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The 2016 Accessibility Executive Breakfast and Informing the Development of a DAISY Certification

2016 June 9
by Charles LaPierre and Amaya Webster

This week DIAGRAM Co-P.I. George Kerscher and Benetech’s Director of Content Acquisition Robin Seaman are in New York at the Accessibility Executive Breakfast, speaking to a large collection of publishing industry notables about taking concrete steps toward born accessible publishing. With back-to-back talks on June 9, Robin will give an overview of how far the publishing industry has come in regards to accessible content, while George will provide a high level view of the practical IDPF accessibility work, insight into what conformance means, the metadata that will inform the public on the accessibility features, how the public can discover what accessible publications are available, and finally the software development initiative to help in the process. One of the big topics at the meeting will be the ongoing work on accessibility certification, as the pressure to create accessible content is intensifying, driven most dramatically by the demands in the education space. DAISY received a Google impact challenge award to come up with an accessibility EPUB certification program,, and in alignment with one of DIAGRAM’s goals of making “born accessible” a reality, Benetech will be helping with assessment and definition. Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to give feedback as this exciting endeavor unfolds!

Accessibility Task Force Publishes Accessibility Note

2016 May 3
by Charles LaPierre

As co-chair of the Accessibility Task Force of the W3C’s Digital Publishing Interest Group, I am thrilled to announce that we have officially published an accessibility Note entitled “Digital Publishing and Accessibility in W3C Documents” which can be found at

This Note is intended to help the W3C understand what is missing from WCAG in terms of digital publishing needs, provides guidance on resolving these shortcomings, outlines future work such as assessments, mathematics etc., and points to relevant work outside of the W3C that they should be aware of such as Diagrammar.

3D Printing and SXSW

2016 April 28
by Lisa Wadors

This year has been very exciting for our 3D printing work.  Building on the momentum of the 3D forum last summer, DIAGRAM members spoke about the use of 3D printed tactiles at two very prestigious conferences. Lisa Wadors Verne, Benetech and Charlie Wapner, American Library Association, discussed the need for using 3D objects for learning and reinforcing complex spatial concepts that are difficult to convey or explore using pictures alone. At SXSWedu in Austin Texas, they examined the idea of schools, libraries and museums all collaborating to help support teacher in providing multi-modal access to complex STEM topics as well as utilizing student talent to create innovative learning tools.  Read more here

Tools Working Group Update

2016 April 28
by Charles LaPierre

With our new Diagram Center + award, and after a few internal meetings here at Benetech, it has been decided that this DIAGRAM Tools WG (Working Group) will be disbanded.  In its place will be a new Developers WG which I am in the processes of forming and will be reaching out to all you developers out there for your buy-in to this exciting new opportunity to provide code samples and contribute to an open-source code repository of accessible widgets, tools and so much more! For those interested in joining the new Developers Working Group, please send an email to

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the Tools Working Group member who have worked so hard over the past five years and achieved so much, you have been amazing to work with and we can’t wait for all that we will continue to achieve in this new iteration of the group!

3D Printing Standards Working Group Update

2016 April 28
by Amaya Webster

The 3D Printing Standards Working Group last met on April 25 to discuss Next meeting: May 16, 2016 where they decided to continue holding bi-weekly meetings. The group also settled on modular publishing for the 3D printing standards that they a creating. The first topic they will be addressing is the best way to print braille. The group will next meet on May 16. For more information or to join the working group, please contact 3D Printing Standards Working Group chair Jim Allan at

Additional Resources (closed work – available to people working on the Diagram 3D Standards. Contact me for access.

DIAGRAM General Advisory Committee: Update

2016 April 28
by anhb

Welcome the DIAGRAM Center’s new General Advisory Committee!

We are absolutely thrilled to have formed a new, expanded General Advisory Committee for the DIAGRAM Center, thanks to our new award from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The new group—more than 50 members strong—builds on the existing DIAGRAM Advisory Board and combines returning members and new participants. Members represent a wide variety of stakeholders, including educators, parents of students with disabilities, publishers, developers, researchers, representatives from standards bodies, accessible media, and leading technology and disabilities organizations. In expanding the Committee we also wanted to emphasize the associations and skills necessary to reflect the needs of students with disabilities other than traditional print disabilities, including students with autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, or other disabilities. We welcomed new members from Gallaudet, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Colorado, the NCLD, and more. A full roster of members is available on the DIAGRAM website at


Standards Working Group Update

2016 April 28
by Charles LaPierre

W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group (DPUB) has been working on a new Portable Web Publications for the Open Web Platform (  In addition DPUB has created a WAI ARIA module for Digital Publishing ( The W3C Accessibility Task Force for the DPUB is in the process of publishing to the W3C our Accessibility Note entitled “Digital Publishing and Accessibility in W3C Documents” (

The EPUB Working Group’s Accessibility Task Force has been working on the new ePub 3.1 specification and has created an editor’s draft of “EPUB Accessibility” ( which has been published for general review.  The goal of this document is to be pointed to from the 3.1 ePub specification as a guide to make accessible ePub documents.  It is our hope that the EDUPUB profile would require conformance to this specification.

Content Working Group Update

2016 April 28
by Amaya Webster

The Content Working Group is going full steam ahead. Potential objectives for the first year of the new DIAGRAM + award were brainstormed during the meeting that took place in the first quarter. The second quarter meeting will be held towards the end of May at which points the objectives will be finalized and the group will begin work on what we can be sure will be exciting new content around making information accessible!

Out And About: CSUN Edition

2016 April 28

The DIAGRAM Center and the DIAGRAM Center Community made quite a strong showing at CSUN this year, so much so that we want to dedicate this section of the Digest to what we did, what we learned and why we love the CSUN conference!

Stevie Wonder with Mara Hinter, Betsy Beaumon, Lisa Wadors, Brad Turner, Glinda Hill and Charles La Pierre.

Tactile Graphics Solutions from 2D to 3D: CSUN 2016 Pre Conference Session

By Lisa Wadors, Bentech

At CSUN, Lisa teamed up with Gaeir Dietrich, California Community Colleges and Kaela Parks, Portland Community College to discuss Tactile Graphics Solutions from 2D to 3D.  This pre-conference session looked at a large variety of tactile solutions from the very low tech use of wiki stix to higher tech solutions involving 3D printers.  The goal of this working session was to provide participants with hands-on exploration of a variety of tactile solutions and to identify the right tools for their students. In addition the participants were able to see a 3D printer in action, learn how to optimize the usefulness of tactile learning objects in colleges and universities, and gain exposure to emerging resources and best practices.

Sprinting Towards Accessible Math

By Sue-Ann Ma, Benetech and Charles LaPierre, Benetech

Sprint participants discussing math while others hack away creating solutions. On Tuesday, March 22nd, the DIAGRAM Center, in partnership with OERPUB and OpenStax, and with funds from Kathi Fletcher’s Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship, hosted a one-day hackathon in San Diego. As some of you may recall, this same partnership and funding gave rise to the idea of MathML Cloud just a few years prior. Following on the successes of that collaborative hackathon, we decided to host a follow-up one-day event with the goal of bringing together technical industry and accessibility experts to identify and begin designing open source solutions in efforts to address the next round of challenges regarding digital math accessibility.

It was a pleasure and a rare opportunity to have so many brilliant minds in the same room in addition to a few who joined us remotely from abroad (Alan Harnum and Abi James)! The day was filled witA picture of Sina and James and a laptop with the BAM demo on the screen.h engaging conversations about different implementations of similar work (e.g. semantic tree structures), exploring new technologies such as machine learning for math, using synthesizers to ensure proper reading of math by TTS engines, and many other riveting conversations along with one good-natured argument.

The first of three prototypes that resulted from the day was produced by an all-star team comprised of Sina Bahram, Gerardo Capiel, Ross Reedstrom, Jason White, and Charles La Pierre. The team produced “BAM” (Bundling Accessible Mathematics), a web-based tool produced by the that allows users to switch to their preferred mode of accessing math content on the fly (e.g. use your AT to read MathML versus PNG with alt or SVG with alt).

Derek, Jamie, Volker, Josh, James and Kathi discussing the ClearSpeak rule set.The second prototype that resulted from the day was produced by another amazing team involving Volker Sorge, James Teh, Derek Reimer, and Neil Soiffer. The collaboration connected the open source tools and resources: NVDA, Speech Rule Engine, and the recently released ClearSpeak rule set. And by the end of the day, the team was able to demonstrate NVDA reading MathML using the ClearSpeak rule set.

The third one arrived the next day courtesy of Alan Harnum, one of our virtual attendees, who emailed us saying,

“I was inspired enough by the atmosphere to hack together a tiny demo using MathJax and D3″

Overall, I think the atmosphere for the day can best be described as fun, but intense. Everyone was eager to help produce something amazing and once ideas were identified, it was just a matter of sitting back and enjoying all the bright lightbulbs going off around the room. Sprint participant, Jamie Teh hit the nail on the head when discussing the sprint after dinner when he said,

“Having those people in the room meant that we could come up with a solution that was much more compelling than if I had just sat down by myself”

We agree with Jamie and want to extend a big thank you to all of our volunteer participants for helping move the needle towards making digital mathematics more accessible for all: Jacob Alexander, Sina Bahram, Gerardo Capiel, Kathi Fletcher, John Gardner, Markku Hakkinen, Alan Harnum, Wendy Holden, Abi James, Wunji Lau, Daniel Marques, Joshua Miele, Ross Reedstrom, Derek Riemer, Murray Sargent, Neil Soiffer, Volker Sorge, Marshall Sunnes, James Teh, Ender Tekin, and Jason White!

If you would like to learn more about any of the ideas discussed or pursued during this event, feel free to visit the Math Sprint website.

Accessible Images and Beyond: DIAGRAM Center +

By Sue-Ann Ma

This year at CSUN, the DIAGRAM Center community appeared in full force once again – leading the charge towards accessibility by presenting on dozens of sessions, among other conference events. While we would have loved to write about the plethora of wonderful presentations, this blog will focus on sessions that were explicitly about DIAGRAM or DIAGRAM products.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, our very own Anh Bui, set the tone by kicking off with the session: “Accessible Anh Bui addressing the crowd at her session.Images and Beyond: DIAGRAM Center +”. The session was so hot that it literally became a fire hazard and individuals from the overflowing room were asked by conference staff to leave midway (apologies)! If you weren’t able to hear the complete overview of our new DIAGRAM+ award, we welcome you to learn more by watching the rerun of the CSUN session, to be posted shortly on the DIAGRAM Center’s webinars page or to download the presentation PowerPoint slide deck here.

In addition to Anh’s session, DIAGRAM Center staff were also involved in a couple of product-related group sessions. Despite being scheduled late Friday afternoon, our back-to-back sessions “Discovering Accessible Math that Works with Your AT: Math Support Finder” and “Diagrammar Use Cases: A Framework for Making Images & Graphics Accessible” both drew an active CSUN crowd. During the math session (by Sue-Ann Ma, Sina Bahram, Joshua Hori, Neil Soiffer and Volker Sorge), the group unveiled the newest tool in our DIAGRAM Center repertoire, Math Support Finder, which aims to help educators and end-users find the combination of technologies required to read digital math accessibly. This was followed by a recap of some of the best-in-class tools available today, such as MathType/MathPlayer, WIRIS, and Pearson TestNav, and eventually concluded with a look ahead to cutting-edge, web-based solutions being developed by the MathJax Consortium. The PowerPoint slides for “Discovering Accessible Math that Works with Your AT: Math Support Finder” can be downloaded here, and the slide desk for “Diagrammar Use Cases: A Framework for Making Images & Graphics Accessible” can be downloaded here.

The second of the two panel sessions was about Diagrammar (by Sue-Ann Ma, Becky Gibson, Markku Hakkinen, and Charles La Pierre), a concept that opens the doors to integrating various text options and interactive modalities into the digital (EPUB3) reading experience. The session began by introducing the Diagrammar concept, followed with IBM and ETS sharing how this new framework might be used in the corporate world or for educational testing, and wrapped up with reports about how this technology has been received by early testers as well as both challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Diagrammar Focus Group highlights

By Sue-Ann Ma

Focus Group Participants discussing Diagrammar in the Benetech suite. Also on Wednesday, March 23rd, The DIAGRAM Center hosted two small focus group sessions on user interaction for Diagrammar. The goal of these sessions was to receive early input from end-users, educators, and technology partners on how we might present accessible image alternatives to users and instructors reading a digital e-book. For example, how might we connect an image to additional text descriptions, personal comments from a teacher, or a (2D or 3D) tactile graphics file? Our brief 30-minute sessions taught us that overall, people love options, but what’s considered the best access mode or accessible alternative differs by individual. Thus, the best thing to do when designing this digital reading experiences is to alert users to available options and provide them with the ability to adjust the setting per their individual preferences. If you are interested in learning more, the full results from the focus group session are available for download as a Microsoft Word Document here.

DIAGRAM Office Hours

By Amaya Webster, Benetech

Community is a huge part of what DIAGRAM is about, and as such, we take every opportunity we can to engage and Community members hanging out at the Office Hours event.interact with our community members. We love the CSUN conference because so many of us are there and while we love hearing everyone, we love getting together face to face even more. The Office Hours are a time when we can catch up, exchange ideas, demo what we are working on and just have fun together. At least 60 community members crowded into the Benetech suite on Thursday March 24, for pre-dinner snacks and drinks and conversation on diverse topics such as the use of web components, the future of synchronized speech mark up, and how teachers are getting trained to use iPads.

CSUN Highlights from DIAGRAM’s Technical Lead 

By Charles LaPierre

  •  A new company Fronteer , which makes course material accessible by using OCR and machine learning to convert course materials (PDF’s, scanned images, Word Files, etc.) into accessible ePub documents.  I was thrilled to learn this will also convert images of math into accessible MathML.  This software that connects into a Learning Management system and converts the materials as it gets added to the system while providing feedback to the professors and university administration on how well they are doing and ways to improve their course materials to make them born accessible.  Benetech will be reaching out to explore this work further.
  • Pearson showed off an impressive demo of convertinPearson employee explaining the demo.g real-time Nemeth Braille into MathML.  The software had both an editing area where a student would input Nemeth Braille and simultaneously be converted into MathML (Both presentational and content) then displayed so that a teacher could review the work immediately.  The student could also navigate through the MathML via MathJax to self review and correct any errors.
  • Tactiles were demonstrated primarily with swell paper.  There were a number of sessions demonstrating the advantages of this some included 3D printed holders that could position the iPad and conductive paper allowing a user to feel the tactile and press certain areas that would coincide with a hotspot area on the iPad which would speak to the user describing what they are pressing.
  • ViewPlus demonstrated a few interesting technologies using a camera and tactile images with a smart pen in order to discover more information about the specific area the user was touching.  They also demonstrated a cool way to make charts or other complex diagrams accessible by scanning and OCRing an image then manually editing and creating hotspots where a student could explore using a tactile representation of that image on a touch tablet that would load that enhanced marked up file describing the various hotspots areas the teacher previously marked up.
  • Benetech also hosted two UI/UX user feedback sessions to have participants play with some User Interface implementations of Diagrammar where a webpage with a number of images would have additional buttons appear under the image that the user would click on in order to obtain additional information such as a simplified description, extended long description, tactile map with tour, or a 3D file representation of the image. Three users test out Diagrammar during the feedback session. The participants were using their own equipment and assistive technology to explore the user interface then provide feedback on what worked and what features they would want to have.  The results were fairly consistent in that customization was paramount.  Also a default rendering and replacement of the image with their preferred choice was an interesting request.  In line small descriptions seemed like the preferred choice where user driven linking to longer descriptions on a separate rendered page seemed like the best alternative for this type of extended media, as long as the user was told what they were linking to and could get back to the same location they left.

Final Words

By Amaya Webster

This was my first time at CSUN and all I can say is thank you to all of the people I met, learned from and was inspired by, which was basically everyone. It was a truly amazing experience and I can’t wait until CSUN 2017! Were you at CSUN? If so, we want to hear from you! Did you give a session? Did you take pictures? Did you film video? Did you particularly enjoy something? Let us know so we can include it in our next DIAGRAM Digest issue. Feel free to send comments, stories, pictures, video, etc. to or to me directly if your prefer. I hope to hear from you!

Community Spotlight: Geoff Freed

2016 March 11
by anhb

A Tenure to Remember


A head shot of Geoff Freed wearing smiling while wearing funny fake teeth with several missing.

Geoff Freed taking himself too seriously

Geoff Freed has been a champion of multimedia, broadcast and web accessibility for more than 25 years and the DIAGRAM Center has been tremendously lucky to be able to collaborate with him. In 2012 Geoff graciously agreed to co–chair the newly formed DIAGRAM Tools Working Group, eventually becoming the sole chair of the group in 2014.

He has been a pillar in the DIAGRAM community and his leadership, guidance, and willingness to share his considerable knowledge and expertise has not only helped further the goals of DIAGRAM, but has furthered the field of accessible digital content as a whole.

Notably, with the deep knowledge and great humor he has shown in everything from the DIAGRAM product matrices to key webinars, Geoff has helped make the complex world of standards and assistive technology easier to understand and a whole lot more fun.

Thank you Geoff for all the work you have done as chair of the Tools Working Group and all that you have helped us accomplish!

Be like Geoff. If you are interested in joining the Tools WG, let us know!

DIAGRAM: Out And About

2016 March 11
by Amaya Webster


Orlando, Florida – February 3 – 6, 2016

  • On Thursday, February 4, Lisa Wadors, Carol Stanger, James Leahy, Joseph Lane, Kathleen Hanek, Lisa Dieker and Lori Geist hosted an interactive session called Researcher-Industry Collaboration: Establishing and Maintaining Value-Added Partnerships. The session explored case examples of successful researcher-industry collaborations in all aspects of generating new or improved assistive technology (AT) products, including scientific research, engineering development, and industrial production. For more information visit
  • On Friday, February 5, Lisa Wadors presented on 3D printing for accessible educations in a session entitled Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Tactile Learners Through 3D Printing. Participants learned about the work DIAGRAM has been doing in this area, the findings from the 2015 3D Printing for Education Technology Forum and how teachers have incorporated this technology into their accessible classrooms for STEM education. For more information visit

DIAGRAM at IDPF EPUB Accessibility Meetings

Baltimore, Maryland – February 23-24, 2016

  • George Kerscher, DIAGRAM community member and Secretary-General of the DAISY Consortium gave the kickoff speech to open the meetings which had a general theme around EPUB Accessibility as a Baseline by giving the keynote address.
  • Charles LaPierre, Technical Lead for DIAGRAM and Born Accessible, presented a technical Note on behalf of the Digital Publishing Interest Group’s (DPUB) Accessibility Task Force. The Note, currently in draft status, addresses what is missing from WCAG in terms of Digital Publishing and can be found at .

Join The Transition To Accessible EPUB3 Mailing List

2016 March 11
tags: ,
by Amaya Webster

Are you interested in transitioning to accessible EPUB3? Would you like to learn more about transitioning to accessible EPUB3? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions and are not already on the Transition to Accessible EPUB3 (TIES) mailing list, you probably should be! The TIES mailing list is focused on implementation of the EPUB3 Standard, including the reading system testing, and is a great way to keep your finger on the accessible EPUB3 pulse. To be added to the list please email TIES project co-chair George Kerscher at <kerscher[at]montana[dot]com>.

Update on DIAGRAM Standards Working Group

2016 March 11
by George Kerscher


Three domains are interacting making for some exciting developments: the W3C in the DPUB Interest Group, IDPF in the EPUB 3.1 Standards development, and DAISY driving an EPUB Accessibility Profile and the nascent developments of a certification approach. All three groups are closely collaborating in efforts to harmonize the work. The DPUB work is focused on an ARIA module for publishing, and their accessibility group is developing a formal “note” on WCAG 2’s application to digital publishing. IDPF Kicked off the EPUB 3.1 Standards development in November and is targeting the completion of this standard by the end of 2016. In Boston on February 24 & 25 at the EPUB for Education conference, the concept of an EPUB Accessibility Profile, which can be applied to any EPUB 3 Standard, was launched. To elevate the importance of accessibility, discussion of how to develop a formal certification process was started.

Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA Module 1.0

In EPUB 3, semantics were added using the EPUB-type attribute. Using WAI-ARIA roles, states, and properties, will better align EPUB developments with the web. I expect this module to be approved by the W3C when ARIA 1.1 is approved, which is expected in 2016.

Digital Publishing Accessibility Note

The Digital Publishing Accessibility Note is intended to examine the W3C/WAI (Including but not limited to WCAG 2.0) to identify their applicability to digital publishing, as in the EPUB Standards. It goes on to identify areas where W3C/WAI technologies are absent, such as in packaging a set of HTML documents in a single publication or where “page numbers” exist in digital publications. It is expected that this note will be submitted to the W3C as an informative document in the second quarter of 2016.

EPUB 3.1 Editors Draft Published

EPUB 3.1 is focused on refining the 3.01 Standard and reducing implementation barriers. There is also an area of development that will enable a “web manifestation,” which means the publication can be placed on the Web unzipped. The web manifestation would make it much easier for cloud-based reading systems to present EPUB publications. EPUB 3.1 is expected to be completed by the end of 2016

EPUB for Education (was EDUPUB)

The second editor’s draft of “EPUB for Education” was released on February 19.  This introduces a name change from EDUPUB to EPUB for Education. It also introduces an IMS Global “Learning Tools Integration” (LTI) Section.   It is expected that many educational publishers will use these advanced features to create more interactive educational content using the EPUB Standard.

EPUB Accessibility Profile (baseline) and Certification

On February 24 at the EDUPUB Alliance meetings in Baltimore, the development of an EPUB Accessibility Profile and Certification was kicked off. The presentations and panels saw the publishing, technology, and disability communities come together to jointly figure out solutions that will ensure that we have an Inclusive Publishing Society. Please bookmark and sign up to track the efforts or to join in on the work. This website was also formally launched on February 24 and we [DAISY] plan to make this an important website for information related to accessible publishing.

Update On DIAGRAM Tools Working Group

2016 March 11
by Amaya Webster

Meeting Update

The DIAGRAM Tools working group held its quarterly teleconference on February 10, where Sue-Ann Ma led a discussion about the upcoming Math Sprint to be held at CSUN on March 22, 2016.  This event will assemble technical experts to discuss open-source resources for improving the accessibility of math, and also to talk about the direction that the DIAGRAM community may want to take with respect to the resources.  The working group discussed various approaches for the focus of the event, including server-side production tools, protocol handlers, browser support for various types of input, and braille support.  Watch this space for information about the results of the sprint.

Staffing Update

In other news, Geoff Freed has decided to step aside as the current chair of the DIAGRAM Tools working group.  “It’s election season,” explained Geoff.

 “What better time to announce my self-imposed term limit?”


A photograph of Geoff wearing a blue wig and dark sunglasses.

The always serious Geoff Freed

Luckily for all of us, while Geoff will be stepping down as chair, he will still continue to participate as a Tools Working Group member.

Taking over for Geoff will be Charles LaPierre, DIAGRAM’s Technical Lead. He is excited to carry on Geoff’s legacy, saying, “With the extension of the DIAGRAM grant beyond accessible publishing and images, and expanding into other disability areas, we are at a pivotal time and I’m looking forward to helping continue the work and impact that Geoff and the Tools group have begun!”