The CSUN Assistive Technology conference is said to be the largest annual conference on technology and accessibility. As usual the event was packed with informative sessions, interesting exhibits and the opportunity to meet with experts and collaborators from around the world. George Kerscher and Richard Orme were in attendance to represent the DAISY Consortium. It was also wonderful to see many DAISY members and friends participating in the conference.
The conference programme is complex, with many sessions happening at any time. As we have for many years, DAISY partnered with the organisers to produce the conference materials in DAISY, HTML and EPUB formats. These were available on the conference and DAISY websites, through the Dolphin Easyreader app and via the Redshelf platform. In particular the EPUB version was a great demonstration of the power of accessible, standards-based information publishing. It was very convenient to navigate the programme, to add bookmarks and notes, and to choose from mainstream and specialist apps and devices.
Many DAISY Friends were demonstrating their latest products in the exhibit hall and conference sessions. Several companies were showing their products with EPUB 3 support, including Humanware with the Braillenote Touch, Vinvision with the E10 audio player and Dolphin with their Easyreader apps. The developers of popular dyslexia software apps Texthelp and Kurzweil were also at the conference, and we had constructive discussions about further improving their support for EPUB.
Born accessible publications has been a growing theme in the conference programme over recent years, and several academic publishers attended to present, exhibit and meet with delegates. In one session Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education and Macmillan Learning described the accessibility initiatives of major academic publishers. In addition to digital textbooks, we met with Atypon and Mediawire to learn how they are bringing accessible EPUB to their publication services.
CELA and Bookshare presented on their collaboration to bringing a fully accessible public library catalogue experience to Canadians with print disabilities. And it was standing room only at our session “EPUB 101: An Essential Briefing for All Higher Education Professionals”. The progress of inclusive publishing in US higher education is wonderful to demonstrate, and the positive impact on students with reading disabilities impressive. We have made the EPUB 101 slides and associated resources are available to download. We also ran session reviewing the production of EPUB from popular word processors. We look forward to sharing news on this topic soon.
Amazon, Google and Microsoft all had a major presence at CSUN. Many DAISY library patrons are choosing to access services through these companies’ products and George and Richard met with their accessibility leaders in each organization to discuss developments in accessible publishing and reading.
Whilst many challenges still remain (we participated in several discussion on maths and chemistry), one session on Friday demonstrated how far we have come, when a blind author explained how he had independently written and published a book that he was now able to read through his voice controlled smart speaker. What will the next 12 months bring? Next year’s delegates will find out between March 9 to March 13, 2020. The Call for Papers opens on September 12.Read More
New legislation in the EU which includes accessibility requirements for both reading systems and content, could have a positive and lasting impact on practices around the world. The following article from Fondazione LIA takes a closer look at the new European Directive.
On March 13 2019, the European Parliament approved the so called European Accessibility Act, an EU Directive aimed at improving the market for accessible products and services, removing barriers in the Member States through legislations with a range of accessibility requirements, bringing benefits to persons with disabilities and elderly people throughout the EU and with potential for global benefits.
The Directive was created to increase the availability of accessible products and services in the EU market, and to improve the accessibility of information.
It provides a definition of persons with disabilities in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted on 13 December 2006 (UN CRPD), to which the Union has been a Party since 21 January 2011 and which all Member States have ratified. As stated by UN CRPD, the Directive considers that persons with disabilities “include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. It promotes full and effective equal participation by improving access to mainstream products and services that, through their initial design or subsequent adaptation, address the particular needs of persons with disabilities.
The Directive applies to many products and services such as consumer general purpose computer hardware systems and operating systems for those hardware systems, self-service terminals (ie. payment or ticketing terminals), consumer banking services, but also e-books and dedicated reading software. Due the fact that e-books are considered a service, the concept of a service provider now includes publishers and all the other economic operators involved in their distribution.
The Directive requires publishers to produce their digital publications in an accessible format, and also requires the entire supply (retailers, e-commerce sites, hardware and software reading solutions, online platforms, DRM solutions, etc.) chain to make content available to users through accessible services.
The technical accessibility requirements are currently described at high level in the legislation, but the Commission shall demand EU standardization bodies to define EU harmonized standards for accessibility. Considering these standard should be, as stated in the Directive, market-driven. The standard organizations managing the publishing standards, like W3C and the DAISY Consortium along with other organizations working in the field of accessibility in the publishing industry, like Fondazione LIA and EDRLab, are now working in collaboration to ensure that the standards currently used in the sector may also become those adopted by the Directive.
In the legislation there are some exceptions, in particular for smaller organizations (microenterprises of less than 10 staff and a turnover or balance sheet of less than €2M) when producing an accessible version causes a disproportionate burden, or when a fundamental alteration of the content of the product would be required. “Market Surveillance Authorities” will be responsible for checking compliance of product and services to the requirements of the Directive. Fondazione LIA believes that, in some cases, publishers may find a solution to produce the accessible versions working in collaboration with the Authorized entities through the Marrakech Treaty. The European Accessibility Act also requires that detailed information on the accessibility of products and services are provided to end users in the distribution channels, allowing users with specific reading requirements to make informed purchasing decision. To achieve these results, it will be therefore necessary to adopt the available international standards for accessibility (from formats to metadata) and consistenty provide visibility to the accessibility related information on the retailers and publishers’ web sites. It will also be crucial to make information of commercially accessible titles available using the metadata standard like Schema.org and ONIX that are designed to record information on the accessibility features of a digital publication. Furthermore, while using search engines, the possibility for a print impaired user of retrieving accessible titles will become fundamental.
The new Directive should be implemented by EU Member States in their national legislation within three years from the approval (by March 2022). Once implemented, it will apply to new products and services that come on the market six years after the approval of the Directive (March 2025). It will be supplemented by harmonized European technical standards. Where harmonized standards are not yet developed, the Directive gives the Commission powers to adopt implementing acts establishing technical specifications to achieve the same aim.
More information on how the entire value chain may find solutions to implement the directive are available in the paper “E-books for all – Towards an accessible digital publishing ecosystem”, published by Fondazione LIA.Read More
Training for any sporting endeavour takes dedication, commitment—and most of all—motivation. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not roll out of bed in the morning, leap to my feet and run downstairs to the treadmill with a smile on my face yelling, “Woot, woot!”
In reality, it’s more like dragging myself out of bed and trying to figure out if I want to expend the energy to pry my eyes open (I mean, it isn’t like I’m using them). I am 53 years old and totally blind. I am also an Ironman.
You might be asking yourself what my experience of becoming an Ironman has to do with accessible publishing. Well there are more than a few similarities to the journey.
In 2009 I began challenging myself. I began with a skydive and then moved on in 2010 to driving a race car and finally, in 2011, I rappelled down the outside of a 29 storey building. In 2012 I was lost for what I could do next when a classmate from university sent me an article about a blind woman competing in triathlon events.
“Diane, you could do that,” said my friend, Cheryl.
Given that I was pretty much a couch potato, 47 and blind, I thought she had lost her mind. But, not one to turn down a challenge, I decided to get fit. Six months later I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (1500 m swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run). I crossed the finish line second to last but I crossed it upright and, for me, that was success!
“I bet you could do a half Ironman,” said Cheryl (1.9 km swim, 90 km bike ride and 21.1 km run).
I told her that she was crazy and that I didn’t want to talk to her for at least a month. She took me to my word and a month later we were signing up for a half iron distance.
Since then I have completed several Olympic distances and four half iron distances. In August of 2015, I attempted my first full Ironman (4km swim, 180km bike, and 42km run, all to be completed within 17 hours).
The day of the race was beautiful and sunny. I felt calm and ready to go the distance. The swim went well, and the first 90 km of the bike phase felt wonderful. The temperature rose to 40 degrees Celsius and I began to feel the heat.
I managed to reach kilometre 21 of the run when heatstroke took over and I decided that my health was more important than the finish line. I was disappointed but knew that I made the right decision. I told the organizers of the race that I would be back in two years to try again.
Two years later there I was standing at the start line of Ironman Mont Tremblant 2017 (in Quebec Province, Canada). I was wondering if maybe I had lost my mind when I lost my sight—I mean what was I thinking! None the less, the gun went off and the fireworks exploded. Before I knew it, there I was running across the beach and diving into the water for just one more shot at becoming an Ironman.
The day was beautiful, and my guide Kory and I felt wonderful. It was a long, but fun filled day and when we crossed the finish line I was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.
In some ways I still can’t believe that I managed this monumental achievement, but it has definitely taught me that anything is possible.
For those new to the topic, adopting accessible publishing can also seem quite daunting, for large, mainstream publishers as well as smaller concerns where a change to established business practices and adaptations to existing workflows can be necessary. In discussion with publishers around the world DAISY Members have heard feedback that what initially appears to be a path strewn with many barriers, over time becomes an organizational benefit with overwhelming positives.
It is somewhat rare that we perfect something of significance on the first attempt, and the same is true with inclusive publishing. Many have said that accessibility is a journey and not a destination, so we might reasonably expect a few bumps along the way. But, if we learn from those experiences and adjust our processes accordingly, it could still be considered a success. A small step in the right direction will still have an impact so it’s important not to give up and to keep motivated and focused.
So like athletic challenges, what may appear difficult at the start, can, with training, dedication and commitment be achievable. An increasing number of publishers are working towards this fantastic achievement every year.
Thanks to Diane Bergeron, a Vice-President at CNIB and member of the DAISY Consortium Board for contributing this article.Read More
Our Second Round Table was held in London on 31 October, to further discuss and plan the future direction of standards and tools for the production and sharing of music braille files, following on from the first Round Table Meeting (Leipzig, June). Our primary focus is to secure the production of future paper music braille by agencies and in education.
Arne Kyrkjebø and Sarah Morley Wilkins chaired the meeting, to review progress on work areas identified after the Leipzig meeting, and to plan for longer-term initiatives.
This lively meeting of around 40 in the room with 12 online represented many of the major blindness agencies doing music braille production, as well as educators and some of the developers of the conversion tools. Experts came from Australia, Canada, China, Europe, India, Korea, New Zealand and USA.
Work is underway around the table to improve music braille production in a range of ways, and we heard progress updates about:
- Tests of music braille conversion tools (BrailleMuse, GoodFEEL, Hodder) with different music files, which has generated a list of fixes sent to developers, to try to improve the tools immediately.
- DZB’s Hodder tool from DZB is being trialled at Dedicon with a range of music files, and both agencies will decide in 2019 what opportunities there are for their ongoing relationship, and perhaps for others too.
- Influencing the successor file format to MusicXML, MNX, by submitting our requirements for music mark-up to the W3C.
- Drafting an approach to publishers to make it easier for trusted intermediaries to obtain suitable master files, ideally without fee or contract.
- Sharing metadata tags for online collections of music braille files (Bookshare, ABC Global Library Service, and NLS), to ensure easy file-sharing and retrieval.
- Developing a more defined MusicXML specification suitable for faster and more accurate and reliable conversion into music braille, with guidance for mark-up specialists.
- Preparing a requirements document to share with developers defining our major requirements for a future sustainable, accurate and reliable tool (or tools). A process for collective agreement and financial contributions will need to be in place if funds are required for major development.
Our next Round Table Meeting will be in Geneva 28-29 May 2019, where we anticipate having a focus on the tool specification and technical development plans, and MusicXML specification guidance.
For more information please email us at musicbraille [at] daisy [dot] org to be added to the circulation list.
All project reports, documents, meeting notes and presentations are on the Music Braille Project Page.Read More
The Swedish DAISY Consortium consist of 42 members, including universities, regional libraries, Swedish Agency for Accessible Media and related organizations. We are a full member of the DAISY Consortium.
We held our annual conference in Stockholm in November. This year’s topic was Accessible reading for democracy and the conference focused on how to enable participation for all. The audience of the conference was mostly librarians from public and university libraries, staff from MTM (Swedish Agency for Accessible media), disability organizations and other interest groups.
Christine Bylund opened the conference with a presentation on what it is like to break the norm. As society’s norm is a fully functional white heterosexual person – what’s it like to break this norm as a person with disabilities? How does this norm make us think about how a person with disabilities should act, what a person with disabilities can do and should behave? Christine pointed out the importance of making persons with disabilities visible in media, commercials and in all parts of society, so we can challenge the norms on what a person with disabilities can and can’t do.
The power of digitalization and how to bridge the digital divide was one themes of the conference. Professor Jan Gulliksen discussed the digitalization as a transforming force, that gives us great opportunities. He talked about how society has to change with the digitalization and use its possibilities. A number of different projects aiming to make more people, especially people with different disabilities, a part of the digital community, was also presented.
Another theme was how to make information accessible for all. The project “Be an Easy-to-Read Politician” is an online-course to help politicians write Easy-to-Read Swedish, enabling people with reading disabilities to participate in political discussions. Another project on Easy-to Read texts was also presented. The project has tested on end users what it is that actually makes a text easy to read and easy to understand. The result shows that it is not only how you write the text that makes it easy to read, it is also important how you present it – layout, font etcetera.
To reach new users is always a challenge and it was very inspiring to listen to how librarians from Linköping public library have reached out to new users in unexpected ways and in unexpected contexts. The librarians have for example visited union meetings and informed about the libraries services for persons with reading disabilities.
The importance of working together with mainstream, to make publishers and media understand the benefits of inclusive publishing was another topic. Fredrik Karlsson, MTM, told us about how MTM are involved in a number of pilot studies on how to encourage publishers to use The DAISY Consortiums tests for accessible ebooks. The mainstream publishers has shown great interest in inclusive publishing.
Two guest speakers from the Nordic countries also spoke at the conference. Öyvind Engh from NLB in Norway told us about new collaborations that aims to reach new users and to increase the access to accessible media. One way of doing this is to work together with mainstream publishers, so that the commercial titles are produced accessible from the beginning – born accessible. Öyvind pointed out the Marrakesh-treaty as an example of how NLB will be able to give students access to adapted textbooks faster. We learned more about the benefits from the Marrakesh-treaty from Kirsi Ylläne from Celia. The treaty makes it easier to share adapted texts. If a book is available in Daisy-format in one country, you can share that copy and not all countries has to adapt the same text. This helps us use the resources better and hopefully more books will be available in an accessible format. Kirsi explained that the Marrakesh-treaty makes it possible for universities to exchange adapted texts directly with another university in another country.
The audience left the conference infilled with inspiration and new knowledge. “This was the best conference that the Swedish Daisy Consortium has arranged” said one on the participants.
Thanks to Elin Nord, Chair of the Swedish DAISY Consortium for contributing this article.Read More