and non-governmental organizations responsible for producing books in accessible formats in Botswana were using an outdated and costly workflow for accessible book production. In addition, commercial publishers in Botswana who produce textbooks based on a tender from the government, did not produce textbooks in accessible formats.

As a part of this project, two training workshops on Accessible Books and Inclusive Publishing were held in Gaborone, Botswana in August 2017. This program was supported by the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), Botswana Ministry of Basic Education, Botswana National Library Services and Botswana Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted.

photo of people at the workshop working together on computers

A three day workshop was conducted for 11 people from prominent Publishing houses namely Pearson Education Botswana, Botsalano Press, Diamond Educational Publishers (PTY) LTD, Collegium (PTY) LTD, Byrness and Macmillan, which included practical work mainly using Adobe InDesign publishing software.

The staff of commercial publishing houses who attended the Inclusive Publishing Training felt that the techniques they learnt will help them not just create books that are more accessible to persons with disabilities but will also help them save time and effort and improve quality. They said that they were not aware of the accessibility issues and will now take care of the guidelines in their future work.

The separate workshop on accessible book creation had originally planned to train 15 people, but was expanded to support demand from 35 people from government offices and education establishments interested in the production of files in the EPUB 3 format and how to use these files to produce audio books, electronic braille or hard-copy braille.

Initially the plan was to use only the authoring tools provided by DAISY Consortium. However, considering the need for a simple and easy to use tool for the participants, many of whom were teachers, the soon to be launched EasyConverter Express from Dolphin Computers was made available to the participants of the training in Botswana. Announcement of launch of this tool was welcomed by the participants with loud applause. EasyConverter Express was installed without any difficulty on the systems, and participants found it very easy to use, converting their well-structured Word documents to DAISY and Large Print formats. The participants indicated that are likely to use Dolphin EasyConverter Express from now on for their accessible format conversion requirements.


The two workshops were very well received and provided further evidence that organisations and government entities are ready and willing to embrace inclusive publishing and modern document conversion techniques, and need only to be provided with the opportunity to learn.

Article adapted from a report by Prashant Ranjan Verma.

How do you help to solve the accessible content problem in developing countries?

Dolphin Computer Access 30 years logo

If you’re Kevin Carey, Chair of the World Blind Council and Exec Member of ICEVI, you approach Dolphin Computer Access to discuss the possibility of an easy to use, free application which can create braille, large print and audio content for those who need it most.

Dolphin’s EasyConverter software already helps people in organisations across the world to convert existing print materials into accessible formats. But Kevin had something even easier in mind; something that would be free and require minimal computer experience. After discussing the concept with our development team, EasyConverter Express was born.

What’s different about EasyConverter Express?

It’s even easier to use than our existing EasyConverter software; for a start, it works directly from Word.

photo of Word toolbar with the Convert to option

All you have to do is open your Word document, select “convert to”, choose the alternative format you need, apply the settings for that format (e.g braille table, voice preference or font size) and EasyConverter Express will do the rest.

What next?

Once the conversion has taken place, it can be distributed. Large print can be printed on a standard printer connected to a PC; Braille documents can be printed using a Braille embosser or transferred to a Braille reader, like the low cost Orbit Braille Reader; and DAISY and MP3 output can be transferred quickly and easily to a compatible DAISY or MP3 player. Converted files can also be saved to a USB drive, for portability and ease of distribution in remote locations.

What are people saying about EasyConverter Express?

 “Dolphin Computer Access has always been a close partner of DAISY Consortium. By introducing EasyConverter Express, Dolphin is opening doors for 90% of population of persons with vision impairments that live in developing countries, which will become a huge game changer.”

Dipendra Manocha, Director Developing Countries Programme DAISY Consortium

And finally, the man who started the conversation, Kevin Carey, shares his thoughts around the software and the difference it will make to developing countries.

“We are indebted to Dolphin for working with us to develop this software which will be provided for free to blind and partially sighted people in those countries which so clearly need it.  When combined with availability of new low cost electronic refreshable Braille devices, it presents a game changing opportunity for the WBU and ICEVI to support people with sight loss.

This is a fabulously simple product to get braille and large print to blind and partially sighted children in all the poorest counties of the world free of charge.  It is up to teachers and administrators to use it.”

Kevin Carey, Chair World Blind Council and Exec Member ICEVI

EasyConverter Express will be released shortly. It will be available to download in developing countries from the Dolphin Computer Access website, and also distributed locally within these developing countries on USB drives.

Thanks to Kelly Goulding from Dolphin for this article.

Obituary - Marianne van der Meulen

Photo of Marianne van der Meulen

We are sorry to report the loss of Marianne van der Meulen, Managing Director and co-founder of Solutions Radio, who passed away on 31 July 2017. Marianne will be remembered fondly throughout the DAISY Community as a friendly, energetic and insightful person. Marianne had a passion for supporting all people with print disabilities, but especially the elderly population, who live in a world without high-tech devices, a topic highlighted in her last presentation at the Better Together Conference which was very well received, and the theme of serving a group “beyond the young and well educated” resonated with many of the attendees. It was Marianne’s passion and mission to care for those people, and that passion is clearly reflected and will live on in the products created by Solutions Radio.

Obi and Tobi updates

Obi, the free DAISY tool for creating structured audio publications, has recently launched a major updated version. The new Obi 4.0 has been rebuilt behind the scenes to a new framework (.NET 4), and comes with a series of new features requested by users, including:

The new release also supports the latest Media Overlay playback requirements, allowing EPUB3 reading systems to support navigation similar to DAISY table of contents navigation. Language support has also been added and updated for German, French and Portuguese, bringing the total to 12 languages supported. Read more on the Obi project page.

Tobi, the free DAISY tool for creating full text and audio publications, has also been updated with a new beta release available for public testing. Some of the new features include:

This beta release also addresses a couple of issues from the previous release. Further details are available on the Tobi beta release page.


Following your feedback this edition of the DAISY Planet is available in multiple languages:

As always, we welcome your comments on these translations, or anything related to this publication.

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We look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.