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3D Printing For Accessible Education

2015 September 30
by Amaya Webster

3d Printing National Forum

Thanks to a 2014 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and LibraryPeople gathered around several tables at the 3D forum. Services (IMLS), Benetech held a three day forum on 3d printing in accessible education from June 17 through June 19, 2015 at the Tech Museum of innovation in San Jose.  Over forty-five practitioners and end users in the fields of 3D printing technology and services, accessible education, tactile learning modalities, library and museum services, and educational content convened to survey and understand existing efforts at the intersection of 3D printing and education. They also worked to identify ways in which makerspaces and 3D printing resources can transform the educational experience of students with disabilities. The event culminated with a Design Day that included a “3D printing hackathon” focused on designing models for inclusion in a collection of exemplary STEM 3D printable objects for accessible education.  To read the full article about the 3D forum please visit A related article written by ALA information policy analyst and forum participant Charlie Wapner can be read at You can also follow the conversation on twitter at #3dA11y.

3D printing Quick Start Guide

It is with great pleasure that we announce the release of the 3D Printing for Education Quick Start Guide. The guide is a direct result of the collaboration that took place during the IMLS-sponsored 3D Printing National Forum hosted by Benetech. The Quick Start Guide was created to help people use 3D technology in the classroom to facilitate accessible education and complements the work the DIAGRAM Center continues to do around 3d printing in education. The guide is an on-going living document intended to be a community-driven collaboration and we welcome and encourage feedback and comments.  If you wish to contribute to the guide, please email 3D <at>Benetech<dot>org.

Upcoming Webinar

Learn more about the IMLS-sponsored National Forum and the Quick Start Guide during a webinar hosted by DIAGRAM entitled “Building an Accessible Classroom with 3D Printing” on Wednesday, October 28, 2015. Stay tuned for more information and to find out when registration opens.

Extended Image Description Guidelines Update

2015 September 30
by Amaya Webster

The DIAGRAM Center has long sought to break down the barriers in education caused by inaccessible images by creating tools like PoetMathML 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 guidelines are available to download as a word document at, or can be read online at

What We Are Reading

2015 September 30
by Amaya Webster
  • The Trouble With Screenshots Those pictures of text are a convenient workaround for social media’s character limit — but they’re a big problem for the blind. Here’s why everyone should care.
  • Feel The Burn: We Made a Tactile Map of Black Rock City for Blind Burning Man Attendees  Burning Man has gone from an isolated San Francisco gathering to a world-famous festival, but still stands by its “10 Principles,” the first of which is “Radical Inclusion.” However, Burning Man may seem daunting for blind and low vision individuals. LightHouse built a tool to help.
  • Alert: DOJ Puts Pressure on Schools and Ed Techs to Provide Accessible Educational Technology A recent DOJ enforcement effort in the education space serves as an important reminder to schools and colleges that they must carefully consider their obligations under the ADA when adopting new learning technologies.
  • (Bene)tech as a leveler How can we have robust conversations about addressing the unique challenges facing people with disabilities if we’re afraid to broach the subject of disability in the first place? We have to bridge the gap between our best of intentions and our actions in the world.
  • A Guide To Building SVG Maps From Natural Earth Data This article will explain how to create your own SVG maps using Natural Earth data and open source tools.
  • Let The Blind See On this site you will find the description of objects which either cannot be touched or just by touch cannot be appreciated.
  • MathML Language Certified an International Standard MathML 3.0, the markup language used to render mathematical expressions online and in other digital content, gets the imprimatur of two international standards organizations.
  • Introducing 3DA11y.Info a blog dedicated to contributing to a community effort to share information about the emerging opportunities in the domain of 3D accessibility.

DIAGRAM Out and About

2015 September 30
by Amaya Webster

September 2015 Tools Working Group Update

2015 September 30
by Amaya Webster

The DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on July 14, 2015 for a presentation from Sue-Ann Ma and Sina Bahram on mock-ups of the new prototype of Math Support Finder. (Previously Math Reading Support Matrix). The Math Support Finder will allow end-users to quickly determine what combinations of hardware and software will allow them to consume math in digital format.  Please visit the Tools Working Group page to access the notes from the meeting, to download the PowerPoint slides and/or to listen to the audio recording of the call. The Tools Working Group will meet again on a date TBD in October, 2015.  For more information please contact the group’s chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org>.

September 2015 Content Working Group Update

2015 September 30

The DIAGRAM Content Working group met on July 22, 2015 to discuss the completion of the second edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book which can be read or downloaded at  The group also discussed the status and next steps for the Accessible Image Repository/Registry, as well as the Benetech-hosted forum on 3D printing for accessible education. The forum was sponsored by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and took place June 17 through June 19, 2015.  The next meeting of the Content Working Group will take place in October, 2015 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>. See the Content Working Group wiki for past meeting notes.

September 2015 Standards Working Group Update

2015 September 30
by George Kerscher

The Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 (TIES) and the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group continue to meet twice a month. So far the group has submitted 9 requirements to the EPUB 3.1 process and developed a specification for audio only plus navigation to be used by EPUB 3 and media overlays. The reading systems that support media overlays with reflow should support this mechanism for delivering audio books.

Five modular extensions to EPUB 3.0.1 have been approved as final Recommended Specifications.  The specifications include:

In the W3C’s Protocol and Formats working group, extensive discussions have taken place to identify the best mechanism(s) for linking to external descriptions when longer ones are needed, such as those made possible through the Diagrammar.  While there have been formal objections to using longdesc, and also to aria-describedat, the “details” element in HTML 5.1 is being considered.

MathML, in addition to other issues, continues to be discussed in the W3C Digital Publishing interest group (DPUB). While there have been improvements in MathML accessibility, publishers sometimes remove the MathML and replace it with an image of the math, because reading systems are not displaying the MathML properly.

In the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) the “Top Tips” is being revised at the same time as the “Quick Start Guide is being developed. BISG is look at a publishing date in November for the Quick Tips Guide.

The work of testing reading systems continues at The accessibility of the various reading systems is being broadcast, and it seems that educational institutions are now considering the accessibility information in their decision making process.

IDPF will open a European Headquarters in Paris. Read the announcement at:

Goodbye and thank you!

2015 September 30
by jnoblitt

As I embark on my leave next month from Benetech to finish my degree program, I would like to thank all the fabulous members of the DIAGRAM Working Groups and all of the DIAGRAM Center followers who have never ceased to inspire me with your dedication, passion, creativity, innovation, and shared purpose toward creating a world where all students have an equal opportunity to learn.  I’d like to especially thank the Working Group chairs George Kerscher, Geoff Freed, Mark Hakkinen, Elaine Ober, Lucia Hasty, Jim Allan, and Kevin Yang who have cheerfully responded to all my requests for updates, reports, newsletter items, proposal ideas, and more things too numerous to mention over the last several years. You have all, individually, and as a whole, been an inspiration to me.  I have learned things from all of you, and will take with me the fondest of memories of my time with the DIAGRAM Center. As this Community (yes, with a capital “C”) embarks on the exciting road ahead I will be following the news and cheering you on.  I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring!

Introducing DIAGRAM CENTER +

2015 September 30
by anhb

We are thrilled to be embarking on the next generation of the DIAGRAM Center. With new 5-year funding from OSEP for the DIAGRAM Center +, we have new opportunities to expand the community, develop new tools and standards, explore new solutions for students with a range of disabilities, and have even more impact as we help make STEM content be born accessible and give more students access to the educational content they need.

Julie Noblitt, who has been our Community Manager extraordinaire for the last 3 years, will be leaving at the end of this month to complete her MBA at the Presidio School of Sustainable Management. Julie has been the driving force behind our website, newsletter, blog, Twitter feed, working groups, and webinars, as well as chair of our Outreach Working Group.  Her contributions to this community have been enormous and we’ll all miss her role enabling the connective tissue between us all to be so much stronger. Please join me in thanking her for all she’s done for DIAGRAM and in wishing her the best of luck in her next adventure!

Amaya Webster, who has worked closely with Julie in the past few months as a project coordinator, will be helping with keeping everything running smoothly. Questions that normally went to Julie can be sent to both Amaya and Anh Bui, who will do their best to make sure the community won’t miss a beat.

As we kick DIAGRAM + into gear, we’ll be bringing on additional dedicated resources to work on our expanded mission. That expanded mission includes activities that help students with disabilities beyond print disabilities, and apply to content beyond just images. Highlights include:

  • Prototyping a repository/registry of accessible images in multiple modalities (description, tactile, 3D objects), focusing on fundamental STEM concepts while eventually expanding to more multimedia such as interactives and video.
  • Piloting the timely customization and delivery of manipulatives for children with various disabilities, including working with partners such as gh and Derrick Smith
  • More work on accessible math, including more input and output options and a MathML support finder
  • An open repository of examples of reusable demonstration code for accessible versions of the most common digital interactions and modalities (e.g., haptic CSS, video transcription, interactive sliders, other stylesheets, 3D web-based models).
  • Leveraging the video work of the VDRDC (Video Description Research and Development Center) and their YouDescribe software.
  • In partnership with George Kerscher and the U.S. Fund for DAISY, furthering development of Readium to add and maintain accessibility features, especially ensuring support for the Diagrammar content model.
  • In partnership with WGBH/NCAM, developing and releasing demonstrations of accessible STEM digital learning assets (including videos and activities) for young children, based on the popular program PEEP and the Big Wide World
  • R&D on tech for children with disabilities not traditionally associated with print disabilities, including user testing, and working with publishers and educational technology companies who serve them
  • Integration and implementation tools and services, packaged for publisher partners and academic institutions, to make “born accessible” a reality in their workflow.
  • An annual DIAGRAM Report, a “horizon report” covering key promising new and existing technologies for multi-modal access to and creation of STEM materials.

And of course, we’ll continue our leading work on technical standards development, community engagement and expansion, technology development partnerships, and training and knowledge sharing. We can’t wait to see what we will create together in the years to come!

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: