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Next DIAGRAM Webinar: Tactile Graphics with a Voice

2015 February 9

Registration is now open for the next DIAGRAM webinar:

Title:                Tactile Graphics with a Voice
Date:                Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Time:               11:00 a.m. Pacific (2:00 p.m. Eastern; 19:00 GMT)
Presenter:       Richard Ladner, University of Washington


Description:    Are you a publisher, tactile graphics expert, or TVI who is interested in staying up to date on the latest developments in accessible tactile graphics? The Tactile Graphics Project at the University of Washington, with funding from the DIAGRAM Center, has created “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” (TGV), a QR-code reading app that allows text within tactile graphic images to be read and voiced by a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android phone. In this webinar, lead researcher Richard Ladner will discuss the importance of tactile graphics, some alternative approaches to creating them, and give a demonstration of the TGV in action.  A user study of TGV will be also be presented. Dr. Ladner will give us a peek into the future of new approaches to tactile graphics, including wearable devices such as Google Glass. See the published paper about this work, which won Best Student Paper at the October 2014 ACM SIGACCESS conference on computers and accessibility.

Visit the entire library of free training resources from the DIAGRAM Center!

DIAGRAM Out and About: December 2014 Update

2014 December 30
tags: , ,
by jnoblitt

And, please save the date for our third annual DIAGRAM “Office Hours” get-together on Thursday March 5th (5:30 – 7pm). This year we will include a mini “Maker Space” with 3D printing and haptics demos. Further details forthcoming in the new year.

What We Are Reading

2014 December 30

Here are a few items that caught our attention since our last newsletter:

New Team Member at DIAGRAM

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Amaya WebsterAmaya Webster has joined the DIAGRAM team to help out on a part-time basis as a project coordinator. She has been with Benetech in Customer Support for Bookshare for the past two years, and now will help keep us moving on our many upcoming projects in DIAGRAM, including the Accessible Image Sample Book update and many other projects. Welcome Amaya!

3D Printing for Accessible Education: IMLS Award Update

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Lisa Wadors, Project Lead

In October we kicked off the start of the 3D Printing for Accessible Education grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.  We have just concluded the formation of the advisory committee and will have our first planning meeting this January.  Members of the committee represent a variety of educators, researchers, museums, libraries, technologists and organizations that support people with disabilities. All are leading the field in 3D printing for education. The committee will focus on the planning of a National Forum and help assess, explore, and collaborate around innovative 3D-printed learning tools, particularly for STEM education. Committee members will serve as liaisons to their respective communities to help us better understand their specific opportunities, needs, and challenges around 3D printing. Send your questions about the 3D Printing for Accessible Education project or sign up for updates by emailing us at <3D [at] benetech [dot] org>.

December 2014 Content Working Group Update: AISB 2nd Edition

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Content Working Group met on December 11, 2014 to discuss plans for the next revised edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book. The group is now considering which new image modalities to include, starting with Chemistry and Music. Find notes from the discussion on the wiki site for the Content WG. If you have any questions about this Working Group please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober <Elaine [dot] ober [at] pearson [dot] com> and Lucia Hasty [lucia [at] tactilegraphics [dot] org>.

DIAGRAM 2014 Year-End Roundup

2014 December 30

We may collectively look back on 2014 as the year that a tipping point was achieved in the widespread acknowledgement among mainstream publishers that accessibility of educational materials is not only critical but also achievable. It’s the year that Elsevier announced all images in 2015 publications will contain alt text. It’s the year that Pearson announced that MathML will be used in books produced in 2015 and beyond. It’s also the year that the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) established an Accessibility Working Group to create a “quick start guide” as a reference for all publishers who want to make their digital content accessible. The voices of all of us in the DIAGRAM Advisory Board and Working Groups have very much influenced this collective conversation. Because of your hard work all year, we are ever closer to achieving our goal of “born accessible” image content for current and future generations of students with disabilities.

Highlights from the year include:

For your part in all these accomplishments and so many more, we thank you. Onward and upward in 2015 and beyond!

December 2014 Software Development Update: Chemistry & Math

2014 December 30

Tools Working Group Update: Accessible Chemistry

The DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on December 17, 2014 for a special presentation by Volker Sorge of the University of Birmingham and the Scientific Document Analysis Group, who demonstrated his work on accessible chemistry. Refer to the meeting notes for a link to the recording of the session as well as contact information for Volker. Contact the Tools Working Group Chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you would like more information.

MathML Cloud video

Earlier this fall, we created a very short overview video describing what MathML Cloud does and we put a version of it up on YouDescribe, the crowd-sourced video description tool created by our friends at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. Be one of the first to see it, and let us know what you think. If you prefer, see the original version on YouTube (closed-captioned).

Description Templates for Common Graphics: Final Report

2014 December 30

Editor’s Note: This is a summary of completed DIAGRAM subcontract work, submitted by Steve Landau. Find the full report and links to the surveys for the templates by visiting the DIAGRAM Development web page.

Research Team: Steve Landau, Principal Investigator, with Lucia Hasty, Yue-Ting Siu, Josh Miele, and Val Morash

Project Overview

Rather than being expected to develop unique prose for each image they are tasked to describe, image describers should be supported to describe according to established guidelines. This will simplify their work, and may reduce cognitive load for readers. This project has created software that prompts describers with image description templates for common types of graphics, based on the NCAM STEM description guidelines. Image describers respond to questions regarding the basic characteristics of a diagram, and are guided through a fill-in-the-blanks process, which generates the first paragraph of an image description. The describer is then free to edit that paragraph and to append additional explanatory language. An assessment program built into the proposed project provides feedback on the consistency and accuracy of descriptions provided by users of the templates.


In analyzing the data generated during this study, the researchers determined that guided and unguided descriptions were equally likely to contain syntactic or content errors, contain text or table elements, and provide a description of the data and data trends. Guided and unguided descriptions were also equal in how long they took to create and their text word counts. However, guided descriptions were more likely to contain important image information, including the chart type, title, caption, and units. Furthermore, the participants found description using guidance/templates to be significantly easier, and they preferred this method over unguided description.

Future Directions

The current report assesses the production of image descriptions through unguided and guided interfaces, and compares the resulting descriptions on their accuracy and completeness. The guided descriptions were no more or less accurate than the unguided descriptions, but were more complete. The current research does not address whether unguided or guided descriptions promoted comprehension and usability. Further research will be needed to investigate what properties of descriptions work best for students and teachers, and whether these properties are encouraged or discouraged by our guided-description system.

For further information, please contact <info [at] touchgraphics [dot] com>.

Re-introducing the Content Model: “The Diagrammar”

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

“What is the Content Model, anyway?” we are sometimes asked. As those in the DIAGRAM community know, it provides a structured, standard way for image description data to be modeled, including multiple different types of descriptions for each image, teacher annotations, and pointers to tactile graphic files. Even though this model is used “under the hood” for content architecture and strictly speaking doesn’t require “branding,” we have long wanted to rename it so that it more intuitively conveys what it does and why it is important. We are therefore delighted to officially announce a new name for it: Diagrammar: A Framework for Making Images and Graphics Accessible. “Diagrammar” works on a number of levels – it has “diagram” in it, and it has “grammar” in it, and it suggests action!

Many thanks to George Kerscher for leading the charge, to Robin Seaman and Bryan Gould for taking the creative lead on brainstorming names, and to Gaeir Dietrich, who served as liaison from the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group to help out with the renaming process. The Diagrammar web page has been updated to reflect the change.

HTML 5 Image Description Extension; New Web Accessibility Tutorial on Images

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Geoff Freed

Following last month’s ruling on the inclusion of @longdesc in HTML5, the W3C has moved the HTML5 Image Description Extension forward to Proposed Recommendation status.  See for the document itself.  The implementation report is also available.  Note that the comment period for this extension specification ends on January 16, 2015.  Assuming no further objections are received, the W3C may publish the final recommendation shortly thereafter.

Although not new for December, back in September the WAI announced the availability of its Web Accessibility Tutorial on Images. The tutorial offers users basic guidance on how to write effective text alternatives for informative, decorative or functional images.  Other tutorials are available at

Standards Working Group Update: Preparing for EPUB 3.1

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by George Kerscher

The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group continues to meet jointly with the TIES (Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 eco System) Working Group on a biweekly basis, every other Tuesday, preparing for the upcoming EPUB 3.1 revision, scheduled to be completed in 2015. The next joint DIAGRAM and TIES working group meeting will take place January 6, 2015 at 15:00 UTC.

From the accessibility perspective, we have been working on requirements for the next revision. The items under development are:

  • updating the image description techniques; this has a dependency on W3C’s
    decisions on the proposed ‘longdesc’ attribute and work currently underway on ARIA 1.1 including the ‘aria-describedat’ attribute
  • further braille enhancements, with dependencies on CSS development, and the
    standardization of braille code identifications
  • enhancements to media overlays, which may include text and video
    synchronization for sign language. Also, metadata extension to identify the
    type of media overlay, e.g. text and audio, text and sign, text and video or
    audio only
  • further development and promotion of audio only EPUB (with navigation) and
    addition of modern audio codex
  • development of samples that demonstrate techniques used for creating accessible publications in EPUB 3.1 format

Readium will be holding meetings at the New York Public Library on January 13 and 14, 2015. Members of Readium Foundation gather on January 13, 2015 10:00 am -1:00 pm (U.S. ET) at the New York Public Library and via Web conferencing. NYPL Labs and Readium Foundation bring “Volume 2″ of their Open Book Hack Day to the New York Public Library on Wednesday, January 14.

The EDUPUB Community will meet in Phoenix on February 26 and 27, 2015. For further information, see and for registration details visit

Testing of reading systems continues at:

Finally, the draft of the white paper Advancing Portable Documents for the Open Web Platform: EPUB-WEB is now publicly available for review. Comments and suggestions are warmly welcome; it is a good read!

Please contact George Kerscher at <kerscher [at] montana [dot] com> if you would like more information about the Standards Working Group. All meeting notes continue to be posted on the DIAGRAM Standards WG wiki.

December 2014 Training & Outreach Update

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Outreach Working Group Update: Telling Our Story

The DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group met on December 18, 2014 with special guest speakers Maureen Hawes and Mike Sharpe, who both serve as DIAGRAM program evaluators. We asked them to talk with us about the best way to measure what impact DIAGRAM has had on the field. The answer came back an unequivocal: Storytelling! Don’t be surprised if we reach out to soon to ask, “What would the world have been like if DIAGRAM had not been established five years ago?” As we approach our final year of the DIAGRAM award, we will be collecting your ideas and observations to compile our story. Contact Outreach Working Group Chair Julie Noblitt at julien [at] benetech [dot] org if you would like more information. As always, the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group wiki is the place to find our past meeting notes.

DIAGRAM Webinar Series Continues in 2015

The DIAGRAM webinar series will resume in the new year with two topics that will be of interest to those who like to stay abreast of breaking new technologies in print accessibility. In the queue is a webinar with haptics experts from ETS and Senseg on new ways that haptic feedback can enhance learning materials. Also coming up, hear the latest research from the University of Washington’s Tactile Graphics Project, whose paper. “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” recently won a best student paper award at the ASSETS 2014 conference. Stay tuned for dates and registration announcements for these webinars in the new year.

What We Are Reading

2014 October 30
by jnoblitt

Here are a few items that caught our attention in the last month:

    • Wonderful TEDx talk by Chelsea Cook, a blind physics student from Virginia Tech who talks about how 3D printing made complex math concepts clear to her for the first time, including some great in-classroom footage of the teacher-student interaction where she has her “aha” moment – very moving: “Touch the stars”

Tactile Graphics with a Voice wins “Best Student Paper” award

2014 October 30

Earlier this year we reported that Richard Ladner’s DIAGRAM research was completed on a tool that converts image labels into a QR code that can be affixed to a graphic, allowing the image to be read and voiced by a smart phone. A paper has now been published about the work, which is part of the Tactile Graphics Project at the University of Washington. The paper is available as open access until early October 2015 and after that it is closed in the ACM Digital Library. Retrieve it here:

Catherine M. Baker, Lauren R. Milne, Jeffrey Scofield, Cynthia L. Bennett, and Richard E. Ladner. 2014. “Tactile graphics with a voice: using QR codes to access text in tactile graphics.” In Proceedings of the 16th International ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers & accessibility (ASSETS ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 75-82.

The paper was awarded Best Student Paper at the ASSETS 2014 conference this month. According to Dr. Ladner, a version of the iPhone app TGV to help read QR-codes will be in the App Store soon, and an updated version with a finger pointing feature should be in the store in a couple of months.  Congratulations to Richard and his team!