The DAISY Consortium's Newsletter - May 2011

From The Editor

The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights : Twenty-Second Session (WIPO SCCR/22) meeting is fast approaching, with three additional days scheduled to enable rewording and agreement on the proposed copyright treaty ("WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons"). One of the outcomes of the recent meeting of the DAISY Consortium's Board of Directors held in Helsinki Finland was the Statement Issued by the DAISY Consortium for the SCCR 22nd Session which opens as follows: "The DAISY Consortium Board of Directors wishes to state that it fully supports a binding legal framework to address the issue of cross-border exchange of accessible versions of copyrighted materials." Further it is stated that "The DAISY Consortium is fully committed to supporting the legitimate rights of copyright holders. At the same time we support governments in their efforts to deliver their equality of access obligations under the UN Convention and under their national equality laws."

On May 12 the European Parliament voted in support of a binding treaty rather than soft law recommendations or voluntary licenses which have been supported by the European Union Council and Commission. The European Parliament is formed by people elected directly in each European country; it therefore represents all Europeans. This is an extremely important step forward in the struggle to bring about the cross border exchange of accessible reading materials. Further information is provided in the European Blind Union press release. Articles and information about earlier WIPO SCCR meetings and their outcomes are published in previous issues of the DAISY Planet newsletter.

There are many, many thousands of people in the world who know that a binding treaty which supports equitable information access, including the exchange of reading materials across international borders, is necessary. It is my sincere hope that the outcome of the upcoming SCCR/22 is positive and that the barriers to information access that have existed for so long, for so many, are lifted.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first international human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, and on May 10, Colombia became the 100th country to ratify the Convention. Countries which have ratified the Convention support greater access (backed by their legal systems) for citizens with disabilities to fully participate at all levels, in their communities. The DAISY Consortium supports governments in their efforts to deliver their equality of access obligations under the UN Convention and under their national equality laws.

There are two articles in this issue of the DAISY Planet about the recent meeting and Conference in Helsinki Finland: Helsinki Meetings Surpass Expectations and DAISY Today Conference: Mainstreaming DAISY. Initially I'd written this as a single article, but there was so much to relay that two articles rather than one seemed best. Our hosts, the members of the Finnish DAISY Consortium, were wonderful as were the meetings, events and conference. The Consortium's 15th Anniversary celebration was for me a highlight of the week. I hadn't seen Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt or Elsebeth Tank in many years. What I found particularly amazing is that neither one of them had changed at all! Ladies, you are very, very special people. Thank you for helping the Consortium in its anniversary celebration. A special thank also goes to Alicia Wise of Elsevier who was our special guest speaker for the evening. The week was a complete success, in every way. I would personally like to thank Päivi Voutilainen who had retired from Celia but returned to prepare for and organize the meetings and the conference. We have exchanged many, many emails over the past eight or so months, and got to know each other quite well!

Three important documents have recently been posted on the DAISY website. The DAISY Consortium 2010 Annual Report which summarizes the major activities and achievements of the Consortium for the year. DAISY Online Specification – Streaming. Downloading. Security Considerations.. This second document provides an introduction to and brief explanation of DAISY Online Delivery Protocol. The third document is the DAISY Consortium's current brochure which clearly and in plain language provides a general overview of DAISY, the DAISY Pipeline and the Benefits of Membership in the DAISY Consortium. All are worth reading.

I hope to be able to bring news – good news to you about the outcome of the 22nd SCCR meeting in the June issue of the DAISY Planet. That meeting is just a couple of weeks. Please watch the DAISY homepage for news as it happens or alternatively, subscribe to the DAISY RSS Feed to have the news 'brought to you'!

Thanks to everyone who has provided input, comment, information and/or a suggestion for this issue of the Planet. Special thanks to those who have submitted an article for inclusion in our newsletter. If there is a topic, article or column that you feel strongly about (positive or negative) please let me know. Also, if you, your organization or company have news to share, please get in touch with me directly by email or by using the Contact Us form (Newsletter category). Articles and suggestions for articles are always welcome, as are Letters to the Editor and Stories.

Lynn Leith

DAISY Marketplace

The following links are to new or recently updated DAISY Products and Services from our Members and Friends. Marketplace entries also appear on our home page.

The DAISY Marketplace

ONCE: We Knew We Had to be Part of the DAISY Dream

DAISY Consortium 15th Anniversary Series

ONCE logo Since its foundation in 1938, the National Organization of Spanish Blind Persons (ONCE) has provided a wide range of services; it now serves more than 70,000 blind and visually impaired persons in Spain. To do so, ONCE counts on a unique funding system – the ONCE lottery. It is through the sales of millions of these tickets every year that ONCE, the ONCE Foundation, and FOAL – the ONCE Foundation for Latin America – are able to provide high-quality services to all of their blind and visually impaired members, and employment to more than 115,000 persons (of whom more than 80% are persons with a disability). The services provided range from rehabilitation, orientation and mobility, support for the elderly, psychosocial support, training and provision of guide dogs, to education, employment, sports, and access to information.

Books in Audio

Photograph of the front of the ONCE building in Madrid It was within the framework of 'access to information' that our production and distribution system of books in accessible format were first established. In the 1960's the first books in audio were added to an extensive collection of books in Braille (some of them dating back to the last years of the 19th century). The first audio title was recorded in 1962, and it could not have been any other than the adventures of "Don Quixote". This universal book was followed by another 20,000 titles over the years, and as of today, 18,700 of these recordings are now available in digital format, as DAISY books. Without leaving aside our love for Braille, our "Talking Books" quickly became our members' favourite way of reading.

ONCE was one of the first few institutions serving blind and visually impaired persons that TPB (the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille) contacted hoping to establish what would become, in 1996, the DAISY Consortium. ONCE has never stopped feeling privileged and honoured to be counted as one of the six original libraries and organizations that made this dream possible.

The dream was, among other things, to substitute the analogue recordings distributed on compact cassettes with structured digital recordings that could fit onto a single CD. I believe it was Lars Sönnebo – the "father" of the DAISY idea – who said that, for a blind person, reading a book on tape was like giving a sighted person a book printed on a roll of toilet paper. When ONCE was presented with a digital audio recording that could be navigated by the user in the same way a sighted reader browses and moves around a printed book, we knew we had to be part of that dream. The beauty of the system, together with the more down-to-earth uncertainties about the future of the now extinct cassette tapes, made our decision a very easy one.


Converting our analogue collection into DAISY books was – as it was for many other libraries – our first big DAISY challenge. The process started in 2003, and the task of digitizing the existing 16,000 titles was both exciting and frightening. Today nearly all of those titles are not only digital, but also DAISY. One year later, in 2004, true DAISY production began. Since then, we have been trying to reconcile the production of new titles with the conversion of those beloved old recordings into a 'new kind of book'. Last year, our DAISY collection grew by more than 2,500 new titles, of which only a small percentage came from our analogue archives.

The production of new audio books in analogue format was discontinued not long after the production of our first DAISY masters. Since then every audio book coming from any of ONCE's production centres and units is a fully-compliant DAISY book. To date, ONCE has been producing audio-only DAISY books with structure (according to the DAISY 2.02 specification) with human narration. However, the inclusion of the full text synchronized with the audio recording or to be used to produce books using synthetic speech is in its final testing stages.

Everyone involved in any of the processes that lead to the production of a DAISY book knew what an enormous breakthrough this new technology was. The obvious improvement in the quality of the audio, the possibility of "compressing" what would have taken eight or ten 4-track cassettes onto one single CD, the 'magic' of moving to a certain page just by pressing a few keys, of having a clear structure anyone could understand and navigate… we all knew what that would mean to our users. But, how would they react to all these changes?

Our Users

The response from our members was overwhelming. Their interest in this new technology – for this "new way to read" – clearly surpassed our most optimistic expectations. Even library users who hadn't read one of our books for years suddenly became avid readers. Thus, the number of "active users" of our library services doubled in 2 to 3 years.

Once You Try DAISY, There is No Turning Back

Photograph of a DAISY CD produced by ONCE being inserted into a DAISY player Our DAISY books were burnt on CD on request and sent out to our members using the existing postal services. Unlike the old analogue tapes, these new books on CD didn't need to be returned to the library. However, between 2004 and 2007 we lived through a transition period. During that time, our users were allowed to borrow their books on either tapes or CDs, regardless of how the book had been produced. However, it would take just one DAISY book to make our users instantly forget about the good ol' tapes. That is how good DAISY is – once you try it, there is no turning back.

Our plans for a gradual substitution of the analogue service with the new DAISY books went smoothly, and on the last day of 2008 we stopped the production of new titles in analogue audio. During 2009 distribution of books on tape was also discontinued, and on the last day of 2010 the analogue audio service ceased to exist...actually, hardly anybody was using it any more!

DAISY Online Distribution

Our nearly 4,000 DAISY users read around 14,000 books every month. Only 4,000 of those books are distributed on CD. ONCE's digital library – launched in March 2006 – was an immediate success, and probably our greatest achievement in our short DAISY history (so far). Through this service, ONCE members with a valid username and password, can access our DAISY catalogue, browse through its virtual shelves, and download the books they want to read. Each book is delivered in a single ZIP file, which they can later unzip and enjoy using their favourite DAISY reading device. The number of downloads hasn't stopped growing since 2006. In 2007 our users downloaded nearly 40,000 books, 65,000 during 2008, 94,000 in 2009, and our server recorded 120,000 downloads during 2010, three times as many books as those downloaded during the first whole year of the service. And it looks as if we will be reaching a new record this year – in the first three months of 2011, more than 41,000 DAISY books have been distributed through our online digital library.

One of our main concerns when devising the new digital distribution system was the fact that 43% of our members were 65 and over, and we did not really know how useful they would find a service like this – and, to be frank, how well they would cope with ZIP files, downloads, Web searches, etc. After three and a half years, in 2010, 23% of those 120,000 books served online were downloaded by users between 51 and 60 years of age, and another 25% went into the hands of our 41 to 50 year-old users. In fact, those who we saw as our natural "target group" (users between 21 and 30) account for only 7% of our book downloads!

One Standard For All

Together with the inherent usability in the structure of a DAISY book, the development of a unique standard that institutions around the world could use to produce perfectly interchangeable books was certainly one of the main assets of the DAISY concept. We must not forget that the Spanish language is the second most natively spoken language in the world (after Mandarin Chinese) with nearly 400 million native speakers. The DAISY Standard would open a new world of cooperation – through FOAL (a Foundation established to support blind and visually impaired persons in Latin America) – it would potentially be possible for ONCE to share digital copies of its collection of DAISY books with fellow institutions and individuals in other Spanish-speaking countries; similarly ONCE would have access to the Spanish language DAISY books produced in Latin America. Today, ONCE is working hand-in-hand with the World Blind Union (WBU)) in order to achieve the legal framework necessary to make this dream come true.

DAISY Consortium Logo This is an important part of the original DAISY dream – international cooperation and sharing of accessible information, and this is why the outline of the DAISY logo is in the shape of a globe.

Many thanks to Francisco Martínez, DAISY Board representative for ONCE, for writing the ONCE 15th Anniversary Series article.

EPUB 3: Approved as Proposed Specification for Final Review

EPUB  logoOn May 23 the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) announced that EPUB 3 was approved by the IDPF Board of Directors as an IDPF Proposed Specification for final review by its members and the public. The EPUB 3 Working Group Charter was approved by the IDPF           Board in May 2010 and work on the revision of the standard       began shortly thereafter.

The DAISY Consortium has played a key role in the development of EPUB 3. George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium is also the President of the IDPF. Markus Gylling, Chief Technology Officer for DAISY has lead the development of EPUB 3 as chair of the EPUB 3 Working Group. This leadership has ensured that accessibility features are a fundamental component of the revised standard. Some of EPUB 3's main features are:

In addition, support for synchronized audio and text is enabled through the use of Media Overlays. This synchronization provides the rich, meaningful reading experience already known to the many DAISY Digital Talking Books readers worldwide.

The EPUB 3 specification builds on HTML5, ensuring that it remains on the cutting edge of developments.

DAISY Consortium Endorses EPUB 3 Specification

The DAISY Consortium fully endorses this specification and will advocate for EPUB 3 content which has the features and functions necessary to make publications fully accessible. It is expected that EPUB 3 will be used as the delivery format for DAISY publications and that DAISY 4, Authoring & Interchange (AI), will be the XML format used to create DAISY content for distribution and to output other formats such as braille.

EPUB 3 is by far the most significant advance in the over ten year history of the IDPF. In just one year, IDPF member organizations and invited experts, from around the world, have significantly enhanced all aspects of this every eBook can be a fully accessible eBook. [George Kerscher, President, IDPF and Secretary-General, DAISY Consortium, IDPF Press Release

Worldwide adoption of EPUB 3 by commercial publishers will bring accessibility to mainstream publications.

Much Remains to be Done

There is still a great deal to be done in support of EPUB 3, including updating open source tools, creation of best practice guidelines, improvements to EPUB-check (a validation tool for EPUB), and the development of sample materials and technique documents.

Several articles explaining the relationship between EPUB 3 and DAISY, and what this may mean in terms of reducing or eliminating the "book famine" have been published in the DAISY Planet, including:

Additional information about the release of EPUB 3 is available in the IDPF press release: EPUB 3 Proposed Specification Released and in the DAISY Consortium press release.

It is anticipated that EPUB 3 will become a final IDPF Recommended Specification later this summer.

Helsinki Meetings Surpass Expectations

During the first week of May, DAISY Members and Friends gathered in Helsinki Finland for meetings, special events and the Technical Conference - "DAISY Today: Mainstreaming DAISY". The Finnish DAISY Consortium which hosted the events did an admirable job with the arrangements and with ensuring that activities taking place during the week were enjoyed by all – and that everyone would come away from the week having learned something new. When plans for the week began more than eight months ago, the hosts were not aware that 2011 was the 15th anniversary of the DAISY Consortium. Nor did they realize the extent of the interest in the technical conference. Attendance exceeded their initial expectations, and even with the large number of people who registered, the Finnish DAISY Consortium was fully prepared.

1st DAISY Board Meeting of 2011

Photograph of Board members and observers at the Helsinki Board meeting The busy week began on Tuesday with the first meeting of the DAISY Consortium Board of Directors for 2011. A great deal was accomplished during these two days but perhaps the highlight was that the Board unanimously decided to recommend Stephen King as the candidate for the next President to the General Meeting (the official election takes place at the GM). On the second day of the meeting the Board discussed at length the upcoming 22nd SCCR meeting that will take place from June 15th through June 24th in Geneva.

The DAISY Consortium Board of Directors is comprised of one representative from each Full Member organization within the DAISY Consortium. As Full Members, these organizations appoint one representative to the DAISY Board. In addition to providing leadership for the Consortium, each of these individuals plays a leadership role within his or her own organization.

Observers from Norway, Iceland, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the USA were in attendance.

DAISY's 15th Anniversary

Photograph, from left to right, Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, Hiroshi Kawamura, and Elsebeth Tank, at the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniversary dinner One of the highlights of the week for many was the 15th Anniversary dinner held at Restaurant NJK on the evening of Wednesday, May 4. Stephen King, was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening (Stephen is Group Director, Prevention and International Affairs, with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and a Member of the DAISY Consortium Board of Directors). As it was to be an evening of celebration of the achievements of the DAISY Consortium over the past 15 years, arrangements had been made for four guest speakers who would each provide a very different view:

Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt speaking at the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniverary dinner Mrs. Beckman Hirschfeldt, known to many as the "mother of the DAISY Consortium", spoke warmly of the early days, the time leading up to the founding of the Consortium, and of some of the milestones that occurred during her eight years as President. Very few if anyone present realized that it had been May 4, 1996 when the DAISY Consortium was officially formed, exactly 15 years earlier to the day. Her sincerity and generosity of spirit filled the room as she shared her reminiscences with those present. Those early DAISY days were filled with many accomplishments and a great deal of hard work.

Elsebeth Tank Speaking at the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniverary dinner Elsebeth Tank, the Consortium's second President, spoke following Mrs. Beckman Hirschfeldt. During her years as President, beginning January 1, 2004, the DAISY Consortium increased its membership, faced numerous challenges. Under Ms. Tank's direction, the Board of Directors and senior staff worked on developing clear work plans and a comprehensive strategic planning process. Elsebeth Tank held the position of Director of the Danish National Library for the Blind (now Nota) during the period of her presidency. Her subtle sense of humour and business savvy were apparent when she spoke.

Hiroshi Kawamura, the Consortium's current President, was the final speaker before dinner was served. Hiroshi was elected to this position in 2008 and his efforts to continue to bring accessible information to everyone, everywhere, if possible, have become even more intense during his term.

Alicia Wise, special guest speaker at the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniverary dinnerThe special guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Alicia Wise, Director of Universal Access for Elsevier. Dr. Wise provided the more than fifty guests with a publisher's perspective on information access and commercial publishing. She assured everyone in the room that publishers are not the enemy and that making publications accessible is good for everyone. The article Embracing Technology to Close Access Gaps, written by Dr. Wise, was published in the April issue of the DAISY Planet newsletter.

Stephen King speaking and the head table at the DAISY Consortium's 15th Anniverary dinner Seated at the head table for the dinner were the four speakers, Jukka Liedes Director of the Division for Cultural Policy, Ministry of Education and Culture for Finland, Dr. Marc Maurer president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), Dr. George Kerscher and Stephen King. In his role as Master of Ceremonies, Stephen King, the Consortium's President Elect for the term of 2012 - 2016, introduced and thanked each of the speakers, presenting them with a small gift of appreciation.

The evening, hosted by the Finnish DAISY Consortium provided an opportunity for reflection on the Consortium's many past achievements and on the challenges ahead. Celia, the National Library for persons with print disabilities in Finland, and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired in particular are to be thanked for arranging and hosting this memorable evening.

Tour, GM & Helsinki City Reception

The third day opened with a tour of Celia and the Iiris Centre, followed in the afternoon with the DAISY Consortium's Annual General Meeting (GM) which was extremely well attended. The GM is the highest decision-making body of the DAISY Consortium, is held once a year and is chaired by the President.

Reception at the Old Court House in Helsinki Early that evening the Helsinki City reception was hosted by Ms. Paula Kokkonen, Deputy Mayor (Social Affairs and Public Health) in Helsinki. The Reception took place at the Old Court House and was attended by the Conference participants. Ms. Kokkonen warmly welcomed the guests explaining that the Old Court House was the most beautiful building in Helsinki. Marketta Ryömä, Director, of Celia Library spoke briefly, welcoming everyone to Helsinki. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and renew old acquaintances.

Past and Future

Stephen King and Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt Those who had registered for the DAISY General Meeting were invited to dinner at Restaurant Sipuli, with aperitifs sponsored by HumanWare. The image to the left is a photograph of Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, the first President of the DAISY Consortium, and Stephen King, the Consortium's President Elect … the past and the future. Once again, the hosts had arranged a wonderful evening which was enjoyed by all.

DAISY Today Conference: Mainstreaming DAISY

Iiro Nummela chairing the DAISY Today Conference DAISY Member organizations which host the Consortium's General Meeting often also plan a DAISY Conference to coincide with the event. The Finnish DAISY Consortium had decided to do just that. The event-filled week concluded with a full day Conference with registration numbers of approximately 100 participants from around the world. The number of organizations and companies requesting presentation time also surpassed the hosts' expectations, but again, even with a full house and speakers scheduled beyond the originally planned timeframe for the day, everything was conducted efficiently and on time. The Conference was chaired by Iiro Nummela, Chair of the Finnish DAISY Consortium who welcomed the conference participants. The opening address was given by Riitta Kaivosoja, Director General, Ministry of Education and Culture.

George Kerscher giving the keynote at the DAISY Today ConferenceGeorge Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium gave the keynote speech in which he described and explained developments in EPUB 3, DAISY and Ebooks. Stephen King presented "The e-Book Revolution" following the keynote. In his presentation Stephen described how people with print disabilities are increasingly able to enjoy the same book at the same price and place as everyone else. The morning session continued with Maarten Verboom, DAISY Board representative for Dedicon (Netherlands) who spoke about Dedicon's many initiatives, Julien Larose of HumanWare (Canada) who introduced the new HumanWare player series "Victor Reader Stratus", and Hiro Fujimori of Shinano Kenshi/Plextalk (Japan) who demonstrated their DAISY Online Compatible Players. Giving a live presentation that is dependent upon connectivity can be quite challenging, but the presenter was able to eventually connect and demonstrate how the Plextor Online player functions.

Betsy Beaumon described BookShare in her presentation at the DAISY Today Conference Betsy Beaumon, DAISY Board representative for Benetech (USA) opened the afternoon session with the presentation "E-Reading in BookShare". Information about the E-Reading Project in Finland was then presented by Kristiina Markkula of the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry (FINNMEDIA) (Finland). Tanja Stevns, International Coordinator for RoboBraille (Denmark) gave a presentation on the RoboBraille project.

Summary screen of the Labs. presentation, Helsinki 2011Antti Pakarinen & Timo Tuominen from the Helsinki City Library (Finland) spoke about "E-books and libraries: Rethinking the concept" and the Labs project they have been working on. The two gentlemen had been present throughout the conference and as they introduced themselves and the Labs project, Antti commented that this conference was unusual because the people actually seemed to know what they were talking about (which was of course followed by laughter from the audience). The third point in the summary screen of their presentation was particularly relevant to the conference participants: "Libraries are not about books they are about equality and access".

The Conference closed with the presentation "Online delivery of DAISY content to print disabled users without computers" given by Minna von Zansen of Celia Library & Maria Finström of the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired (Finland). The article Moving DAISY Online in Finland in the April issue of the DAISY Planet was written by Maria, providing an excellent overview of the project.

The day was filled with excellent presentations dealing specifically with DAISY and with DAISY-related services and projects. Many of the presentations have been posted on the DAISY Today Conference website. A link to additional information about the speakers is also provided on that page.

All of the meetings and the conference were held at the Iiris Service and Activity Centre for the Visually Impaired People which was designed specifically to accommodate people who are blind or who have low vision, as well as those with other disabilities.

IVONA, Finding a Better Way (PART 2)

TTS – Faster and Less Expensive

Photograph of Lukasz Osowski "It is basically a human right to have TTS in your own language and listen to books in your own language." [Lukasz Osowski, CEO, IVONA Software]

Traditionally the creation of TTS for a language is a very complicated process. Both specialists for the language and a great deal of knowledge about that language are needed. IVONA had therefore determined that they would not be able to build more than ten languages as they wouldn't have the time or money to do so. With the existing technology it would take one or two years to build a single language. It would require billions of dollars and hundreds of people to build TTS for a large number of minority languages. They decided there must be another way, so they researched new technology to build new languages more easily and more quickly.

Over a two to three year period IVONA developed proprietary technology to do just that, build TTS technology for the creation of larger number of minority languages.


They first developed BrightVoice which provides lifelike, expressive reading of words, sentences, paragraphs, speeches and complete books. BrightVoice technology uses artificial intelligence algorithms, which reflect the expression and individual characteristics of the human voice. The first samples of BrightVoice were released in 2006.

Rapid Voice Development (RVD)

In 2008 they developed Rapid Voice Development (RVD) which makes the process of building IVONA Voices fast and comparatively inexpensive. RVD uses a set of tools which model linguistic characteristics such as subvocalization, accentuation, intonation. It also determines the speech signal in original speech recordings efficiently, quickly and accurately. With RVD it takes three to four months to build a new language. It can be used to create TTS for a language for which they do not have a great deal of definitive linguistic and semantic knowledge.

The new IVONA TTS engine includes a robust, extended language model that intelligently interprets addresses, numbers, dates, abbreviations, accents in words, sentence intonation, as well as complex linguistic intonations, ensuring precise conversion to synthetic speech.

RVD uses basic information about the phonemes of the language (a phoneme is the smallest sound unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinct meaning). Producing TTS with RVD requires a huge number of books and articles in the language, recordings in the language, and some limited information about the linguistics and semantics of the language. In the RVD process the model of the language is basically taught, it 'learns by itself' from the data – it is artificial intelligence. Millions of text sentences are required in the first process, followed by thousands of sentences spoken aloud (the "voice talent" in a studio) – then the language model is incorporated into the learning algorithm.

RVD has been in use by IVONA for one and a half years. They have built TTS for German, French, Castilian Spanish, American Spanish, Polish, American and British English, Romanian, Welsh (considered a dying language) and Welsh English. No one at IVONA had knowledge of the Welsh language, but with the tools they have developed they were nonetheless able to build TTS for it. Dialects are also handled within the IVONA TTS system.

Three Innovative Economy Operational Programme Grants

IVONA Software logoIn 2010 IVONA Software (which was named IVO Software until several months ago) was awarded three grants through the Innovative Economy Operational Programme. The first was for creating the Rapid Voice Development technology (described above); this portion has been finalized successfully. The second is for "IVONA embedded" – creation and research for algorithms to make IVONA smaller to fit into very small devices both in terms of memory and processor power. The third is for the creation of TTS for ten new languages (a mix of European and Asian languages) – "IVONA Poliglota". Both are under development.

IVONA TTS Achieves Top Score

Earlier this month VIA (Voice Information Associates) which publishes ASRNews (Automatic Speech Recognition News) released a study which evaluated the accuracy performance of 10 commercially available Text-to-Speech (TTS) products. Testing was done using a collection of more than 1,500 phrases. The test words and phrases were divided into seven categories including the handling of numbers, words of foreign origin, acronyms and abbreviations. The average overall score was 72.6% correct, with overall scores ranging from 55.1% to 94.5%. IVONA TTS ranked highest in 5 of the 7 categories and achieved the highest overall score. Additional information about the test processes and results is online on the ARSNEWS website and the Enhanced Online News (EON) announcement "Text-To-Speech Upstart IVONA Outranks Several Prominent Tech Companies in Major Industry Accuracy Study".

Lukasz Osowski and Mickael Kaszczukat at the IVONA booth at the CSUN 2011 Exhibit Hall Both the EON announcement and the article IVONA, BrightVoice Technology Release Next-Generation TTS Engine in "Next Generation Networks: October 07, 2010 eNewsletter" close with a statement about IVONA's commitment to accessibility: "In support of its long-standing commitment to accessibility, the Company works closely with the largest organizations supporting blind and visually impaired people in the world, including Royal National Institute for Blind and DAISY Consortium." (EON)

IVONA's Text-To-Speech HQ Mobile app

Even more recently IVONA Software announced the release of its new Android application which allows those with an Android device to use IVONA voices in their speech enabled apps. IVONA's Text-To-Speech HQ mobile app is available on the Android Market, and during the introductory period (until September 15) new users can use IVONA voices at no cost. Additional information and a link to download the app are provided on the IVONA news page: IVONA raises Android users experience with higher quality voices.

Additional information about Synthetic Speech and TTS is available in the article Is it a Computer or a Human 'Speaking'?. Please also read Part 1 of the IVONA article IVONA, Passionate About Helping People. Both are published in the April DAISY Planet. Full details and numerous samples of IVONA voices are available on the IVONA website.

More than Just Books

How Online Delivery Provides a Gateway to Information

Neil Jarvis (in the forefront) and Stephen King at the recent 2011 DAISY General Meeting, Helsinki, FinlandSubmitted by Neil Jarvis, Executive Director for Access Innovation & Enterprise at the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB), and DAISY Board representative for RNZFB.

It was inspiring to read in the last issue of the DAISY Planet how the DAISY community in Finland has become the first to implement the DAISY Online Protocol. Delivery of its library content to borrowers using a PTX1 digital player is a sign that the way of the future is fast becoming the way of the present (Moving DAISY Online in Finland).

In that same issue, we read of the use of DAISY to deliver critical life-saving information following the disasters in Japan on 11 March this year (Japan DAISY Consortium: DAISY for Critical Life-Saving Information).

Both articles, while written completely separately, give us an indication of the direction things are moving in – and it's an exciting one.

The implementation of the DAISY Online Protocol is set to revolutionise the way all our libraries deliver content too our clients. No longer will we be at the mercy of the postal system. No longer will borrowers have to wait days, or even longer, before their chosen books reach them and are ready to read – all that without the need to know or care about using a computer.

The experiences of our colleagues in Finland as they roll out this new service will doubtlessly greatly influence the rest of us when it comes to planning our own online delivery model.

But if there is one thing we have been reminded of painfully this year by the disasters in Japan and New Zealand, it is that the potential which DAISY provides goes way beyond the traditional model of delivering library books. Any information of interest to our clients is fair game for delivery.

Information in the mailbox has been a standard feature in the lives of sighted people for years. Each day their mailboxes brim over with letters, leaflets, booklets about this and that, special offers from local commercial outlets, and information from local and national governments. People who are blind or have a print disability miss out on this information mountain, even though some of it is crucial to allowing people to fully participate as citizens in their communities.

Enter the DAISY Online Protocol and the DAISY player. With this combination, our organisations can "push" information to our clients from any number of sources. Of course we can send them information about our organisation's activities, or material which we publish. In this way alone we will in many cases have better communication with our clients than we have ever been able to have before.

But we can also partner with external agencies, such as government departments, local authorities and commercial entities to get the information our clients need to them in a form they can read.

Many DAISY Consortium members already make information other than books available to their clients online, usually in the form of downloadable material from a website. In this way, daily newspapers, magazines and public information documents have been available in some countries for some time. What the combination of the Online Protocol and a DAISY player now gives us is the ability to "push" that information, at will (or at the will of the client) to those who will never be comfortable "pulling" such information from websites. What's more, we can do it quickly. So if we need to get safety information to our clients quickly in the aftermath of a disaster, we can do this in hours rather than days.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind recently experienced first hand how this would have been invaluable. On 7 February, we launched, in partnership with our national Civil Defence Authority, a DAISY booklet filled with tips on how to get through the aftermath of an earthquake. Interest in such a document had been particularly heightened following the earthquake in Christchurch, NZ last September. Many of our clients requested copies of this publication. Some were able to download it instantly from a website, however most waited for the CD to arrive in the post.

Within two weeks of that launch, a devastating earthquake struck Christchurch once again. We know that some of our clients benefitted in a very real way from having received their CD in the post, but how many more might have benefitted if we'd been able to send the booklet directly to their players. In future that is exactly how we will do it.

It's high time that people who have a print disability move from the book famine they currently experience to the information mountain everyone else is offered every day. The DAISY Online Delivery Protocol is going to be an invaluable tool in making that happen.

Thanks go to Neil Jarvis, of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind for submitting this article for publication in the DAISY Planet newsletter.

Letters to the Editor

Dear Lynn,

On behalf of the DAISY Consortium, we thank our colleagues at Celia Library in Helsinki as well as all of the other representatives and members of the Finnish DAISY Consortium for the wonderful job they did in ensuring the success of the 2011 "DAISY Today" Conference.

Memorable and meaningful DAISY Community events such as this would not be possible without the efforts of many people. "Kiitos!"

Varju Luceno
Director of Communications
DAISY Consortium


[This inquiry was recently posted to the DAISY General Forum.]

I went to download the ZedVal DAISY 3 validator just now. Its original home on Sourceforge has moved to Google Code, but Google Code has no files(!). Has an open source project actually been erased from the internet? There are no download links, and the "hg clone" command returns an empty directory. The Google Code browse link reports no files in the project.

Any ideas what is going on?



Dear Lester,

The ZedVal releases are still available on SourceForge.

The source code has well been ported to the Google Code project, under the "zedval" repository (Google Code projects using Mercurial as their version control system can have several repositories). The source code can be checked out with: zedval daisy- validator at Google Code.

For your information, the daisy-validator Google Code project is a placeholder for validation-related DAISY projects. However, no concrete development is being done at the moment.

Bits & Pieces

• NISO (National Information Standards organization) has very recently posted an outline of the activities of the newly established NISO E-book Special Interest Group (SIG) including the work being done in relation to the DAISY Standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.86, Specifications for the Digital Talking Book) and EPUB 3. Full details are available on the NISO website on the page NISO and E-books: Current Areas of Engagement.

• As a result of the work of the Reading Rights Coalition in the US, last week the Department of Education wrote to all US colleges and universities and all K-12 school districts to provide guidance on their obligations to use accessible educational technology. This means that all schools at all levels are on notice that they cannot use inaccessible educational technology, including ebook readers, web mail, or online learning. The Department of Education has prepared a FAQ which is online. The letter to elementary and secondary schools and the letter to institutions of higher education are also posted online.

• DAISY Forum of India, in collaboration with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, hosted a two day conference this month in Bangalore, India. Delegates from eight Indian states met to develop common strategies and goals covering the next five years for the entire network of organizations involved in the provision of assistive technology for people who are blind or who have a visual disability. Visit This Week in for further details.

• Two free EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information) Webinars about DAISY will be held in June: 1/ "AMIS: the Free, Open Source Software DAISY Player", presented by Marisa DeMeglio, Software Developer for the DAISY Consortium – June 21 at 11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern time, and 2/ "Word to DAISY Add-in", presented by Professor Mireia Ribera, PhD in Library Science from Universitat de Barcelona, and Afra Pascual, BS in Computer Human Interaction from Universitat de Lleida – Thursday, June 30, 11 AM Pacific 2 PM Eastern and 8 PM in Barcelona. Details and online registration are on the EASI Webinar page.

• The article Bookshare: What It Offers People Who Are Deaf-Blind by Liz Halperin and Kristina King Cohen was posted earlier this month. It describes Bookshare services and looks specifically at issues such as the combined Deaf and Deaf-Blind (DB) Bookshare collection.

• The W3C WAI Research and Development Working Group (RDWG) will soon resume work to help:
* increase accessibility considerations in research on web technologies, including mainstream research
* suggest research questions that may contribute to web accessibility research projects
* inform development of web accessibility solutions
* decrease the number of potential barriers in future web-related technologies

• To learn more about the Working Group, please visit the RDWG home page. If you are interested in participating in RDWG, please also review the RDWG Charter. Information about how to join RDWG is on the Participating in the Research and Development Working Group (RDWG) page.

• BarrierBreak Technologies in collaboration with DAISY Forum of India and AccessAbility have prepared the white paper Inclusive Libraries. It is available in accessible PDF, Word, and as a Digital Talking Book from the BarrierBreak Technologies website.

• Two additional Hachette distribution clients, Gildan Media Corporation and The Amazing People Club, have signed agreements with Bookshare, and are contributing content with world rights to Bookshare in EPUB format. Details are available on the Bookshare Blog.

Rehabilitation International (RI) and the DAISY Consortium held a combined meeting on May 21 in Korea to discuss the issue of disaster preparedness and recovery as part of mainstream development and delivery for people with disabilities. Details are provided in the RI press release: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery - Mainstreaming Disability. RI was founded in 1922 and in 1969 developed the International Symbol of Access.

Tech Tips

• The DAISY Pipeline, a multi-facetted transformation tool, is in use around the world and has been incorporated into numerous other software programs. The Project Charter for the Pipeline 2, Phase 2 extends from October 2011 through to September 2013. The Charter was approved in principle at the recent meeting of the Consortium's Board of Directors.

WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) Guidelines and Techniques are available on the W3C website. This page contains more than ten links to documents and other publications such as "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview", "User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) Overview", and "WAI Technical Papers".