- Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
- Bill Kasdorf, Publishing Technology Partners
- Luc Audrain, Inclusive Publishing Consultant (just retired from Hachette)
- George Kerscher, The DAISY Consortium
You have to use the tech properly!EPUB 3 doesn’t guarantee accessibility, rather it offers “accessibilityability”. Luc Audrain walked us through a history of EPUB 3 which is now hosted within the Publishing@W3C organization who’s focus is on creating a global EPUB 3 ecosystem. The revision of the EPUB 3 spec and upgrade of EPUBCheck were the initial focus and now it is time to create the best EPUB 3 ecosystem for born accessible content, with tools such as EPUBCheck, Ace by DAISY and the EPUB 1.0 Accessibility specification. George Kerscher spoke about integrating accessibility into all aspects of publishing and reading:
Accessibility is not a frosting spread on a cake; it must be baked in.Authoring and publishing production software can integrate Ace by DAISY, the SMART tool and the DAISY Knowledge Base into their working practices and these have been built from DAISY’s years of experience and participation in digital publishing initiatives. Alongside these tools and best practices, publishers need to take advantage of conformance and discovery metadata if they are to communicate the good work they are doing. The forthcoming User Experience Guide for accessibility metadata will help libraries and print disabled readers to buy born accessible EPUB 3 content and to have access at the same time, in the same format and at the same price as all other readers. If you are interested in the future of EPUB and publishing standards then the second part of this webinar is worth registering for. The future of accessible publishing and standards – where are we going? will take place on June 3rd, 2020 Discover the other webinars we’re running! Read More
In our series of free weekly webinars April 29th saw a session focused on the work of the ASPIRE service which helps publishers and vendors tell the story of the amazing accessibility work they are doing to create a transparent environment for content.
This page contains:
- Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium—host and chair
- Huw Alexander, TextBOX Digital
- Alistair McNaught, McNaught Consulting
Huw Alexander gave us a brief overview of what this session would cover:
- Accessibility statements and the Law
- The Evolution of ASPIRE
- The ASPIREreview process
- What makes a Gold Statement
- The Benefits of Accessibility Statements
An overview of the legal situation in the UK and Europe from Alistair McNaught framed the webinar and gave us context and background for the work they have achieved. Organizations are required to provide an accessibility statement as part of content provision and this includes library services etc.
The ASPIRE project began in the summer of 2018 as a crowdsourced project with a large number of stakeholders. Looking at accessibility statements, the project uncovered many untold stories of good work within our industry. Publishers weren’t telling us about the accessibility of their content and not engaging with their customers about their plans for accessible experiences.
Fast forward a year and the project has developed into a fully fledged cost-effective service which offers an audit and review of publishing accessibility statements together with a set of transparent, positive and clear recommendations for improvement. Scoring and the possibility of “Gold” level status has meant that we now have a range of wonderful examples of how the anatomy of a statement should look.
Huw and Alistair talked us through a number of examples explaining the key benefits of getting this right. By “telling your story about your content” publishers are fulfilling their legal obligations whilst engaging and supporting customers and readers.
Referenced in the webinar were:
- ASPIRE Guidelines
- W3C Planning Statements
- UK Government Sample Accessibility Statements
- textBox Digital
- Original ASPIRE Project pages
In our series of free weekly webinars April 22nd saw a session focused on the strategies for making Math accessible to readers with a print disability.
This page contains:
- Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium—Host and Chair
- Abi James—Abilitynet and University of Southampton
- Alex Cabral—UX Researcher, DIAGRAM
- Matt Nupen—Senior Product Manager, DIAGRAM
Many children have disabilities around learning and attention, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and ADHD and, sadly, these students are significantly more likely than their peers to repeat a grade or drop out of school. Lack of support and poor performance can also prevent them from continuing on to higher education, thereby locking these students out of certain career fields entirely. These types of barriers are particularly strong in the field of mathematics.
Abi James began this webinar by explaining the impact of these difficulties and, in particular, how the struggle with how to learn math can severely affect a student’s success at high school and at college. For many learners, the ability to read or understand math is at the root of the problem and accessible math can help with this—decoding the math itself to help with accuracy and understanding.
Matt Nupen explained that it can be very difficult to diagnose learning difficulties like this early on. Once diagnosed, there are a number of good methodologies and tools which can help such as MathShare which enables a student to show their workings throughout their progression in a step by step process. Free and open source, MathShare is the only tool that currently allows this.
Alex Cabral also showed us the tools: PhET and Desmos, which work with students interactively on math concepts, focussing on the process rather than the solution.
This webinar shows how we can support students who have math challenges by using the various tools available, developing their number sense and using different modalities to solve problems.
Referenced in the webinar were:
- PhET Accessibility prototypes
- PhET Simulation of Ohm’s Law
- Desmos Accessibility
- Desmos Parabolas example
- Desmos Sound Demo
In our series of free weekly webinars April 15th saw a session focused on the WordToEPUB tool recently developed by The DAISY Consortium. WordToEPUB is free, simple and straightforward method of converting structured Word documents to valid and accessible EPUB files.
This page contains:
- Dawn Evans, Access Text Network—host and chair
- Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium
- Joseph Polizzotto, UC Berkeley
- Erin Williams, Microsoft
- Prashant Verma, DAISY Consortium
WordToEPUB has been developed to provide a simple, easy to use tool that can convert accessible word documents into fully accessible EPUB files. Richard Orme began by explaining this process, thanking everyone who contributed to this project for their support. There are many situations in which this new tool is already proving invaluable, going beyond the standard publishing workflow—word documents are produced in many environments, commercial, public, government etc etc. The list of use cases for which WordToEPUB is relevant is long!
There are many use cases that require simple, practical workflows for creating accessible and flexible materials
Erin Williams, from Microsoft, spoke about the support that MS has for this new tool and how it is in harmony with the accessibility checker that MS Word already has built-in. This checker assesses the accessibility of word documents—success at this stage is vital. WordToEPUB can’t invent accessibility features so the the accessibility of the original word document is very important.
The design goals of the WordToEPUB tool include: straightforward and accessible installation, simple usage, different language support, extensible as users need. Richard Orme then demonstrated how these goals have been met with a live demo which you can see on the webinar recording.
Joseph and Prashant both discussed use cases in academic environments and environments with low resources and basic skill levels. WordToEPUB has been quickly adopted by many organizations already, proving that:
With a structured and accessible document, making a great EPUB from Word is now simple and accessible
In our series of free weekly webinars April 8th saw a session comparing the accessibility of EPUB titles produced by a range of education publishers.
Publishers are now being required to demonstrate their accessibility claims. It is no longer acceptable to simply say that your products are accessible without proving it. Eighty percent of Higher Education publications come from five big publishers. With the rise of EPUB 3 as the dominant format in publishing, we can now demand Born Accessible materials from all publishers. Now publishers are making accessibility claims, but what is really inside the cover?
This page contains:
- Full Video of the Webinar
- Speaker Information
- Session Overview
- Related Resources
- Further Questions and Answers
- Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium—host and chair
- George Kerscher, DAISY Consortium—panellist
- Charles La-Pierre, Benetech—panellist
- Joseph Polizzotto, UC Berkeley—panellist
- Rachel Comerford, Macmillan Learning—publisher (Rachel.Comerford@macmillan.com email@example.com)
- Martin Klopstock, Kogan-Page—publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Evan Yamanishi, W.W. Norton—publisher (email@example.com)
- Ben Schroeter, Pearson—publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Christina Volpe, John Wiley—publisher (email@example.com)
This webinar was based on a session scheduled for the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference this year and it was great to have such wide, international interest in the work of these fine publishers. The premise behind the activities discussed here allowed for much collaboration between our “competing” publishers and this sharing of knowledge has led to some great improvements already being actioned.
The 3 members of the panel discussed content from each publisher taking part in the session: Charles gave a brief review from a GCA standpoint with George commenting on what works particularly well for him as a reader. Joseph then highlighted specific features within each title which make for an improved reading experience for students.
Based upon comments and suggestions each publisher was invited to respond to the critique of their EPUB. There were many questions at the end of the session which we didn’t have time to cover and you can find these listed at the end of this article with answers from our panellists and publishers.
Some questions were asked in the webinar which we didn’t have time to respond to in the session. Questions and answers are listed below.
Q1: How many titles were reviewed per publisher and how was the sample chosen? Was it a random sample or did the publishers submit specific titles for review?
A1: One title each was reviewed for each publisher. Publishers selected a title that best represented their overall publishing standards to give reviewers a sense of their accessibility philosophy.
Q2: There are a lot of good ideas regarding UX here and the improvements identified. Would the DAISY Consortium/Benetech be willing to share a full compilation of best practice ideas, with examples, for UX design in EPUBs, based on the audit of publisher files? Effectively, a guide to best designed EPUBs.
A2: There are a number of wonderful (free!) resources available for EPUB best practices that publishers and others can use to get started. Among them are:
- The BISG Guide to Accessible Publishing and Cheat Sheets
- EPUB 3 Best Practices by Matt Garrish and Markus Gylling
- The DAISY Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base
More work on best practices is taking place at the W3C in the EPUB 3 Community Group, and these will be published.
Q3: Cengage is not one of the publishers included here. Have you tested Cengage textbooks? If not, will you in the future? They’re making a big push at my institution, and I have heard that their textbooks (and platforms) are not very accessible.
A3: We wouldn’t exclude testing a Cengage EPUB file, if they want to participate if/when we do this again in the future. But there are thousands of publishers and due to time constraints and just doing five publishers is a huge investment in time and money to go into a very detailed analysis of these books. Actually GCA has been in contact with Cengage in the past to become a GCA member and we will see how this unfolds as they consider merging with McGraw-Hill, who are currently going through the GCA process to be certified. More accessibility information is available on the Cengage website.
Q4: Is this Global Certified Accessibility methodology a publicly available VPAT mapped to specific WCAG elements?
A4: The GCA (Global Certified Accessible) program ensures that the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Specification is met and goes beyond the required WCAG-A conformance required by this specification by requiring WCAG-AA is met along with all EPUB specific conformance and discovery requirements made in that specification. In addition our GCA program looks at over a dozen areas such as (Images, Lists, Tables, Math, DPUB-ARIA, etc and dives into over 60 specific nuances rating each one some of which may be WCAG aligned, others may be Best practices aligned to improve the overall accessibility beyond WCAG. That Born Accessible score must be above 80% along with WCAG-AA compliance in order for a publisher’s EPUB workflow to be GCA certified. We do not have a specific VPAT mapping out our process as I don’t believe this is relevant. We certify a publisher has met the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 requirements at a WCAG-AA level, anything else above this is a bonus.
Q5: Which of the featured publishers provide accessibility metadata via their ONIX feed (or other method) that reading platforms can display to users?
A5: All of the publishers who participated provide some accessibility metadata within the EPUB files and all are currently or working towards exposing that accessibility metadata.
Q6: Is there a best practice for index linking? If you have a subject index entry link back to one page, it’s relatively easy, but if you mention the same subject entry across 10 pages, is best practice to link only to the first page of all 10 (as a kind of starting point for the subject idea) or to link to the start of each section (say pages 3-5) or to link to each page mention itself (page 3, 4, and 5)?
A6: In the suite of EPUB 3 specifications, there is a section covering the index. Recommended practice is to link to the first page in the range but link both numbers so that the link label is clear that it’s a range. Here’s an example from the indexes spec: <li><a href=”…”>76-79</a></li>
Q7: It appears that testing was done exclusively via Thorium on the front end. Are the strengths and areas of improvement fairly consistent across the backend (JAWS, NVDA, Narrator, etc)?
A7: Interoperability between reading systems and assistive technology will vary. There is also variation in functionality within reading systems. Those variations will impact how effective the accessibility work on the EPUB is. At epubtest.org there is extensive testing of reading systems and with a wide range of Assistive Technologies. When we encounter bugs in reading systems or in the Assistive Technology, we file an issue with the developer.
Q8: Have any other publishers besides Macmillan been certified recently?
A8: Currently only Macmillan Learning is the only GCA certified Publisher. We do have 3 Conversion Vendors that are GCA Benetech Recommended including: AMNET, Apex, and Newgen. There are a couple other publishers who are very close to becoming GCA certified with another half dozen or so going through the process.
Q9: when you say GCA certified — it’s going beyond ACE with a human review. have the humans received a certification? Or just experience? What makes it GCA certified?
A9: Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible (GCA) program certified goes beyond Ace checking. Ace can only automatically check approximately 25% by machine, which uses the underlying AxE by deque HTML checking engine. The remainder of the WCAG conformance checking is done manually with human review. Benetech has been building out our GCA program for the past 3 years where we did a pilot with a dozen publishers and conversion vendors and working with top accessibility experts to ensure that the reports we provide are accurate and map directly with WCAG 2.0 AA and EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery requirements which Charles LaPierre was one of the editors of that specification at the IDPF and has since moved to the W3C. Benetech and DAISY have worked together along with our other Global partners RNIB in the UK, Dedicon in the Netherlands, and Vision Australia to ensure this is truly a Global certification program. We are also looking to expand our certification into Canada as well. In order for a publisher to become GCA certified they meet the EPUB 1.0 Accessibility Specification at WCAG-AA conformance (not just WCAG-A which is the minimum requirement). In addition the publisher must score above 80% on our GCA Born Accessible Score where we have over 60 individual areas we report on as part of our process. We provide the Publisher detailed reports from DAISY’s Ace & SMART along with our Born Accessible scores for each of the areas we identify and score. In addition we provide a detailed document for each of the issues found either automatically or manually with what was observed, actual code from the EPUB that is in question, along with our recommendation including the code to remediate the issue found. We also call out what is required to pass certification (ie. any WCAG conformance failure), some strongly suggested issues they fix and finally minor improvements or best practices that can help improve the overall accessibility of the EPUB. There is no formal certification for those performing the GCA certification; our experience and our partners who were a part of writing the Accessibility 1.0 specification makes us more than qualified.
Note: In addition to Ace by DAISY and the Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool (SMART), the GCA program uses a customized version of SMART to guide them in the process.
Q10: A big issue with Silver / WCAG 3 is the conformance metric. How easy do you think it might be to adapt your EPUB testing methodology to more generic web content?
A10: Because EPUB3 is composed primarily of web elements – CSS, HTML, etc – the testing methodology for an EPUB is not entirely different from a web page in its current state and the testing we currently do is designed to align to WCAG requirements. The WCAG normally applies to single pages, while our testing covers the entire publication, which is made up of many XHTML documents.
Q11: Are the publishers working on making their online learning platforms accessible to screen readers? It is very expensive to convert the homework and test files into Braille format. I asked this question due to the several of required textbooks will have an online component.
A11: Depending on the publisher, there is work on either legacy or new platforms taking place to improve the accessibility of online learning platforms. Each publisher can be contacted directly for specific information including their VPAT, the status of their accessibility work, and any accessibility services they may be able to provide. The accessibility of these websites are subject to accessibility laws and regulations and we should be vigilant in monitoring these LMS platforms.
Q12: How are the audited publishers creating Alt Text and Long Descriptions? Is this being outsourced, written by authors or written in-house? I think most publishers struggle with the cost involved in creating image description, so it would be useful to know how publishers have handled this, for successful Alt Text creation?
A12a: Alternative text authoring processing varies between publishers and even between titles at each publisher. When it’s possible, we include the author in the alt text authoring process as they are closest to the content and understand its purpose and content better than anyone else involved in the process. Alternatively, we have also used vendors and/or subject matter experts for this work. Bringing in a third party allows for a valuable outside perspective on the content.
A12b: We use exclusively third-party vendors. The main reason for this is that in our view the writing of alt text and long descriptions is a specialist skill that authors do not necessarily possess. In fact, authors can be ‘too close’ to their images whereas professional alt text writers on the whole seem able to put themselves into the position of the print impaired reader and know what to look out for when they create descriptions. We formed our own view of what might be considered a useful approach to alt text and long descriptions for end users by engaging with a) Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center; b) with the specialist TextBox website, inspecting their carefully calibrated description methodology; c) with a number of vendors offering alt text services and d) a print impaired EPUB expert to whom we showed a number of different alt texts/long descriptions for a selection of images. His feedback was very valuable. We then selected a representative sample of images from our content and generated what we thought would be well structured and clear alt text and long descriptions. We then sent this sample to a number of vendors to see how their alt text / long descriptions compared with ours. Where we preferred theirs, we amended our concept of a useful description. We then selected three vendors whose approach to descriptions was close to ours. The documentation we created to initially brief these vendors can now be used to source additional vendors, if required.
Q13: If these publishers also publish other titles outside of the textbook genre, do they build them in the same manner?
A13a: The process for producing titles may change based on the structure of the content that the publisher is producing.
A13b: We publish Trade/Professional/Textbook content, but there is only a single workflow for all publications. Very specialist publications (e.g. dictionaries, major reference works) might well require separate workflows.
Q14: What kinds of standards are being used for meaningful alt text? Are there standards for publishers to follow?
A14: The DIAGRAM center has been working on how to create meaningful image descriptions and with GCA continue to improve these best practices. I would recommend you go to http://diagramcenter.org/making-images-accessible.html which links to Poet Image Description Training Tool, DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines, and Accessible Image Sample Book, along with a few training webinars on Image description best practices.
Q15: What epub authoring tools do you use? Does each publisher have their own proprietary software, or are there any generally available tools they would recommend?
A15: One of our publisher guests writes: “We developed our own XHTML schema, online validation tool and CSS and produce all our titles in the same workflow using InDesign. The schema allows us to maintain accessibility features and link them to the structural semantics and CSS. This drives consistency into the end product and ensures that different vendors create highly consistent output. Our vendors all have their own technology stacks and are highly skilled at importing/maintaining/exporting XHTML in their respective InDesign workflows. The key is that our schema and validation tool is used both at the import and export stage of the process. By providing the validation tool, we QA the input and output which allows the vendor a degree of freedom in how they remain schema compliant within their own toolset.”
Note a DAISY webinar on InDesign will be announced soon.
Benetech’s GCA uses a number of tools: “We use Sigil or Calibre to look at the underlying code which also can do editing of the EPUB directly. For those who do not create EPUBs regularly we would recommend looking at DAISY’s new plugin for Microsoft Word called WordToEPUB which does an excellent job and makes a very accessible EPUB.”
Q16: Is DRM considered an accessibility issue?
A16: DRM can be a barrier to accessibility if done improperly. Most of the Reading System developers we test at epubtest.org make sure that Assistive Technology works with their reading systems. There is a new proposed ISO approved DRM format called LCP (Licenced Content Protection) which allows assistive technology access to the content. EDRLab and the Readium 2 project currently supports LCP and more information can be found on the EDRLab website.
Q17: Many of our students have had issues attempting to navigate and use a different method of accessing audio per publisher. When each publisher has a different method of offering accessible texts it can be difficult for students to remember the steps for each book, especially student who may have cognitive issues. We often ask for PDF’s over ePub because we can standardize the use which helps students avoid being overwhelmed. Thoughts?
A17: I suggest that students should learn an EPUB Reading System really well. The method for going to the Table of contents and following links to the chapters and sections will be the same. There will be variation in the content and how it is structured, but that is the nature of digital publications.Read More
As part of the DAISY Consortium series of free weekly webinars the April 1st saw a session focusing on the needs of higher education students from the UK, USA, Canada and Ireland during this time when their learning is being greatly impacted by international events.
This page contains:
- Full Video of the Webinar
- Speaker information
- RedShelf Responds information
- VitalSource Helps information
- Related links and resources
- Richard Orme, CEO DAISY Consortium—host and chair
- Erin Lucas, Senior Director for Digital Accessibility at RedShelf
- Rick Johnson, Founder and VP, Product Strategy at VitalSource
- Stacy Ray, Product Manager at VitalSource
This webinar looked in some detail at the programmes being offered by both organizations to assist students during this period namely RedShelf Responds and VitalSource Helps
At RedShelf we believe that education changes the world and that, through technology, we can change education for the better. We believe in win-win solutions that make education more accessible, affordable and impactful for students, and more financially sustainable for educators and content creators.
To ensure that all students have access to their course materials amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, RedShelf have partnered with the publishing community to provide up to 7 free ebooks from participating publishers in the US and Canada.
- More than 300k titles from 100+ publishers
- This opportunity is currently set to run through May 25 2020, but if students in Canada have different semester dates and require longer access, this will be arranged
- Available to any student with a .edu student email address and in the case of organizations who use different email suffixes, alternative arrangements will be made
- Books added to My Shelf feature can be launched within the RedShelf ereader, a browser based reading system with many accessibility features including, Text-to-Speech controls, keyboard shortcuts, screen reader compatibility etc.
- RedShelf have a dedicated accessibility team ready to respond to requests for accommodations and samples
- Program Overview: about.redshelf.com/redshelfresponds
- Student ebook Access: responds.redshelf.com
- Support and Resources: solve.redshelf.com
- Erin Lucas contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org
For nearly two decades, VitalSource has worked to ensure our products are designed from the beginning with accessibility in mind. We go beyond simply adhering to industry standards, as we are also actively involved in helping create those standards through participation in and leadership with key accessibility partners.
VitalSource have made their Bookshelf program available to students, instructors and colleges during the COVID-19 outbreak who may need access in difficult circumstances—at home or elsewhere, both online and offline. Up to 7 titles may be accessed during this time.
- This opportunity is currently set to run through May 25 2020 in the US, April 30 in Canada and June 30 in the UK and Ireland. If colleges have different semester dates and require longer access this will be arranged.
- Available to any student with a .edu student email address and in the case of organizations who use different email suffixes, alternative arrangements will be made.
- The app can be downloaded for ease of use offline. Native apps are 100% capable of being accessed offline.
- The VitalSource Bookshelf is a digital learning platform and not simply an ereader (the webinar includes an excellent demo of the levels of navigation possible and the excellent compatability with Assistive Technology).
- Accessibility features include: screen reader support, visual adjustment modes for various different requirements, read aloud tools and rich learning tools.
- Program Overview: https://support.vitalsource.com/hc/en-us/categories/360003328673
- Student ebook Access: bookshelf.vitalsource.com
- Student and Instructor Support: https://support.vitalsource.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045038573-VitalSource-Helps-Student-and-Instructor-Support
- Rick Johnson contact details: email@example.com
- Stacy Ray contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Download the PowerPoint Slide Deck (3.5 MB)
- Full Transcript Word (36 KB)
- Further Webinars in the Series
The publishing and disability communities have in recent years embraced the EPUB format, with “born accessible” digital publications being created globally and enjoyed by consumers using a range of assistive technology.
While EPUB has rapidly been adopted by trade, academic, and scholarly publishers, access is also needed to a variety of publications produced by organizations, public institutions and even individuals. In these instances a simple and practical workflow for creating accessible and flexible materials is required.
Many of these documents are created using Microsoft Word, which is no surprise given that it is the most widely used word processor, used throughout education and in organizations around the world. Word is also good starting point for accessible documents with its built-in accessibility checker which does a great job to highlight potential issues. The wider DAISY community will also be familiar with using Word in accessible book production workflows, having previously utilized the “Save as DAISY” tool to create DAISY Format publications from Word.
Our new WordToEPUB tool, which was developed with support from Microsoft, is a simple and straightforward method of converting Word documents to valid and accessible EPUB files in one of three ways:
- By selecting one or more multiple files in the application
- Using the Context Menu (right click) on a Word file
- Directly from Word using the WordToEPUB Add-in on the Toolbar Ribbon
We’re delighted to launch this tool with English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch language support in the interface, and the tool itself can detect and encode content in many more languages.
Throughout the development process we have received some wonderful feedback, with stories of the tool being used in a variety of academic settings, for professional events, in government offices and by self-publishing authors.
As we continue to develop the tool we look forward to hearing your feedback and stories of how you’ve found it useful.
Our WordToEPUB tool is available now to download for free!Read More
The DAISY Consortium is delighted to once again support the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference by creating accessible digital versions of the conference materials, and offering them for download in HTML, DAISY 2.02 and EPUB formats. Thanks to the CSUN Conference Team for making the information available in advance to facilitate conversion.
This page contains a complete lists of downloadable files, which are shown with their approximate size. Downloads start immediately after a link is selected.
All session information should be reviewed alongside the addendum on the CSUN website for changes to the schedule.
Entire conference program and menus
Conference information in DAISY 2.02 format [.zip files]
Combined Sessions (65MB)
Wednesday Sessions (21MB)
Thursday Sessions (22MB)
Friday Sessions (18MB)
Speaker Index (16MB)
Exhibitor Directory (28MB)
Exhibitor Directory by Category (10MB)
Direct Access via Reading Solutions
The conference materials are also being made freely available directly through reading solutions including:
- Dolphin EasyReader (all platforms), Supernova and GuideConnect.
We’re excited to bring you this new and updated website, and even more excited for what is to come as this is just the start.
This new site offers a series of significant improvements over our previous site which performed extraordinarily well over many years but was ready for retirement. Through this site we can bring you upgraded security, flexibility, much clearer structure and a broadly modern approach to content.
There is much more planned for the site in the coming months, so you’ll want to visit regularly. Many features from the previous site have been integrated and enhanced here, and if you were familiar with a feature which you don’t currently see there is likely to be a new and improved version just around the corner.
As with any new site, pushing the button to make it “go live” is just the start. We’re actively monitoring how people access the site and refining the experience for all users. There are a handful of things which we’re working to address so you can expect a series of small changes over the coming weeks as we offer the best possible experience.
To help answer some immediate questions we have developed the following series of short questions and answers:
Q. Where is…?
Some things have moved around on this site to provide a richer structure for logical navigation. The Main menu is typically the best entry point to drill down and find the content you’re looking for, and the Search tool is available on every page for a quick route to the content.
- Technologies, Projects and Services houses our current Software development, Standards, Services and Projects.
- Information and Help contains all our Guidance and Training materials, Frequently Asked Questions, Archived Projects and our Glossary of Terms.
- About Us provides details of the DAISY Consortium, our Member organisations, how we function and how you can get involved.
Q. But what about that feature I used to use…?
DAISYPedia – our old wiki site content is now housed in the Training and Guidance area which contains a range of information which we’re adding to regularly.
Forums – Our discussion forums are returning in a few months as part of our new area for Members.
Tools and Services – You’ll be pleased to hear our new system for discovering reading systems, conversion tools and content services will be added to the site soon.
Q. Are you aware of this problem?
With any significant site change there are bound to be a few minor issues to resolve, so we’re actively monitoring and testing the site to fix things as they arise, but we can only fix the issues we know about. If you have identified a problem which we should be aware of please Contact Us with the details so we can get it resolved.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Open University, delivering flexible, innovative teaching and world-leading research in the United Kingdom and in 157 countries worldwide. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the department which creates accessible learning resources, and in the last 30 years that process has evolved significantly.
Audio for students with disabilities was originally recorded and distributed on audio cassettes. Initially, volunteer readers would use cassette machines in their own homes, with all the inherent problems of variable recording conditions and external noise. In 1989, the Open University, in collaboration with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), opened the C.J. Smith Audio Recording Centre (on the main OU Campus), which allowed audio to be recorded in a much more controlled environment. Tone indexing was added to aid navigation by chapter, section, sub-section when the cassette was spooled at high speed. However, even with the tones, navigating content on cassettes could be frustrating. A large book might need to be presented as twenty individual cassettes and even when the correct cassette was selected, getting to the required section of the document could be a very time-consuming process.
The Open University started to provide digital audio to students with disabilities in 1998, with a system developed in house called Readout. A software package called Dream allowed audio to be recorded onto a computer. When the recording was completed, a final software package called “Readout” was created which could be despatched to students. The Readout system provided higher quality digital audio recording and allowed students to navigate directly to individual headings or pages in a document. However, the Dream-Readout system had a number of limitations. Recordings could only be created from properly formatted .html files which weren’t always available at that time, consequently it wasn’t possible to create Readout packages of all course material. The system also wasn’t capable of handling images, so the student using Readout would not be able to see pictures, diagrams, graphs etc., that were in the original document. The finished Readout package sent to the student could only be played from a CD-ROM (it couldn’t be copied) and the audio could only be played in the Readout software. Consequently, for all Readout packages, an audio cassette was simultaneously created to allow students who were unable to use the software to still be able to listen to the audio.
In 2008, the Audio Recording Centre began to create audio versions of Open University module material in the DAISY format, allowing additional features such as a navigational structure that makes it easy to move or skip to different parts of the document. The DAISY Talking Books offered the flexibility to be played on computers using specialist software packages, on bespoke mobile DAISY Players, or the audio could simply be played in standard .mp3 players.
The DAISY system is highly flexible and continues to allow Open University course materials to be created in a number of ways. The Open University’s first DAISY Talking Books were recorded with volunteers reading from the actual paper document and the headings and page numbers of the document were navigable. The actual text associated with the document was not visible on the computer screen. This type of “audio only” DAISY Talking Book is now only used for recording examinations, where electronic versions of the text are not available.
The majority of DAISY Talking Books created now have all of the text, pictures, tables etc., associated with the source material displayed on the screen and the volunteer reads the text directly from the screen. Documents in PDF, EPUB or Word format are sourced from the module websites and converted into a correctly formatted HTML file which is used to set up a recording project using Dolphin Publisher software.
In addition to being able to record human readers, the Dolphin Publisher software can also generate synthetic speech. This is an extremely useful option for speeding up the production of DAISY Talking Books. Entire documents can be created using synthetic voice, or “hybrid” versions can be created using a mixture of human voice and synthetic voice. However, synthetic voice can currently only be used for straightforward text. It is very difficult to use with texts that contain scientific terms and notation and is not used at all for anything but the most basic of mathematical texts. While synthetic voice is an extremely useful tool to speed up the production of audio versions of Open University course material, the overwhelming feedback from students is that their preference would always be for a human voice.
Audio was originally delivered to students on audiocassette, which could entail literally dozens of cassettes for a single book being despatched by post. This transitioned to CD-ROMs for, initially the ReadOut system, then DAISY Talking Books. However, only one DAISY Talking Book could be copied onto a CD-ROM. Consequently, at one point up to 60,000 CD-ROMs were being produced and despatched to students each year. Subsequently, the number of discs was reduced to around 6000, when module material was despatched on DVD-ROMs. This allowed an entire module with multiple DAISY Talking Books to be distributed using a single disc.
DAISY Talking Books are still being despatched on CD-ROMs, USB sticks or SD cards for students who are accessing them using specialised DAISY Players, but since 2015 the majority of students have downloaded their DAISY Talking Books directly from their module website. This means that they can have their module material as soon as it becomes available without having to wait for them to be copied to disc and posted to them. It also means that for the first time, DAISY Talking Books are available as a learning aid not only to students with disabilities, but to non-disabled students as well.
In May 2019, 24,000 Open University students currently studying declared a disability, 7,255 students have requested DAISY content in the previous 12 months. DAISY course material is now available for 120 modules, which cover topics being studied by 81% of all Open University students, approximately 100,000 people.
A total of 86 volunteer readers contribute to the recordings, producing 170 hours of reading a month on average, or 2,044 hours per year. Around 800 new DAISY Talking Books are produced each year, around a third of which are produced by human readers and two thirds using synthetic speech.
DAISY Talking Books will continue to be the default audio format for the immediate future, however EPUB formats are now becoming available which will offer the same features as DAISY Talking Books. These EPUB formats will be more “mainstream” meaning that far more material will be accessible than is currently available in the DAISY format and players such as Dolphin’s EasyReader will be capable of playing not just material specially created by the Audio Recording Centre, but will be able to play material that has not gone through special processing and formatting.
This article was adapted from an exhibition held at the Open University to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Open University Recording Centre. With thanks to Alan Marlow for sharing this technological voyage.