Microsoft open source vision blooms with Daisy

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Microsoft has launched a new add-in, designed specifically to simplify the process of creating content that is accessible for visually impaired and what it refers to as 'print disabled' individuals. The new Save as DAISY XML add-in is open source, being developed in conjunction with the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, and will convert Open XML based files into DAISY.XML which is part of the globally recognized DAISY standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content.

With groups like the World health Organization and the World Blind Union telling us that the global visually impaired population stands at more than 160 million currently, and that is without counting the additional hundreds of millions who fall into the 'print disabled' category courtesy of physical, developmental or learning disabilities, the need for something like DAISY does not really need much explaining nor a hard sell. By providing free and global access to the add-in though, Microsoft is doing its part because it helps support access information contained within literally billions of MS Office Word documents in circulation.

This news should be of particular interest to the DaniWeb development community as it allows anyone working on a project to utilize the open source code when building those new applications that are aimed at the millions of global Office users who are likely to benefit from this add-in. "Because it's part of a familiar tool, this plug-in for Microsoft Office Word significantly reduces the friction for content creators in producing accessible digital material," said Andrew Savikas, director of publishing technology at O'Reilly Media Inc. "Support for DAISY, along with the emerging ePub standard, is an easy way for software makers to build accessibility into their products, and I hope to see others follow suit."

Also of interest is the simultaneous launch of the DAISY Pipeline which is also free and provides a transformation suite to support seamless conversion of DAISY XML into DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB) format. Together these technologies provide a comprehensive solution for converting text documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities.

"Microsoft's initiative to put 'Save as DAISY XML' in Microsoft Word is the first step to bring fully accessible content to people who are blind or who have a print disability. We know that much of the information in documents today is created with Microsoft Word; this new add-in provides an unprecedented leap forward in the worldwide effort to make information available to all," said George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium. While Dominique Burger of BrailleNet added "As an advocate of technologies that help blind and low-vision individuals, and as chair of an organization managing a digital library based on DAISY XML formats, I can attest that this 'Save as DAISY XML' plug-in for Microsoft Office Word is a landmark development. The ability to generate DAISY XML content from within an application used by millions of people around the world is welcome news for all who have been pushing for such a broad-reaching solution."

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