Microsoft Users to “Save as DAISY” Collaborative development project aims to transform millions of Open XML documents into the world’s most widely used accessible format for people with print disabilities
Microsoft Corp. and the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) Consortium have a joint standards-based development project that will make it possible for computer users who are blind or print-disabled to make better use of assistive technology in their daily lives. A reference model for other Open XML solution providers, this open technical collaboration project on SourceForge.net will yield a free, downloadable plug-in for Microsoft Office Word that can translate Open XML-based documents into DAISY XML, the foundation of the globally accepted DAISY Standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content.
In recent decades, individuals with print disabilities have increasingly accessed information using a wide variety of assistive technologies such as screen readers, large print, refreshable Braille and text-to-speech synthesizers. However, because these individuals cannot visually navigate complex page layouts, they often struggle to keep up with the demands of today’s information-rich society.
The structure within DAISY publications makes it possible to navigate quickly by heading or page number and to use indexes and references, all with correctly ordered, synchronized audio and text. In addition to clear benefits for the print-disabled community, the Open XML to DAISY XML translator also offers the potential for further innovation in the information-intensive markets of publishing, training and education.
“As CEO of the internationally recognized voice of blind and low-vision people around the world and as a reader of DAISY books, I believe this project represents a breakthrough for me both personally and professionally,” said Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union. “The ability to make highly functional, accessible content available on desktops everywhere in the world is critical, and this Open XML to DAISY XML translator for Microsoft Office Word is a remarkable move toward that goal.”
“In our information age, access to information is a fundamental human right,” said George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium. “This is why leading organizations of and for the blind throughout the world are committed to the advancement of the DAISY Standard. The ability to create DAISY content from millions of Open XML-based documents using this translator for Microsoft Office Word will offer substantial and immediate benefits to publishers, governments, corporations, educators and, most important, to everyone who loves to read.”
“We are keenly tracking these developments for the benefit of our members and students around the world,” said Charlene Gaynor, CEO of the Association of Educational Publishers. “Not only will the Open XML to DAISY XML translator support an outstanding critical need for individuals with print disabilities, but it will also help us fulfill our commitment to improve the learning experience for those students served neither by text-only nor audio-only books today.”
“The Open XML to DAISY XML translator for Microsoft Office Word will begin the translation of Open XML-based content into an enriched multimedia format accessible to users around the world, regardless of the degree of their visual impairments,” said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. “This accessible technology is something that our customers have asked for, and we are pleased to be able to work collaboratively with the DAISY Consortium to realize this goal.”
Open XML adoption continues to expand across the software industry for use on various platforms that include Linux, Windows, Mac OS and the Palm OS. Solution providers interested in creating their own Open XML to DAISY XML translators may find the project on SourceForge. The resulting “Save As DAISY” plug-in will be available as a free download for Microsoft Office Word (Word XP, Word 2003 and Word 2007) customers in early 2008.
Perspectives from members of the print-disabled community about this news are available here. Information about Microsoft’s accessibility solutions is available here. Data about the Ecma Office Open XML open standard document format specification is available here and here.
The DAISY Consortium
The Consortium was formed in May 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books. Seventy non-profit organizations make up the Consortium, and actively promote the DAISY Standard for Digital Talking Books. The DAISY Standard has revolutionized the reading experience for people unable to read print due to a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability. The Consortium’s vision is “that all published information be available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format”.