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Adventures at the W3C Combined Technical Plenary/Advisory Committee (TPAC) Meetings

2016 October 31
by Charles LaPierre

What a trip!  TPAC 2016 was in Lisbon Portugal this year, our hotel Vila Galé Ópera was walking distance to the conference center and many great Portuguese restaurants.  Most evenings we all went to a nearby restaurant hunting for authentic Portuguese cuisine.  We had great seafood near the harbor.  Our final evening, we found an authentic Portuguese restaurant where we enjoyed braised pork cheeks, and I tried a sardine that was very tasty and reminded me of a smaller smelt that I grew up catching using nets in the middle of the night in Canada.
There were a number of panel discussions and meetings on various topics led and attended by DIAGRAM community members or applicable to our goals and objectives. These included:

  • “EPUB 3 Roadmap: Development and Adoption of EPUB 3.1, EPUB for Education, and beyond” A panel with Rick Johnson from our content working group discussed Vital Source’s role in educational accessible materials through BookShelf.
  •   Accessibility: Electronic Documents and Web Convergence” a panel discussion that myself, George Kerscher and Judy Brewer conducted.  George set the stage with a brief history of how we got to this point with the work he started and helped shape HTML 1.0 and where DAISY and the IDPF all fit into the picture.  I then gave a recap of the Accessibility W3C Note we published earlier this year. I then talked about our new EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications, accessibility of the entire publishing chain and the importance of page numbers for books with or without a print copy.
  • One afternoon George Kerscher, Jason White, Markku Hakkenin, Peter Krautzberger, Avneesh Singh, myself, and a number of key players discussed how to get MathML into an EPUB.  At the end we decided that we needed a solution that could display a perfect image of the math with associated textual description and the MathML accessible to a screen reader but hidden visually.  We are continuing to research various options that could facilitate this and then proceed to test these solutions with various reading systems.  This research and possible solutions will then be given to the IDPF as a technique to include for publishers wishing to include MathML in their publications.
  • WCAG Next / WCAG 3.0 aka Silver: Right now the W3C is working on an update to WCAG which is going to be the next Accessibility Guidelines for the Web, and will eventually replace WCAG and go even further to help accessibility.
  • ARIA – Accessibility Object Model:  This new accessibility Object model which is still in the planning phase will help make things on the web accessible without negative side effects such as performance.

Update on the 2016 BISG Awards

2016 October 31
by Amaya Webster

Last month we announced the exciting news that Robin Seaman had been awarded the BISG Distinguished Service Award for her work and efforts in the area of standards and best practices and that George Kerscher was nominated for the BISG Industry Champion Award. We are now thrilled to announce that on Friday, September 30, 2016 George Kerscher won the BISG Industry Champion Award. The award honors an individual whose efforts have gone beyond the requirements of his or her position to advance the publishing industry while embracing BISG’s mission to facilitate innovation and shared solutions for the benefit of all companies and practitioners who create, produce, and distribute published content.  At the awards ceremony Bill Kasdorf read the following statement,

“George Kerscher has worked tirelessly for decades to promote accessibility and foster collaboration between organizations internationally. Since 1987, when he coined the term “print disabled,” he has been dedicated to developing technologies and standards that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional, to those who are blind or have a print disability, and to help publishers understand that by doing this, they are making their content better for everybody. George is Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium; Senior Advisor, Global Literacy, to Benetech; President of the IDPF; Chair of the DAISY/NISO Standards Committee; Chair of the Steering Council of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI); and is on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a Presidential appointment. He has been an invaluable member of the BISG EPUB 3 Grid Working Group, heading up the Accessibility aspects of the Grid, and the Accessibility Working Group. He has been not only our lodestar on accessibility, he’s the industry’s. He is the very definition of Industry Champion. Plus he’s a heck of a wonderful person, and Michelle Obama loves his dog.”

Please join me in once again congratulating Robin and George on their well-deserved wins!

And We’re Off: Update on the DIAGRAM Report and a Community Call to Action

2016 October 31
by Lisa Wadors and Charles LaPierre

In 2017 we will be publishing the first DIAGRAM Report highlighting new technologies being used in education that can be harnessed to create accessible and born accessible classrooms.  Similar to the Horizon Report, published by the New Media Consortium, this report will identify and examine emerging technologies and their impact on students and teachers. However, we will focus on identifying areas of enormous opportunity for students with disabilities and different learning needs.   We are currently looking for your help to prioritize the top technologies to explore. Please take a moment to answer a brief survey to help us better understand your interest and/or knowledge and/or if we have missed something. The survey is available at Thanks!

Virtual Reality

2016 October 31
by Amaya Webster

Recap Part One

By Charles LaPierre

The first ever Virtual Reality (VR) Workshop hosted by the W3C at the Samsung offices in San Jose was very well attended and quite engaging.  There was a great cross-section of companies represented in this space and showing the latest in Virtual Reality headsets and controllers.  During TPAC I attended a VR session and was asked to give a lightning round talk on accessibCharles speaking at one of the workshop sessions.ility at this VR workshop.

I prepared my presentation and was all set to give my talk on how accessibility needs to be built into the foundation of VR but when I started my talk the slides were on a computer with a small screen and the podium was very low so I couldn’t see my slides to give my talk and hold the microphone at the same time.  Anssi Kostiainen the co-chair of the WebVR Community group saw I was struggling and came over and lifted my computer and stood there while I gave my presentation so I could see.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outcome, everyone in the audience suddenly had that “ah-ha” moment where someone could have a situational impairment and that the accessibility stuff I was discussing all of a sudden had even more impact.  Although at the time I must admit I was a little rattled by not being able to read my slides and trying then to do so with someone holding a computer in front of me was a little daunting. I was approached multiple times throughout the rest of the conference where people would say that they really got my message, it made them really think about accessibility and it really hit home when Annsi came over and helped me out.

The discussion afterwards was very engaging and a number of people asked great questions such as accommodations for color blindness, deafness, or partial deafness, and there was one comment that we discussed concerning people with limited mobility such as those in a wheelchair not being able to reach hot-spots within the VR world if when they are seated and how the system should be able to accommodate them by either allowing them to add to their height within the VR world or bring the controls closer to their area of mobility. I believe we achieved what we set out to do in that bring accessibility to their attention and included in any charter put forward.

Recap Part Two

By Sue-Ann Ma

In addition to witnessing Charles’ short but impactful presentation at the W3C VR Workshop (and partaking in related discussions), I also attended Stanford’s MediaX conference on Sensing and Tracking for 3D Narratives during this past month. As with prior introductions to potentially game-changing technologies, these two events echoed all-to-familiar questions – what applications (beyond gaming) best utilize this technology? How do we make sure metadata structures and standards are in place? How do we support the production of quality content (particularly for education and/or disability advocacy)? How do support individuals with various needs and preferences (i.e. personalization)? Although advances in VR/AR (virtual reality, augmented reality) have made tremendous strides in recent years, we still have much to learn and define.

So in the meantime, for those of you who might be curious to learn more about different applications of this technology, below are a few interesting examples of VR/AR applications that seemed particularly relevant for the DIAGRAM community.

Update on the Registry-Repository of Accessible Images (RRAI)

2016 October 31
by Sue-Ann Ma

The development of a shared, accessible collection for common STEM concepts is well underway! Many of you might recall some of the surveys, interviews, and research we conducted about the state of accessible resources and additional needs of potential users back in 2015. We’re excited to share that we’ve made huge strides on that front in recent months.

With technical development led by Sina Bahram, key content supplied from DIAGRAM partners (special thanks to APH, LibraryLyna, and OpenStax), in addition to resources available through creative commons, we’re now ready to kick-off some user testing for RRAI (Repository-Registry of Accessible Images). Stay tuned for ways you can provide input about how we might grow this collective resource for the accessibility community.

DIAGRAM Working Groups

2016 October 31

General Update

It’s that time of year again, when the DIAGRAM working groups get ready to hold their quarterly meetings. In preparation, sub-groups have been formed, drafts of new content written, and potential meeting dates proposed and rejected. The Content Working Group is hoping to meet in December and will be reviewing a new chapter for the Accessible Image Sample Book on Accessible video. The Developers Working Group have formed a sub-committee to explore ways to make a drag and drop functions accessible and will be reporting back to the main Developers group in their next meeting. The 3D Tactile Standards group is currently exploring what to work on next and will be diving into potential project ideas and potential group members the next time they meet. Last, but not least, the Standards Working Group will hold their fourth quarter meeting having recently submitted a metadata proposal to Stay tuned for more detailed information once the meetings have taken place.

Out and About

2016 October 31
  • DIAGRAM Community at the APH Annual Meeting
    Louisville, Kentucky October 6-8, 2016
    Steve Nobel, Volker Sorge, Dan Gardner and Dan Brow were there taking part in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Consortium Meeting. Jane Thompson delivered a session an accessible testing while Larry Skutchan and Keith Creasy held several sessions on products and ideas for accessible content.
  • DIAGRAM at W3C Virtual Reality
    San Jose, California October 19 -20, 2016
    Charles LaPierre presented a on the accessibility needs of virtual reality. His presentation slides are available for download as a PowerPoint
  • DIAGRAM at Accessing Higher Ground
    Westminster, Colorado November 14-18, 2016
    Sue-Ann Ma will be joining forces with DIAGRAM community member Gaeir Dietrich to present on one of DIAGRAM’s newest projects, the Registry Repository of Accessible Images (RRAI).
  • DIAGRAM at Amazon Accessibility Council Meeting
    Seattle, Washington November 19-11, 2016
  • DIAGRAM at a University of Michigan workshop: Guidelines for Describing Arts and Humanities Visual Resources
    Ann Arbor, Michigan December 5-6, 2016
    A workshop of invited experts from scholarly publishing, art and visual studies, accessibility, and the cultural heritage fields to advance this initiative in support of accessible publishing.

What We Are Reading

2016 October 31
by Amaya Webster

Community Spotlight

2016 September 23
by Amaya Webster

Spotlight on Derek Riemer

Derek Riemer is currently in his senior year at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he is majoring in computer science.  He is interested in human centered computingaccessibility and UniversalDesign. Derek, a self-described “baby engineer”, has already racked up a laundry list of accomplishments including being an Eagle Scout, the recipient of the Super Student award at Ralston Valley High school, a contributor to the NVDA screen reader project and most recently Benetech’s summer engineering intern which we want to call attention to because he did an outstanding job.

Over the course of the eight week internship, Derek worked on a variety of projects including adding dyslexic font support to Readium’s open source reader which is scheduled to be included in their 0.25 October release. He also worked towards building out the Diagrammar content model through the addition of alternative modalities like additional text and tactile graphics files by integrating Diagrammar into an EPUB book using custom web elements.

He was a joy to work with and impressed everyone on our team. Charles LaPierre, Technical Lead for DIAGRAM positively glowed about Derek saying, “I have worked with a number of interns over the years and this by far has been the most rewarding experience.”

So thank you Derek for a great summer! We enjoyed your positive energy and curious nature. We wish you the best of luck with your new school year and look forward to continuing to work with you through the DIAGRAM Center’s Developers Working Group!

Spotlight on Jacob Wobbrock and Richard Ladner

The University of Washington has very strong research programs in accessible computing. Jacob O. Wobbrock, professor in the Information School, leads the Mobile and Accessible Design Lab and Richard E. Ladner, professor in Computer Science and Engineering leads the Accessibility Research Group. For the past five years both have focused on mobile platforms, smart phones and tablets. Wobbrock’s primary research has been on low-level interaction with computer screens. He is the inventor of EdgeWrite, a unistroke text entry method for people with certain mobility related disabilities. He and his student Shaun Kane were the first to demonstrate that modern touchscreens could be made accessible using gestures and speech output in the seminal paper “Slide Rule, Making Touch Screens Accessible to Blind People Using Multi-Touch Interaction Techniques.” Ladner’s primary research focuses on accessibility applications for blind, deaf, and deaf-blind people. He is the creator of the Tactile Graphics Assistant, which provides software and a workflow to quickly transform all the figures in textbooks into a tactile format. He worked with the DIAGRAM Center to extend that work to quickly translate figures to tactile/auditory format.  Instead of Braille in the tactile graphic, QR codes with the same information are printed in the same location as the Braille where they can be scanned and spoken using a smartphone. He also created the ASL-STEM Forum, an online forum, for people to upload videos of American Sign Language for scientific terms. His student, Jeff Bigham, created WebAnywhere, a web-based screen reader that can be used from any computer without downloading any software. His student, Shiri Azenkot, created Perkinput, a Braille-based technique to enter text on a touch screen. Former Ph.D. students of Wobbrock and Ladner teach at Harvard, University of Colorado, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell Tech in New York City, and the University of Iowa, where they all continue to do accessibility research. Other former Ph.D. students are at Apple, Google, and Intel where they develop accessible products and services.

Professor Ladner also serves on the DIAGRAM Center Advisory Committee and several Working Groups and is a recent recipient of the 2016 SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility which recognizes individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to the development of computing technologies that improve the accessibility of media and services to people with disabilities. Congratulations Professor Ladner and thank you both for all that you do!

Out and About

2016 September 23
    • DIAGRAM at Microsoft
      July 16, 2016 in Mountain View, CA
      Sue-Ann Ma and Amaya Webster presented the Poet Image Description Training Module to the Microsoft Power Point Team at their Mountain View office with the Redmond, Washington team joining remotely via video conference. The event, which was referred to as an image slam, was in actuality a combination of presentation, training and user testing.
    • DIAGRAM at AER International Conference
      July 21, 2016 in Jacksonville, FL
      Sue-Ann Ma joined DIAGRAM community member Steve Noble as part of a panel on Accessible math in as session titled “Math Materials: Making Them Accessible” at this year’s AER conference. They discussed the issues faced by students with visual impairment in accessing Math and STEM curricular materials, shared what is working and what resources are available for teachers and students.
    • DIAGRAM at OSEP Project Directors Meeting
      August 3, 2016 in Washington D.C
      Brad Turner and Lisa Wadors presented on “The Future of Accessible Educational Materials” at this year’s Project Directors Meeting. Their session addressed the future of educational materials and how accessible content needs to be created to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities.
    • Benetech at W3C Technical Plenary / Advisory Committee Meetings
      September 19 – 23, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal
      George Kerscher was the moderator and Charles LaPierre a panelist for a session entitled “Accessibility: Electronic Documents and Web Convergence” at this year’s TPAC conference.
    • DIAGRAM at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group) Annual Meeting of Members
      September 30, 2016 in New York, New York
      Robin Seaman will be speaking to approximately 200 of BISG’s most engaged members delivering an update on accessible publishing.

What We Are Reading

2016 September 22

A big thank you to all of you who sent us articles to be included in this edition of “What We Are Reading” Please keep them coming! You can send them to info[at]Diagramcenter[org] or to me directly at amayaw[at]benetech[dot]org.

Working Group Updates – General Overview

2016 September 22

The DIAGRAM working groups are a large part of who the DIAGRAM Center is and why we’ve been so successful. They lend their expertise and experience to a wide breadth of issues and areas, and sometimes, as diverse as those areas are, they somehow manage to overlap. So in addition to the individual working group updates, we wanted to take a second to not only call attention to the amazing force of impact that are the working groups, but highlight where their efforts overlap.

The Standards, 3D Tactiles Standards and Content Working groups have all been working on representations of braille. The Standards Working Group has been working on representing braille metadata, the Tactile Standards Working Group on standards for including braille on 3d objects and the Content Working Group on Top Tips for publishing content that is braille conversion friendly.

This braille work is in addition to the work that the Standards group continues to make headway on with the EPUB 3.1 standard and with Diagrammar as a container for image alternatives. The Tactiles group is also working on documenting lessons learned on printing and using 3d shapes.

The Content and Developers working groups are both working on digital interactives and are tasked with thinking through these areas for students with print disabilities and students with disabilities that aren’t print disabilities. The Content Working Group has been busy updating the Accessible Image Sample Book with sample interactives while the Developers Working Group is tackling the technical challenge of some of the most common functions, starting with a sub-group focused on drag and drop.

We will be exploring these areas of overlap further at an upcoming Working Group Co-Chairs  meeting which is in the process of being scheduled and would welcome suggestions from any of our community members on ways to take advantage of it. If you have an idea please send it to or to Amaya directly at

Diagram General Advisory Committee Update

2016 September 22
by Amaya Webster

The Diagram General Advisory Committee held their final meeting of the year on August 17, 2016. The group was treated to an overview of the work the DIAGRAM Working Groups are doing and where there is overlap between the groups.

The Advisory committee was also introduced to the production plan for the first annual DIAGRAM Report. Work on the report will be kicking of this month and will continue through the year. The report is scheduled to be published at the end of 2017.

The last meeting topic was the DIAGRAM 2017 offsite which is held at the beginning of summer usually, though not always, in the DC area. The offsite is a chance for the community to come together and strategize on what is needed in the field and the best way to achieve the goals of the DIAGRAM Center. Previous offsites have been held at Airlie in near Washington, DC, and Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California.