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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!

DIAGRAM Out and About: March 2015 Update

2015 March 31
  • DIAGRAM at Association of Research Libraries – Ontario, Canada – March 17, 2015. Robin Seaman presented a session for a webinar entitled, “Working Together: Research Libraries and Publishers on the Value of Inclusive Learning Resources.”
  • DIAGRAM at AAP Digital Issues Working Group – New York City – March 19, 2015. Robin Seaman presented on the business case for making content accessible during special luncheon on subject of how publishers are using EPUB 3 to make their publications more accessible to readers with print disabilities. Speakers included:
    • Paul Belfanti, Director, Content Architecture, Pearson
    • Dave Cramer, Senior Digital Publishing Technology Specialist, Hachette Book Group
    • Liisa McCloy-Kelley, VP, Director eBook Development & Innovation, Penguin Random House
    • Robin Seaman, Director of Content Acquisition, Benetech
    • Tzviya Siegman, Digital Book Standards & Capabilities Lead, Wiley
    • Jonathan Thurston, Sr. Manager of eBooks, HarperCollins
  • DIAGRAM at CTEBVI Technology Symposium – San Francisco – March 20, 2015 Ting Siu moderated the day-long event which included:
    • “Diagrams, images and graphics” by Lisa Wadors Verne, Education Research Manager at Benetech.
    • “Math” by Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Product Manager, Accessibility
      Apple Inc.
    • “Video” by Joshua Miele, Director The Smith-Kettlewell Description Research and Innovation Lab.
    • “Transcribers and Technology” with Jane Thompson, Director of the Accessible Textbook Department at the American Printing House for the Blind.
  • DIAGRAM at London Book Fair – Accessibility Summit – London – April 15, 2015. Robin Seaman will present 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 will be 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.”

What We Are Reading

2015 March 31

Here are a few items that caught our attention since our last newsletter:

  • Accessible SVG Data Visualization – Video demo (16 mins) by Doug Schepers of the W3C (2/17/15). A demonstration of the experimental screenreader Describler, which allows blind users to explore charts and other data visualizations.
  • The stars come out in accessible ebook. Perkins (March 25, 2015). An article about SAS’s astronomy book, “Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, and Learn.” Ed Summers of SAS tells us, “We used every trick in the book (so to speak) to make the images in the book accessible to all students. The strategies include read aloud, sonification, audio-embossing, tactile overlays, and 3D models. These strategies were employed on a scatter plot, line chart, bar chart, images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and many other conceptual illustrations.”
  • Accessibility is usability in context of disability. Chemnitzer 14 blog (February 14, 2015). Excerpt: “…accessibility should be so “baked in” to every process that you shouldn’t be able to avoid it, extract it, or remove it.  If you’re a developer and someone says “cut the accessibility features” you should be able to say “that’s not possible. They’re not separate features.” If you’re a designer and someone says “skip the accessibility testing”, you should be able to say, “That’s not possible. It’s part of our testing suite.” If you’re a UX designer and someone says “We’re not designing for accessibility, skip it,” you should *already* be able to say “That’s not possible, they’re built into your audience.”
  • New Research Study Shows 57 Percent of Adult Computer Users Can Benefit From Accessible Technology. Microsoft, 2004. This is an old article, not a new one, but worth a re-run.
  • Introducing the B.C. Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit. Provides accessible learning and teaching materials to students and instructors who cannot use conventional print because of disabilities. Information on how to make content accessible, with specifics on images, charts, graphs, maps and more.
  • 3D Printing Heats Up on Campus. Campus Technology. (February 26, 2015). “More than just a toy for engineers, 3D printing is beginning to move from experimental tech to multi-disciplinary learning tool.”
  • ‘Accessible cards’, a tactile way to make banking so much easier for the blind. The Guardian (February 21, 2015). “The cards, which feature tactile markings and a notch to show what direction to insert them in to an ATM, are the first banking products accredited by the Royal National Institute of Blind People.”

Image Slam at OSEP

2015 March 31
by jnoblitt

Image SlamThis month Benetech hosted a highly successful “image slam” with senior leaders of the U.S. Department of Education. During the hands-on session, these government officials used DIAGRAM’s Poet tool to describe images in children books that will become available to hundreds of thousands of readers with disabilities around the country. Ahead of this event, on the official blogs of and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Betsy Beaumon published a post with highlights of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program and how its multiple initiatives create new and better opportunities for people with disabilities. “This is a critical and hopeful moment where rapid changes in the fields of consumer technology, education and publishing make it possible to realize our dream of reading and information equality,” she writes. Read Betsy’s blog post >>.

W3C Approves Longdesc

2015 March 24

Submitted by Geoff Freed

After years of debate, the longdesc attribute has been approved as an extension to the W3C’s HTML5 recommendation.  The new extension is available at, and it defines a simple method of associating long descriptions with images.  The longdesc attribute is not new— it was originally included in HTML 4.0— but it was removed from HTML5 because of disagreement about its effectiveness.  Its (re)approval by the W3C now means that authors can continue to use it to provide long image descriptions in a standards-compliant manner.  The presence of longdesc-delivered descriptions is announced by JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes and ChromeVox screen readers (VoiceOver does not currently recognize the longdesc attribute), and longdesc is supported by Firefox, IE and Chrome browsers.  Other assistive technologies may provide support for longdesc as well.  Additionally, by downloading and installing the Firefox longdesc extension, sighted users can right-click on an image and see a menu choice for viewing the associated long description.

The longdesc attribute is, however, not the only means by which long image descriptions can be delivered to users.  Other methods include:

To see the refreshed recommendations on when to use the longdesc attribute from the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group, please visit

March 2015 Standards Update

2015 March 24
by jnoblitt

Standards Working Group Update

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. The next joint DIAGRAM and TIES working group meeting is March 31, 2015 at 15:00 UTC.

From the accessibility perspective, we have been working on requirements for the next revision of EPUB, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

I attended the Google Accessibility Summit and presented the work on EPUB including media overlays. I also met with many experts present from the deaf community and expressed an open door policy to the deaf community for the development of synchronized sign language video with text, especially for the teaching of reading text, which is a second language in the deaf community.

Readium held meetings in January at the New York Public Library. There was a huge turnout; the New York Brooklyn library has joined Readium as well. Very interesting developments on the library side.

I want to make sure this community knows that there is an accessibility sub-working group associated with the W3C DPub developments. In addition, BISG has started an accessibility working group. One of the challenges will be to coordinate the accessibility efforts around digital publishing; I am very optimistic in this regard.

Finally, the USA Access Board has released information about the long-awaited Refresh of 508 and 255:

The snip below represents the spirit of many sections that refer to published information:

“guidelines also would require documentation in electronic formats—including Web-based self-service support and electronic documents—to conform to all Level A and AA Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0 or ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1).”

Please contact George Kerscher at <kerscher [at] montana [dot] com> if you would like more information about the Standards Working Group. All meeting notes continue to be posted on the DIAGRAM Standards WG wiki.

March 2015 Content Working Group Update: AISB 2nd Edition

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Content Working Group has been hard at work on the next revised edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book. The revised edition will include several new samples (such as music and cartoons) and new modalities (such as haptics). We are delighted that Joshua Tallent, Chief eBook Architect at Firebrand Technologies, has joined our Working Group and is working on the revised edition. You can find the latest version on GitHub here:  Notes from all meetings are available on the Content WG wiki. 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>.

Accessible Assessments: New Item Writer Guidelines from NCAM

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Bryan Gould

NCAM has announced the publication of new Item Writer Guidelines for Greater Accessibility, a comprehensive and unique resource that can be used to train item writers on accessibility basics with examples and instructions.

Focusing on item construction and the use of images, these guidelines will help reduce the need for additional work to make items accessible for students who use assistive technology. By addressing the decisions that test item writers face while they are actually creating the test, the NCAM Item Writer Guidelines explain how to create items that minimize the need for text alternatives. The Guidelines also provide examples of small changes that will help ensure clarity for students using assistive technology and, potentially, produce better items for all students. Considering accessibility at the earliest stage in the test creation process and the results will be a more thoughtful test, ready for effective text alternatives, that will lead to a truly accessible testing experience for all students. Please forward these to anyone who could benefit from them!

March 2015 Software Development Update

2015 March 23
tags: ,
by jnoblitt

Tools Working Group Update: Accessible Chemistry and Math

The last DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on December 17, 2014 for a special presentation by Volker Sorge of the University of Birmingham and the Scientific Document Analysis Group, who demonstrated his work on accessible chemistry. Refer to the meeting notes for a link to the recording of the session as well as contact information for Volker. For all of us who were unable to attend Neil Soiffer’s talk at CSUN on latest developments in accessible math,  Neil was kind enough to join our March 30, 2015 meeting and repeat his remarks and demos. The recording and the slides are available on the Tools Working Group wiki page. Contact the Tools Working Group Chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you would like more information.

March 2015 Training & Outreach Update

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

DIAGRAM Webinar: Tactile Graphics with a Voice

The DIAGRAM webinar series kicked off in 2015 with “Tactile Graphics with a Voice,” Richard Ladner’s great overview of the tactile graphics landscape, along with the latest research from the University of Washington’s Tactile Graphics Project. Feedback was enthusiastic to say the least. One participant wrote:

“Very great presenter and presentation itself. I learned lot of new information. This will change how I provide services to students with blindness. Thank you!”

One of the nearly 100 participants dialing in that day, P.F. Anderson, Emerging Technologies Librarian for the University of Michigan Health Sciences Libraries, was inspired to create a “Storify” version of the webinar, and then went on to write a terrific blog post called “Tactile Graphics, An Introduction.”  You can find the slides from the webinar, a closed-captioned recording of the session, and a written summary of the Q & A by visiting the DIAGRAM webinars page.

Outreach Working Group Update

The DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group met on March 12, 2015 to continue our discussion of the best way to collect stories to answer the question, “What would the world have been like if DIAGRAM had not been established five years ago?” What has our impact been so far? We finalizing a plan to collect the stories and synthesize them. 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.

Next DIAGRAM Webinar: Tactile Graphics with a Voice

2015 February 9

Registration is now open for the next DIAGRAM webinar:

Title:                Tactile Graphics with a Voice
Date:                Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Time:               11:00 a.m. Pacific (2:00 p.m. Eastern; 19:00 GMT)
Presenter:       Richard Ladner, University of Washington


Description:    Are you a publisher, tactile graphics expert, or TVI who is interested in staying up to date on the latest developments in accessible tactile graphics? The Tactile Graphics Project at the University of Washington, with funding from the DIAGRAM Center, has created “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” (TGV), a QR-code reading app that allows text within tactile graphic images to be read and voiced by a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android phone. In this webinar, lead researcher Richard Ladner will discuss the importance of tactile graphics, some alternative approaches to creating them, and give a demonstration of the TGV in action.  A user study of TGV will be also be presented. Dr. Ladner will give us a peek into the future of new approaches to tactile graphics, including wearable devices such as Google Glass. See the published paper about this work, which won Best Student Paper at the October 2014 ACM SIGACCESS conference on computers and accessibility.

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

DIAGRAM Out and About: December 2014 Update

2014 December 30
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by jnoblitt

And, please save the date for our third annual DIAGRAM “Office Hours” get-together on Thursday March 5th (5:30 – 7pm). This year we will include a mini “Maker Space” with 3D printing and haptics demos. Further details forthcoming in the new year.

What We Are Reading

2014 December 30

Here are a few items that caught our attention since our last newsletter:

New Team Member at DIAGRAM

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Amaya WebsterAmaya Webster has joined the DIAGRAM team to help out on a part-time basis as a project coordinator. She has been with Benetech in Customer Support for Bookshare for the past two years, and now will help keep us moving on our many upcoming projects in DIAGRAM, including the Accessible Image Sample Book update and many other projects. Welcome Amaya!

3D Printing for Accessible Education: IMLS Award Update

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Lisa Wadors, Project Lead

In October we kicked off the start of the 3D Printing for Accessible Education grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.  We have just concluded the formation of the advisory committee and will have our first planning meeting this January.  Members of the committee represent a variety of educators, researchers, museums, libraries, technologists and organizations that support people with disabilities. All are leading the field in 3D printing for education. The committee will focus on the planning of a National Forum and help assess, explore, and collaborate around innovative 3D-printed learning tools, particularly for STEM education. Committee members will serve as liaisons to their respective communities to help us better understand their specific opportunities, needs, and challenges around 3D printing. Send your questions about the 3D Printing for Accessible Education project or sign up for updates by emailing us at <3D [at] benetech [dot] org>.