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Vote to Get Image Accessibility on Stage at SXSWedu 2016

2015 August 19
by jnoblitt

Vote for our SXSWedu session!Head over to the SXSW PanelPicker and give our session, “No More Yoda Heads: 3D Printing 4 Diverse Learners”  a big thumbs-up! Voting deadline: September 4, 2015!

Ready to vote? Click here!

SXSWedu® fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education. We need your help to bring our amazing panel to Austin in 2016, where we hope to share the incredible excitement, creativity, and innovation in accessible STEM education that we generated together during our recent national forum on 3D printing for accessible educational materials.

Our proposed session for SXSWedu 2016 is: No More Yoda Heads: 3D Printing 4 Diverse Learners. Research suggests that 3D objects are important for learning and reinforcing complex spatial concepts that are difficult to convey or explore in any other way (e.g., cells and DNA). Although many schools have access to 3D printing technology, many machines are underutilized and used to print novelty items. In this session, learn about new collaborations with libraries and museums to help support teachers in providing multi-modal access to complex STEM topics as well as utilizing student talent to create innovative learning tools.

The panel will include:

Voting opened August 10th and runs through Sept. 4, 2015. Want to do even more? Add a comment and/or share your support with your social networks by clicking on the “share this idea” button on the left-hand side of the session entry. Thank you!

Read more about the national forum on 3D printing for accessible education on the Benetech blog: Convening Communities for Good: On the Frontier of 3D Printing for Accessible Education.

Pearson Uses Poet, Accessible Image Sample Book for Staff Training

2015 July 31
by jnoblitt

Elaine Ober, Head of Accessibility Advocacy, Pearson

We were delighted to learn recently that Pearson’s Global Accessibility Team will be conducting a massive training initiative this summer and fall for their staff. Elaine Ober, Pearson’s  Head of Accessibility Advocacy, has developed an “Accessible Images Series” that will be part of the training.  The series has two parts of about 90 minutes each.  Part 1 is “Making Decisions about Description” where, among other things, she uses the Decision Tree and exercises in the Poet Training Module.  Part 2 is “Writing Alternative Text for Complex Images,” which includes a variety of examples, including some from the Accessible Image Sample Book, which she uses in the final section of the training to show examples of tactile graphics and MathML. “I strongly urge the participants to explore it more on their own,” Elaine commented, “and I think most do.”

It wasn’t surprising to learn that Elaine’s training has been well received by staff.

“Thank you for the outstanding training. I learned so much and it was interesting and informative and really, really well done.”

“I thought it was a really helpful session, even though I’m reasonably familiar with the basics. Working through the image description basics (colour, language, emotions, etc) was really helpful, before going into subject-specific examples….Some of the complex flowcharts and graphs I can see being common to lots of subjects.”

Have you heard of others using DIAGRAM training materials to create content that is accessible from the start? Tell us your story!

New Expanded Image Description Guidelines Now Available

2015 July 31
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Center has long sought to break down the barriers in education caused by inaccessible images by creating tools like Poet, MathML Cloud, and the Accessible Image Sample Book. Now, in partnership with the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), we have created a new resource: DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines 2015.

With more than 70 pages of image description guidance, the new Guidelines include best practices for describing a wide range of image types, including art, photos, cartoons, chemistry, mathematics, maps, and much more.

The Word document has been posted to the DIAGRAM web site home page and on the Poet information page, and we are in the process of creating an HTML version as well in order to facilitate navigation and discoverability of this resource. We will send out an announcement as soon as the web version of the Guidelines goes live. In the meantime, you are welcome to download the Word version and share with colleagues. Enjoy!


New DIAGRAM Webinar: Accessible Math for Ebooks Using MathML Cloud

2015 June 29
by jnoblitt

Registration is now open for the next DIAGRAM webinar:

Title:               Accessible Math for Ebooks Using MathML Cloud
Date:               Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Time:              11:00 a.m. Pacific (2:00 p.m. Eastern; 20:00 GMT)
Presenters:  Sanders Kleinfeld, Director of Publishing Technology, O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Sue-Ann Ma, Product Manager, Benetech


Description:   Making mathematical equations accessible in ebooks has traditionally been challenging for STEM publishers. Because many popular ereading platforms (such as Kindle and Nook) have limited support for semantic, XML-based formats for equation markup (MathML and SVG), publishers typically fall back on embedded bitmap images (JPG, PNG, or GIF). However, these formats are not innately accessible to screen-reading technologies, and limit the accessibility of mathematical content to users with print disabilities.

To address this problem, Benetech’s MathML Cloud (now in beta version 1.0) provides tools for optimizing the accessibility of math content for all ereaders. MathML Cloud generates MathML and SVG for platforms that support these formats, and also produces bitmap images with alternative text descriptions for screen readers, making it possible to generate mathematical content — using LaTeX, AsciiMath, or MathML – that is optimized for both display and accessibility.

This webinar will provide a walkthrough of MathML Cloud’s key features, and show how O’Reilly Media has integrated it into their ebook production workflows.

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

“Sprint” Generates Prototype Query Tool for MathML Support

2015 May 29
by jnoblitt

Math sprintOn May 5, 2015 the DIAGRAM Center welcomed Neil Soiffer, Steve Noble, and Sina Bahram for a one-day math sprint with Benetech staff to work jointly on a new prototype tool that will allow users to determine what combination of hardware and software will support the reading of MathML. By the end of a lively day of discussion a work sessions, a data model for the tool was created.

Once completed, the tool will be useful to students and others who need a quick way to know whether a given digital math book can be voiced accurately using their existing screenreader and device.

“Math accessibility has advanced significantly in recent years, but the unique combination of technologies required to read math remains complex and unapproachable for most end-users,” said Sue-Ann. “I am really excited that this team of collaborators has come together to help solve this problem.”

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks. We will be reaching out to the DIAGRAM community to for input on this project in the coming weeks. In the meantime, contact Sue-Ann Ma at sueannm [at] benetech [dot] org if you would like more information about the project.

What We Are Reading

2015 May 29

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

May 2015 Standards Working Group Update

2015 May 29
tags: , ,
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. Recent topics include the following:

  • The EPUB 3.1 Road map is being evaluated, but we can expect it to be mostly completed in the first quarter of 2016 with final approvals in the 2nd quarter.
  • In the W3C Digital Publishing (DPUB) interest group, a revised charter is being developed. The focus is on Advancing Portable Documents for the Open Web Platform: EPUB-WEB
  • The development of a document around the development of a Baseline for Born Accessible EPUB 3 is gaining traction. This has been presented at Digital Book 2015 and will be delivered at the 9th European Electronic Accessibility Forum and at the DAISY Board meeting.

Please contact George Kerscher at <kerscher [at] montana [dot] com> if you would like more information about the Standards Working Group. To review past meeting notes please visit the DIAGRAM Standards WG wiki.

Wiley incorporates alt text to make content more accessible

2015 May 28
by jnoblitt

The global publishing company John Wiley & Sons has announced that, starting this month, it will begin including alternative text (alt text) in nearly all of its frontlist books. Wiley developed its alt text guidelines in consultation with the DIAGRAM Center and other industry standards organizations and is one of the first major publishers to include alt text this broadly. We are delighted to have helped contribute to this important milestone on the path to image accessibility in mainstream publishing. See Wiley’s press release and Benetech’s press release for more details.

May 2015 Tools Working Group Update

2015 May 28
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on March 30, 2015 with special guest speaker Neil Soiffer of Design Science. Neil kindly delivered an encore of his presentation at CSUN entitled, “Math Accessibility in 2015: Browsers, Word, and Beyond.” Please visit the Tools Working Group wiki for a link to the recording of the session as well as the PowerPoint presentation. The group will next meet on a date TBD in June 2015. Contact the Tools Working Group Chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you would like more information.

DIAGRAM Out and About

2015 May 28
  • DIAGRAM at London Book Fair – Accessibility Summit – London – April 15, 2015.
    • Robin Seaman presented Poet on a panel entitled, “The AAG Accessibility Toolbox.”
  • DIAGRAM at Book Expo America and IDPF Digital Book 2015 – New York City – May 27-28, 2015.
    • Robin Seaman and Charles La Pierre were in attendance.
  • DIAGRAM at the 9th European e-Accessibility Forum – Paris – June 8, 2015.
    • Betsy Beaumon, Neil Soiffer, Volker Sorge, and Alex Bernier will speak on a panel called “Making Complex Content Accessible.”
    • George Kerscher will speak on “Implementing the Legislative Strategy: Accessible Digital Publishing within and beyond the legal threshold.”
  • DIAGRAM at American Library Association Annual Meeting – San Francisco – June 23-30, 2015
    • Robin Seaman, Julie Noblitt, Lisa Wadors, and others will be in attendance to discuss and present the work of DIAGRAM and Benetech.

May 2015 Outreach Working Group Update

2015 May 28
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group met on March 12, 2015 to continue our discussion of the best way to collect DIAGRAM impact stories. The next meeting will take place on a date TBD in June. Contact Outreach Working Group Chair Julie Noblitt at julien [at] benetech [dot] org if you would like to help or if you have a story to share. As always, the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group wiki is the place to find our past meeting notes.

MathML Cloud 1.0 for Publishers: Renders Accessible Formats for Math

2015 May 28
by jnoblitt

May 2015 brought the beta release of MathML Cloud 1.0, an open source, cloud-based tool that automatically converts mathematical expressions into multiple formats that allow content developers to easily render digitized math in an accessible manner.

Using input from the publisher via an API, MathML Cloud generates the image (.png) that the publisher needs for display while also generating the image description, scalable vector graphics (SVG), and MathML that the reader needs for accessibility. In addition, the MathML is saved in the cloud for later retrieval and use by future reading systems as new technologies emerge. Because it is free and open source, publishers can easily integrate MathML Cloud into their content production workflow, ensuring that their MathML-encoded math is compatible with all reading devices and is made accessible from the outset.

The idea for MathML Cloud had its origins during DIAGRAM’s “Born Digital, Born Accessible Sprint” in May 2013, where participants were eager to test the idea of converting MathML into browser-agnostic, ARIA-accessible SVGs by server-side processing of MathJax and ChromeVox using PhantomJS and Node.js. Now, the debut of MathML Cloud 1.0 has been made possible thanks to an award from Microsoft’s Solutions for Good Program, and through partnerships with the American Mathematical Society. It is built using open source technology for MathJax and ChromeVox, Google Chrome’s text-to-speech engine.

“Math is a universal tool and part of all sciences,” commented MathJax’s Peter Krautzberger, “but until now we did not have the technology parse it for accessibility in a non-proprietary way. A tool like this has never been open source before, and I am pleased that the work we have done here can now feed back into ChromeVox and other applications.”

During this beta period, we are eager to hear your feedback. Please take it for a spin and tell us what you think! Visit

May 2015 Content Working Group Update: AISB 2nd Edition is Released!

2015 May 27
by jnoblitt

Drumroll please! The DIAGRAM Content Working Group is delighted to announce the release of the 2nd Edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book. The revised edition includes several new samples, including music and cartoons, as well as additional modalities, such as haptics. Many thanks go to the newest member of the group, Joshua Tallent, Chief eBook Architect at Firebrand Technologies, for serving as content architect for the revised edition. You can find the latest epub files on GitHub or visit the DIAGRAM web site for the HTML version of the book.

The next meeting of the Content WG will take place in June on a date TBD. 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>.

HTML Standards and Longdesc

2015 May 27
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Geoff Freed

With the publication of the HTML5 Image Description Extension earlier this year, the debate about longdesc’s status in HTML is finally closed.  However, the debate about whether or not it’s the right way to convey long image descriptions is ongoing.  The good news/bad news is that there are multiple, legitimate methods for providing descriptions. As always, we will continue to update DIAGRAM’s Standards for Adding Long Descriptions to Your Content as new developments, if any, emerge.

On a related note, the W3C has moved the Techniques for Providing Useful Text Alternatives working-group note from a separate document directly into the HTML5.1 working draft.  This is good, because now authors will see this information right in the full spec, rather than needing to navigate to an outside document.  Interestingly, these guidelines do not mention longdesc as a text alternative.

CSUN 2015

2015 March 31
Left to right: Mia Lipner, Mark Hakkinen, George Kerscher, and Julie Noblitt

Left to right: Mia Lipner, Mark Hakkinen, George Kerscher, and Julie Noblitt at CSUN 2015 DIAGRAM “Office Hours”

Now that I have a third CSUN conference under my belt, I know what to expect: gorgeous waterfront location, sunny weather, and friendly people showing off all the coolest new technology they have been working on all year. Super wonderful. This year, as you can see in this month’s Out and About article, the DIAGRAM community was out in force to speak on innumerable panels on 3D printing, accessible math, haptics, “Born Accessible,” Poet, and more. It is truly inspiring and energizing to see all that the DIAGRAM Community (with a capital “C”) brings to the conversation.

This year’s agenda, as usual, featured many more sessions than I could attend and I am ever grateful for the write-ups that appear after the conference is over. Here are a few I recommend (and if you have others please list them in the comments section below):

DIAGRAM Office Hours and Makerspace

I always look forward to this informal get-together in the DIAGRAM hospitality suite at CSUN where we can all relax and catch up with each other away from the hustle and bustle of the conference floor. This year, given all the work we have been doing on 3D printing for accessible education, we decided to turn our suite into a mini Makerspace. Here are some of highlights:

  • Mark Hakkinen brought his prototype haptic displays so that we could feel for ourselves how it works. Take a look at Mark’s research report on the DIAGRAM web site, which includes a short video demo.
  • 3D Printer in Action

    3D Printer in Action at DIAGRAM’s mini Makerspace

    Lore Schindler and Mike Cheverie were on hand, along with Joan Horvath and her colleagues from Deezmaker, to show off the 3D printer that got the LA Unified School District experimenting with educational applications of the tool for the STEM classroom.

  • Lisa Wadors Verne, Project Lead on Benetech’s IMLS award to explore new ways in which 3D printing technology in libraries and museums can be used to improve learning and accessibility in a range of educational contexts, brought along a 3D “doodler” style pen and a 3D scanner. It was amazing to watch as a simple sweep of the scanner around me instantly rendered a 3D image on the screen.
  • There was also a tactile campus map of the kind that Lore Schindler wrote about in the DIAGRAM blog last fall. See that article here.
  • And, as Chris Hofstader mentioned in his blog post above, we were also treated to an impromptu demo by Doug Schepers of his amazing Describler tool for accessible SVG data visualization.

DIAGRAM’s Program Officer at OSEP, Glinda Hill, had this to say about the event:

Where else can you have snacks and beverages, see the latest products, talk with the makers, brainstorm new ideas and applications, and best of all have fun with your friends and colleagues while making new friends and potential collaborators.

If we were asked to rate this event, I would rate it “outstanding” based on the intensity and quality of the sounds (noise) emanating from the room as I entered the hallway, the standing-room-only crowd, the buzz of conversation, the laughter and the number of people still engaged in conversations at the end of the event.

Thank you and Benetech, for providing this great opportunity for colleagues and friends to chat and share ideas. What are you planning for 2016?”

We here at the DIAGRAM Center are truly grateful for the passion, creativity, and hard work that all of you contribute year in and year out toward our common goal of making digital images accessible to all readers. See you at CSUN 2016!