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Poet image description tool: Now with enhanced training module, EPUB 3 support

2014 October 14
Submitted by Sue-Ann Ma, Product Manager, Benetech
Benetech released an updated version of Poet, our open-source image description tool, on Friday, September 26th. The highlight of the update is our new Image Description Training Module. The new training module introduces novice describers to the importance of providing accessible images and leverages important research from DIAGRAM Center partners to provide more user-centric tools that help describers figure out “When to describe?” This first phase would not have been possible without the subcontract research work from Touch Graphics on their Decision Tree and online templates that guide novice image describers. Concepts from the Accessible Image Sample Book from the DIAGRAM Content Working Group were also integrated into the module. Feedback from users has been very positive. As one veteran “image slammer” from a Benetech university partner program put it:
“The new training is easily found all on one section of the POET website. It is short, concise, aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand. I love it!!!” - Rachel Schwartz, SIP Internship Director, Brigham Young University
The latest release also expands file format support so that image descriptions can now be created on Poet for EPUB3 files (previously limited to DAISY). Descriptions are tagged in accordance with industry-standard specifications, also noted as item #7 on the DIAGRAM Center’s “Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB3 Files.” Additionally, Poet’s updated Image Checker tool (login required) makes it possible for users to do a quick review of various types of image descriptions (such as alt, captions, aria-describedBy, aria-describedAt, longdesc) embedded in an EPUB3 file.
Benetech looks forward to growing the new training module, incorporating additional reference guides, best practice examples, and hands-on exercises with the continued involvement of the DIAGRAM Center community. Please feel free to take it for a spin and send us feedback. We welcome any and all comments and suggestions.




Benetech Receives IMLS Grant for National Forum on 3D Printing for Accessible Education

2014 October 9
by jnoblitt

We are extremely excited to announce that the Institute of Museum and Library Services has now awarded Benetech a 2014 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant to hold a National Forum on the intersection of 3D printing, libraries and museums, and accessible education. This year-long project seeks to define how existing and upcoming 3D printing programs in libraries and museums across the country can help overcome technology and resource challenges so that 3D printing can be applied to improve STEM education for students with disabilities. The National Forum, tentatively scheduled for Spring/Summer 2015, will:

  • bring together 30+ experts in these fields to survey and understand existing efforts
  • design an effective partnership model with key stakeholder groups, and
  • propose effective metrics for additional projects in this area.

In addition to holding the forum, we’ll create a few resources, including a Quick Start Guide for educators and maker spaces, and a small collection of 3D printable models optimized for classroom use.

The next steps for this project will include putting together an Advisory Committee that will help us work closely with the library, museum, and maker communities as well as set the agenda for the National Meeting. We hope to engage many of you soon in the discussions ahead. We are excited to grow our community of stakeholders and keep pushing for better ways to make sure all students get the educational materials they need. As always, stay tuned!

DIAGRAM Out and About: August 2014 Update

2014 August 26
tags: , , ,
by jnoblitt

Tobi 2.4 Brings Parallel Production Capability for EPUB 3 Projects

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Varju Luceno

In June 2014, the DAISY Consortium announced the new release of the next generation open source multimedia book production tool, Tobi. Tobi is a unique software tool that can produce publications compliant with both the DAISY 3 and the mainstream EPUB 3 specifications. It includes the unique capability of adding accessibility enhancements, such as image descriptions, to the mainstream EPUB 3 publications. From the Change Log:

DIAGRAM image descriptions: EPUB3 export (XHTML5), including audio and alternative images (like DAISY projects), based on @longdesc, @aria:describedAt, @aria:describedBy / iframe + fixed metadata issue when importing DIAGRAM XML.

This release also addresses reported issues and includes other bug fixes. To download Tobi or to learn more about it, please visit the Tobi project area For more information about what’s new in this release, please visit the change log

DAISY Pipeline 2 Version 1.8 Brings Enhanced File Conversion Options

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Varju Luceno

The DAISY Pipeline 2 is a cross-platform, open source tool for converting documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities. The latest release, Version 1.8 includes a variety of bug fixes and improvements, including the new Text-to-Speech (TTS) based DTBook to DAISY 3 converter, better handling of image descriptions, rewritten HTML5 converter as well as the production of EPUB 3.0.1-compliant publications.  For details, please see the release notes on Github. (Pipeline 2 releases are hosted on GitHub servers since version 1.7.)

The HTML to EPUB 3 converter intends to implement the DIAGRAM Center’s “Image Guidelines for EPUB 3” by converting any local DIAGRAM descriptions to off-page HTML descriptions embedded as visually-hidden iframe elements and linked to images by aria-describedby attributes.

The first preview of the newly developed Text-to-Speech based audio production modules and Natural Language Processing-based structure detection modules is included in this release, available in a new DTBook to DAISY 3 converter. Text-to-Speech based production will be further tested and improved over the coming months to support the production of EPUB 3 with TTS-based Media Overlays from DTBook or HTML. TTS adapters are available for a variety of platforms and TTS engines including Acapela TTS (v7), eSpeak, SAPI 5 voices on Windows, and Mac OS X voices. Developers are working on a simple Graphical User Interface (GUI) that will be available in the end of 2014.

Pipeline 2 Version 1.8 requires the installation of Java SE 7. Also, please note that the SAPI 5 adapter currently requires the installation of Visual C++ Redistributable Package’s runtime components, available for free on Microsoft’s web site.


SETDA Recommends DIAGRAM’s Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3

2014 August 26

In June 2014 the SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) published a policy brief entitled, “The Accessibility of Learning Content for All Students, Including Students with Disabilities, Must Be Addressed in the Shift to Digital Instructional Material.”  The brief includes a recommendation that readers follow DIAGRAM’s “Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3” (see page 8 of report). Full text of brief is available in PDF. An article about the report is here:

August 2014 Content Update

2014 August 26

Content Working Group Update

After a break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the DIAGRAM Content Working Group will soon resume regular meetings. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. Following on outcomes from the Airlie strategic planning meetings, the WG will continue to discuss possible updates to Version 1.1 of the Accessible Image Sample Book, and the design of an accessible image registry, as well as work on updates to the image description guidelines. If you would like to join this Working Group, please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober at <elaine [dot] ober [at] pearson [dot] com> and Lucia Hasty at <lucia [at] tactilegraphics [dot] org>. Visit the wiki page to see past meeting notes.

DIAGRAM Resources Cited in New CAST UDL Web Site

As part of CAST’s web-based resource called “UDL On Campus: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education,” the Accessible Image Sample Book, and DIAGRAM’s Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3 are cited the section called, “EPUB: Supporting Learner Variability in EPUB Creation.”

August 2014 Training & Outreach Update

2014 August 26

New Models for Creating Accessible Interactive Widgets for STEM Learning

On August 7, 2014, Kyle Keane of Wolfram Research and Madeleine Rothberg of NCAM teamed up to present new DIAGRAM research into current best practices for making dynamic scientific graphics accessible to persons with print disabilities. A walk-through of a working example and its source code was included as well as demos of examples of interactive widgets forthcoming from Pearson. More than 60 publishers, UX designers, accessibility researchers, and developers tuned in, and reactions were enthusiastic to say the least. Here is a sampling of comments that came in via the chat window during the webinar:

“This is fantastic…”

“Thank you for such amazing work! This is fantastic! REALLY great stuff!”

“I am stunned with amazement over this accessible drag-and-drop…”

“I am alerting all my Facebook and Twitter friends to your code…”

“Thanks everyone for making this happen!”


Visit the DIAGRAM Center webinars web page to download the PowerPoints and view the closed-captioned recording of the webinar. You can also download a copy of Kyle Keane’s full report and experiment with his working example by visiting the Research page on the DIAGRAM web site.

Outreach Working Group Update

After a break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group will resume regular meetings next month. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. Following on outcomes from the Airlie strategic planning meetings, we will be focusing on synthesizing the DIAGRAM tool suite with narrative of our story to show clearly how students can benefit from our work and discussing what we can use to determine metrics for success of DIAGRAM initiatives. If you would like to join this Working Group, please contact Julie Noblitt at <julien [at] benetech [dot] org>. As always, you can access past meeting notes on the Outreach Working Group wiki.

August 2014 Software Development Update

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

New DIAGRAM Subcontract with the AMS

Submitted by Sue-Ann Ma

We have an exciting update to our January 2014 blog post on Microsoft’s decision to fund Benetech’s MathML Cloud project. Last month, we signed a new subcontract with the American Mathematical Society (AMS), marking a big step for work that aims to broaden the reach of math accessibility across various reading platforms. The AMS work will extend the availability of existing visual and aural rendering capabilities using MathJax’s display engine and Chromevox’s speech rules. By eliminating Document Object Model (DOM) restrictions that require the presence of specific polyfill, JavaScript, and content support, content creators will soon be able to auto-generate math images, descriptions, and mathematical source codes directly on a server. These MathML Cloud components can then be inserted into the original source file, making mathematical expressions accessible in a scalable, platform-independent way. For more information about the MathML Cloud project, and to sign up for updates, visit

Tools Working Group Update

After a brief summer break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the Tools Working Group will resume regular meetings next month. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. We will be working on our refreshed goals from the Airlie strategic planning meetings and hope to have some interesting guest speakers this fall as well. Stay tuned! In the meantime, contact Tools Working Group chair Geoff Freed <geoff [underscore] freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you have any questions. And, as always, you can access past meeting notes on the Tools Working Group wiki.