Microsoft and DAISY Consortium Logo Microsoft has announced a joint project with the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, which will make it possible for computer users with visual disabilities to make better use of technology. This project will enable the translation of millions of open XML documents into DAISY XML, the lingua franca for digital talking books.

Individuals with print disabilities have been accessing information using a wide variety of assistive technologies like screen readers, large print, refreshable Braille and text-to-speech synthesizers. However, since they may not be able to visually navigate through complex page layouts, they may 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 an synchronized audio and text.

“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. 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,” said Sanjay Manchanda, Director, Business Division, Microsoft India.

DAISY material will be able to be played on dedicated devices or even on PCs by installing special software. Moreover, this technology has been developed based on a lot of feedback from the people with disabilities themselves. For instance, low vision people who use auditory cassettes allows them to hear words but not see how they are spelled. Thus, DAISY gives such users the option of visually following the text in large print as it is heard.

Moreover, people who are totally blind can track auditory output using a refreshable Braille display composed of tiny electronically-activated pins that pop up to denite words on screen as they pass their fungertips along the display.

Consideration of special needs is an integral part of Microsoft’s product design process. The Open XML-DAISY XML translator builds onMicrosoft’s long-standing commitment to promoting information access for users with disabilities. For users, the ability to “Save as DAISY” in Microsoft Office Word represents an important validation of disabled users’ needs and sends a powerful message to society at large,” added
Sanjay Manchanda.

The Open XML DAISY platform is compatible with Linux, Windows and Mac and Palm operating systems.

Solution providers might want to click here if they are interested in creating their own open XML to DAISY XML translators.

But for the public, the DAISY plug-in will be available as a free download for Microsoft Office Word (Word XP, Word 2003 and Word 2007) in early 2008.