Mayu Hamada lives in Japan and has been engaged in DAISY-related projects for almost ten years. Through the projects led by Hiroshi Kawamura (immediate Past President of the DAISY Consortium) she has met people from all over the world with a diverse range of disabilities. Mayu feels strongly that these experiences have made her life more meaningful. This is Ms. Hamada's story.
My Introduction to DAISY
In 2003 I first heard about DAISY and attended production training because my younger sister has dyslexia. Like most Japanese people at that time I had never heard about dyslexia. My mother happened to see a TV program about dyslexia, and that was how she found out about it. When my sister was a student, there was no support. No accessible books. No one understood dyslexia (even doctors) and people thought that those students were just lazy or stupid. So, my sister lost her self-esteem and that should not happen to any child.
After that training which focused on DAISY full-text, full-audio production with Sigtuna DAR 3, we formed a group (Nara DAISY club) for our activities. There were no DAISY books which students with dyslexia could use in Japan, so parents and teachers had to make these books by themselves. Even now there is no support for this from the government. But, because of the copyright revision effective on 1st January 2010, it became possible for several students with print disabilities to share one DAISY book. Before this, under the copyright law, we couldn't copy a book made for one student for another student. This copyright revision was a big change. Volunteer groups made a network to share DAISY textbooks to distribute to students with print disabilities.
The number of students with learning disabilities at mainstream schools using DAISY textbooks increased. But still, in most schools, students are not allowed to bring DAISY or a PC into the classroom. In 2012, 123 textbook titles have been converted into DAISY, although the total number of textbooks for grades 1 to 12 is 1,621. Only 780 students are using DAISY textbooks even though there are about 664,020 LD (Learning Disability), ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and high functioning autism students in mainstream schools in Japan. (In Japan, LD means difficulty reading, writing or calculating but the student has an average IQ. It includes dyslexia. The definition may differ in other countries.)
DAISY For All
I met Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura, Ms. Misako Nomura and other people at the DAISY training and learned that they had just started the DAISY For All Project (DFA). Their plan was to spread DAISY in developing countries and to diverse print disability groups including dyslexia. I was very excited to join this project. Years ago when I was a student I saw a TV news program about people living in a garbage mountain in Philippines. Children couldn't go to school because they had to pick through the garbage to find things to get money to buy food for their family. It was shocking. If they can't go to school, they can't read or write or get decent job. When I learned about DAISY, I felt that access to information may trigger a new future for those people too.
Even though DAISY was already used in European countries, it was not used much in Asian countries. During the project, DFA staff conducted Focal Point Trainings, International Trainers Training and AMIS localization workshops. The most memorable trainings for me were the training for autism and low vision in Philippines, and the training in South Africa for diverse disability groups which included dyslexia, autism, intellectual disability, mental health, blind and low vision, quadriplegia, deaf and hard of hearing.
Since my work with the DFA Project, I have been involved in a number of DAISY-related projects. Here are some of those projects:
Disaster Preparedness for People with Cognitive Disabilities
Since 2004, I have been involved in a project on disaster preparedness for people with cognitive disabilities. We conducted on-site research in Urakawa (in northern Japan), working with people who have severe psychiatric disabilities. They have problems with getting interested and concentrating because of hallucinations, fears etc., which makes it difficult for them to access information. We found that if we just converted disaster manuals into DAISY format, it won't work. The important key for them was familiarity. The Tsunami evacuation route map which they made by themselves, with their own words, pictures and voice, was the most accessible information for them.
Networking Indigenous Populations on Tsunami Preparedness
Ainu tribe people live in Urakawa. This guided us to a new project on the networking of indigenous populations on Tsunami preparedness. The Morgan tribe people of Phuket Thailand had successfully evacuated from the Indian Ocean Tsunami because of their traditional knowledge (they had lived on the ocean in boats for many, many years). Because of this we traveled with some members of the Ainu tribe to a Morgan village in Phuket. We made a DAISY book on traditional Ainu food and cooking with pictures, and shared it with Morgan people. The Ainu language is almost disappearing. DAISY is one of the ways to preserve their culture and language.
Job Opportunities for Young Adults with LD
In 2009 I was involved in another research project which focused on creating job opportunities for young adults with LD. In the Japanese school system, even though you have not achieved to the required level, you will automatically graduate from the 9th grade. After that, people with LD have problems with getting a job. We conducted DAISY production training. Some people with autism spectrum have good skill for marking up documents. For those people, DAISY production fits well.
Since 2010 we have been doing experimental research at a public school where there is a 4th grade student with dyslexia. Collaborating with a teacher, we converted exam papers into DAISY format. This student's score increased significantly to an average score. As a result he realized that he did not lack intellectual ability, that he just needed a different way to read. We must make this opportunity happen for all students.
EPUB & the Challenges of the Japanese Language
In October 2011, EPUB 3 including EGLS (Enhanced Global Language Support) was approved by the IDPF membership as a final Recommended Specification. This is having a huge impact in Japan. Display of Japanese vertical writing and Ruby had been dependant on browsers, but now, more and more browsers support this display. There are more than 60,000 characters in the Japanese language. One character will have different pronunciations depending on the context. This makes it difficult for TTS (text to speech) synthetic speech programs to read text with the correct pronunciation. Elementary school textbooks are written in a manner different from most commercial publications and are almost impossible to use with TTS. SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) and PLS (Pronunciation Lexicon Specification) which are supported by EPUB3 will improve this situation.
Many things still have to be done. We need DAISY/EPUB production software which can produce accessible Japanese books effectively, we need efficient production workflow possibly involving publishers, and we need to reach more use cases of people with special needs.
I have seen many students with print disabilities finding the way to access information and knowledge with DAISY, getting back their self-esteem and having dreams for the future. I hope EPUB 3 and DAISY will become more popular in Japan and in more countries to make the future for these children brighter.
Mayu Hamada is a Researcher & Trainer with ATDO (Assistive Technology Development Organization), which is a member of the Japanese DAISY Consortium. In 2010 Ms. Hamada completed the translation (localization) of Dolphin Publisher and EasyReader into Japanese during visit to the Dolphin Computer Access Limited Offices in Sweden. Her commitment to information access for everyone everywhere is absolutely clear.