Update from the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference 2019
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.