Benetech recently visited Mission Middle College in Santa Clara, California to talk with students, parents, and educators. During this visit, which included Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), we got a chance to show attendees the Poet image description tool. Following is a special guest post by Sue-Ann Ma, Product Manager at Benetech, who shares her perspective on this visit.
LIVE! Students demo tech & eBooks for high school & college prep as Michael Yudin & Betsy Beaumon observe. twitter.com/Bookshare/stat…
— Bookshare (@Bookshare) May 9, 2013
Recently, I made my first school visit as a Benetech employee. As Product Manager for Poet, it’s easy to explain the benefits of our open-source tool designed to provide image descriptions in books for readers with print disabilities. But during this visit I saw another dimension to Poet that I had never considered. During the 90 minutes I spent with five teenagers and their two inspiring teachers, I began to see Poet as more than just a tool that enables volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to create accessible images. As I listened to students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities talk about how to describe images in textbooks, I was amazed by how quickly things “went meta.”
The students talked about how Poet made them think about the ways people learn and the need to provide a more level playing field when it comes to education. While describing an image in an eighth-grade art history textbook, one student discussed the complex processes associated with deciding what to describe and debated whether or not it was appropriate to embed personal interpretations and emotions elicited by the pictures in his descriptions. This particular student also shared how he frequently jotted down the names of artists and artworks he encountered while writing image descriptions so that he could conduct research outside his weekly volunteer hours (he plans to become a filmmaker down the road).
As a result of this visit, I came to see the ways in which Poet serves as a powerful medium that’s helping shape the next generation of humanitarians. The Poet tool gave these students one way to give back in the field of education and literacy while raising awareness about the diverse backgrounds and needs some of us have when it comes to learning.
Benetech at Google I/O
Gerardo Capiel and some of his engineering team will attend the Google I/O 2013 Conference at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, May 15-17. We expect to see many DIAGRAM Community members there too, including T.V. Raman and Josh Miele. Many event sessions will be streamed from the Moscone Center via Google Developers live @ I/O. Follow @googleIO on Twitter for updates.
DIAGRAM at VDRDC Conference
by Anh Bui
The VDRDC convened its Second Annal Description Leadership Network Conference on Video Description in March. Numerous DIAGRAM community members—including Larry Goldberg, Bryan Gould, Gerardo Capiel, Betsy Beaumon, Ting Siu, Steve Jacob, and Anh Bui—were on hand for an impressive array of demos and discussion. Also OSEP funded, the VDRDC is dedicated to “developing advanced video annotation methods for use in a wide variety of educational settings, as well as helping educators and other description providers make better use of the tools already available.” Attendees of the meeting saw a demo of YouDescribe, its new platform for annotating video, which will be unveiled this month at Google I/O in San Francisco.
Some of the most interesting discussion came out of the issues surrounding crowd sourcing of video description, such as intellectual property, training, and efficacy research. As DIAGRAM has also investigated these questions as part of the challenges around accessible images, it’s clear that we have much to share and learn from each other. We look forward to continuing to come together with VDRDC and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute to keep building, testing, and releasing tools for collaborative accessibility.
DIAGRAM at Tactile Graphics Conference
The NFB’s first-ever tactile graphics conference was held in Baltimore April 12-13, 2013.
- Anh Bui presented: “What’s New – The DIAGRAM Center for Accessible Images & Graphics”
- Other speakers included: Lucia Hasty, John Gardner, Joshua Miele, and Steven Landau
- Elaine Ober, Ed Summers, and Mark Hakkinen were also in attendance
The crowd of about 150-200 attendees represented a good mix of technologists, practitioners, teachers, and end-users. Just like at CSUN, Anh had another standing-room-only crowd, and got great feedback from teachers and practitioners about DIAGRAM initiatives, especially in the realm of math. Notable themes: haptics and 3D printing; accessible math; open access repositories of tactile images. Were you there? Reply to this post and let us know what your impressions were.
DIAGRAM at Future Publishing and Accessibility: June 13-14, 2013 – Copenhagen
- George Kerscher will moderate: “The users: Who will guarantee accessibility for them in the future?”
- Markus Gylling will speak: “The technology: What will the future of mainstream publishing look like?”
- Betsy Beaumon will moderate: “The market: Facing and discovering new business models
The DIAGRAM Advisory Board met on April 24, 2013 and heard updates from the co-chairs of the Standards, Content, Tools, and Outreach Working Groups on terrific progress being made in each group toward our Asilomar goals. We also heard updates from Anh Bui on the status of subcontract ideas under consideration for 2013 as well as plans for the OERPub Accessibility Sprint coming on May 20-21. We concluded the meeting with a report from Larry Goldberg on the outcome of the publisher interviews that NCAM conducted over the past year. Notes from the meeting are available to DIAGRAM Community members by logging in to the DIAGRAM Community site. [Note: Please contact Julie Noblitt at julien [at] benetech [dot] org if you would like registration assistance.]
submitted by Larry Goldberg
One of NCAM’s activities during Year 3 of the DIAGRAM Center project has been to conduct interviews with targeted publishers to discover current practices and challenges surrounding image accessibility in order to provide guidance for ongoing DIAGRAM activities. These interviews delved into existing and planned digital publishing processes and are intended to help us better understand the changes necessary for adequately supporting accessible images and graphic content. A full report on the interviews will be available in the next few weeks, but for now, we can report that:
- Publishers and accessible media producers are dedicated to enhancing the accessibility of their images
- Widely accepted standards help them make the case internally (and a big shout-out to ePub3 but they wish more platforms would adopt it). MathML is gaining significant traction too. HTML5 for media next up.
- Better tools for creating the necessary metadata would be very much appreciated; Poet has shown what’s possible but they would like something their authors could use, that can be integrated into their existing tools and processes and that can be readily transportable across platforms
- All interview subjects would like access to “just-in-time” subject matter experts so that image accessibility can be handled immediately during the production process, with access to accessibility expertise as well.
Tools Working Group
Co-chairs Gerardo Capiel and Geoff Freed will hold the next regular meeting of the Tools Working Group in May on a date to be determined. The group is expected to shift focus this meeting from subcontract ideas to resume the regular agenda. Please let Gerardo or Geoff know if you have ideas to contribute for next month’s discussion.
We now have a Reference Wizard that is being tested, which provides brief examples that illustrate some of the examples used in the NCAM description guidelines. Also in development is an image-search tool that references the image descriptions during the search process, as well as capability to add image descriptions to EPUB 3 documents.
There are now two open-source code bases available from Readium:
- Readium Web, which is an EPUB 3 renderer for browser-based reading devices (e.g., Bookshare Web Reader). It currently voices annotations which were converted from <prodnote> in DAISY to <aside epub:type=”annotation”> in EPUB 3 documents.
- Readium SDK, which is an EPUB 3 renderer for stand-alone devices; it provides native code for iOS and, soon, for Android SDK.
by Geoff Freed
The image-description extension specification for longdesc is now available in draft form and we are seeing interesting developments as implementation begins:
- NVDA now identifies the presence of @longdesc and gives users the option to open and read the description. NVDA, JAWS, and ChromeVox are the three major screen readers to convey @longdesc to users. (Note that ChromeVox is hinting at MathML support in the near future.)
- Voting continues at Mozilla on adding a capability in Firefox to make @longdesc available to all users (e.g., through a visual indicator), not just those who rely on AT. See Mozilla’s Bugzilla record on this topic for information. Click here for current voting results.
- DAISY Pipeline 2.0: Discussion is underway to possible convert <prodnote> used within image group to @longdesc. Currently, <aside> is used for visual, non-image elements.
Schema.org Metadata Accessibility
A proposal was submitted to schema.org to permit search engines to index information based on a resource’s accessibility features, such as captions, descriptions, image descriptions, MathML, etc. Click here for more information.
Obama appoints George Kerscher to Key Post
The White House issued a press release on April 9th announcing President Obama’s intention to appoint George Kerscher to the National Museum and Library Services Board. All our congratulations to George on this tremendous news!
Standards Working Group Update
Co-chairs George Kerscher and Mark Hakkinen will hold the next regular meeting of the Standards Working Group in May on a date to be determined. The group is expected to continue the conversations begun at the last meeting regarding crosswalk mapping from APIP to the DIAGRAM Content Model and the eTernity initiative for educational textbook standards, among many other things. Please let George and Mark know if you have ideas to add to the agenda.
100+ Registrants for “Integrating Accessible Images into Ebooks and DTBs”
On April 25th Geoff Freed and Bryan Gould of the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH teamed up to present another outstanding DIAGRAM webinar. The topic this time was practical tips for publishers on how to integrate accessible images into ebooks and digital talking books (DTBs). Demonstrations of several authoring tools were covered, including TOBI, Dolphin EasyProducer, OpenOffice Writer, Word, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe InDesign, and iBooks Author.
If you missed this webinar, not to worry! The slides have already been posted our Training Resources page and a captioned recording will soon be available there, as well as on DIAGRAM’s YouTube channel. Thank you to Geoff and Bryan for creating this wonderful resource.
Findings from Poet Teacher Training Pilot
by Ting Siu
As of April 2013, DIAGRAM concluded its first teacher training pilot using Poet to meet the needs of students with visual impairments. Three teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) and the assistive technology (AT) coordinator at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) were trained via live, virtual one-to-one sessions, and supported by follow up phone calls and emails. The AT coordinator later served as onsite support who turn keyed supplementary training to two of the teachers. These TVIs represented a traditional range of level of adoption, and implementation of new technology for use with students. These factors were identified to impact the extent of each TVI’s final use of Poet:
- Teacher buy-in regarding how beneficial image descriptions would be to students (all teachers thought image descriptions were useful)
- Use of Poet for different types of books outside of the one used for training
- Perceived effort and amount of time it took to learn Poet compared to the amount of time the TVI currently spent adapting materials using familiar, nondigital methods
All of the teachers thought Poet would be best suited for editing existing descriptions (rather than creating them from scratch), expressed needs for live, ongoing support to adopt the tool, and expressed desires for the increased availability of image descriptions in textbooks to work from, as well as improved compatibility between students’ devices and math/science notations used in descriptions.
Outreach Working Group Update
The next quarterly meeting of the Outreach Working Group will be held May 13, 2013. Topping the agenda will be continued discussion of the best way to create and disseminate information about DIAGRAM initiatives to our many target audiences. New this month: We are delighted that Natalie Shaheen of the NFB has agreed to join us as the newest member of this group. Welcome Natalie!
The next regular quarterly meeting of the Content Working Group is due to be scheduled for May. In the meantime, work is progressing on the Accessible Image Sample Book. The team at Touch Graphics has kindly supplied sample images for us to work with and the project schedule is underway. The Content Working is delighted to welcome Rick Johnson of Ingram to the team as well. If you have any questions about this Working Group or have ideas to contribute, please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober or Lucia Hasty.
Last fall and winter DIAGRAM conducted a survey of teachers to better understand their use of image descriptions in instruction. We got 60 respondents and Ting Siu has written up the results here. From the summary in the report:
“A recurring theme in responses reflected priorities for flexibility in meeting different students’ needs, and to account for the range of descriptions from those that did not need to be described, to those that required supplementary tactile representation. All of the respondents attributed the benefit of image description to enhancing students’ independent learning.”
Very many thanks to Ting for an outstanding job with this report. It will be valuable to all of us as we continue our work going forward.